Iraq’s New Puppet Master

Iraq’s New Puppet Master

Guess who’s pulling the strings in Baghdad?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with top U.S. commanders in Baghdad this week to discuss, among other things, the pace of America’s ongoing evacuation from Iraq.

Last month, as required by the Status of Forces Agreement (sofa) implemented on January 1, U.S. forces pulled out of Baghdad and several other Iraqi cities, prompting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to claim victory in ending the U.S. “occupation”—a firm slap in America’s face, if ever there was one.

Since then, tensions have escalated sharply between Iraq’s security forces and U.S. troops. Last week, as we reported here, an Iraqi officer attempted to arrest several U.S. soldiers for defending themselves against a terrorist ambush.

“What happened is a crime,” the Iraqi commander told the Washington Post. “Civilians were killed,” he said, referring to three Iraqis who died in the exchange of fire—two of whom were terrorists that ignited the conflict.

Prime Minister Maliki later reprimanded the Iraqi officer for acting “out of line,” saying American forces had a right to defend themselves. But he also acknowledged difficulties that Americans and Iraqis have in agreeing on the terms of the security arrangement.

“Both sides have starkly different interpretations of vaguely worded restrictions on the authority and movement of U.S. forces,” the Washington Post reported last weekend. Many Iraqis, the Post wrote in another piece, “interpret the agreement to mean that American troops are prohibited from any military operations” (emphasis mine throughout).

American forces, of which there are still 130,000 in Iraq, are understandably concerned about any restrictions that might compromise U.S. security. They’re also “taken aback by the sudden intransigence of their Iraqi partners,” the Postnoted. One officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Iraqi security forces seem “more and more willing to conduct operations on their own and less willing to accept our operational guidance.”

Indeed. Earlier this week, Iraq’s security forces acted alone in raiding Camp Ashraf, a small village located northeast of Baghdad, not far from the Iranian border. The camp was established during the 1980s as a base for Iranian exiles, known as the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (mek), to operate against the mullocracy in Tehran. About 3,000 Iranian dissidents live in the village.

This opposition group has provided the United States with valuable intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program. Since its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States has granted members of the mek “Protected Person” status, guaranteeing their protection against persecution.

That may soon change now that the United States has handed over the area to Iraq. On Tuesday, in response to mek members protesting the establishment of an Iraqi base inside Ashraf, Iraq sent in 1,000 troops to squash the rebellion. For two days, Iraqi policemen forcibly pounded mek members into submission, killing seven civilians and wounding dozens more. cbs News and the bbc both captured video of the early stages of the assault.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Secretary Gates had pleaded with Iraq, which has long wanted to shut down the camp, to refrain from violence in Ashraf. Yet, in another brazen face slap, Iraq not only disregarded the U.S. petition, it timed its raid to coincide with Gates’s arrival in Baghdad.

In Washington and Tehran, the divergent reactions to the assault were telling. “The outcome wasn’t good and we’re not happy about that,” one Washington official told the Wall Street Journal.

The Iranian government, on the other hand, heaped praise on Iraq for its heavy-handed takeover: “It is appreciated that they have decided to clean up the Iraqi land from the filthy existence of terrorists.”

In recent weeks, of course, Iran has been ridding its own territory of opposition, killing more than 100 civilians in its post-election crackdown. In fact, according to the cbs report, the Iranian government blames mek members in Ashraf for helping to incite the recent civil unrest in Iran.

If you happen to be a regular reader of, you should have little trouble connecting all the dots of the clear picture that has now fully emerged in Iraq.

After the Ashraf bloodbath, the mek president-elect immediately accused Iran of ordering the Iraqi attack. cbs offered this straightforward assessment: “The attack was the latest sign that American influence in Iraq is waning, as Iranian influence rises.” From the Christian Science Monitor: “Maliki’s Shiite-led government is seeking stronger relations with Iran ….” And so on.

That Iraqi strings are now pulled by puppet masters in Tehran, rather than in Washington, is a development we have been predicting for years. Look at thisTrumpet cover, for example, produced in response to the spectacular collapse of Saddam’s regime in 2003. We wrote,

It may seem shocking, given the U.S. presence in the region right now, but prophecy indicates that, in pursuit of its goal, Iran will probably take over Iraq.

That was six years ago. Last year, even as news outlets were widely disseminating reports about the overwhelming success of the American surge in Iraq, we warned that America’s strength would ultimately be spent in vain. “For short-term gain in Iraq,” we wrote,

it could be that America has put Iran in prime position to take over Iraq—particularly with President Bush soon leaving the White House.In November, if the American electorate opts for the antiwar candidate, we could see these dramatic, end-time prophecies accelerate even further.

Dramatic fulfillments of Bible prophecy indeed!

On Wednesday, even as Iraqi forces were clearing away dead bodies in Ashraf, Secretary Gates, after dining with America’s top commander in Baghdad, told reporters he believes America’s withdrawal from Iraq is actually going better than expected!

“I think there’s at least some chance of a modest acceleration,” he said, leaving the door open for the United States to make an even speedier exit.

Of course, the way Shiite leaders in Baghdad and Tehran see it, the United States is already gone.