Iraq's Terrorist Groups as Seen Through the Eyes of "Bizarro"
by LT. COLONEL JAMES G. ZUMWALT, USMC (RET)
September 20, 2011
More than fifty years ago, DC Comics introduced a dark and sinister foil to Superman—“Bizarro”—who was from a planet where everything was the reverse of Planet Earth. Bizarro’s planet was cube-shaped; “good” was “bad”; what was said was opposite of what was meant.
In examining a troika of terrorist organizations located in Iraq and US foreign policy towards each, one can only wonder if Bizarro works for the US State Department.
Three major terrorist groups exist in Iraq. But a bizarre rule of thumb underscores US foreign policy towards each: The more violent a terrorist group is towards the US, the less likely we will act against it. Thus, in Bizarro’s world, the US acts against a terrorist group embracing US interests.
The first terrorist group is Qods. Very active against the US in Iraq, it is a paramilitary force under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). When the mullahs came to power in Iran in 1979, they did not trust the army and therefore established the IRGC as the “people’s army.” The IRGC gave birth to Qods which has since undertaken to do the mullahs’ bidding by fulfilling the Iranian constitution’s extraterritorial mandate—the only nation of the world to have one—demanding exportation of the Islamic revolution globally.
Accordingly, Qods is actively involved in terrorist activity in Iraq to undermine democracy. As the IRGC and Qods supply militants in both Iraq and Afghanistan with weapons and IEDs, Iran is responsible for the deaths of more American soldiers than any country since Vietnam. And, it is believed Qods has taken a more direct role in Iraq, such as a 2007 infiltration of the Karbala provincial headquarters that led to the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers.
Despite Qods’ active role in terrorism, its name does not appear on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)—nor does IRGC’s (although it is so identified by the US Treasury Department). No military action has been taken against Iran for this state sponsored terrorism.
The second terrorist group is the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Most Kurds are pro-US and PKK, except for an isolated attack in 2004 against US forces in Iraq, has not targeted US interests there. Its focus has been on establishing equal rights for Kurds in Turkey and autonomy for Kurdistan. (Kurdistan is a region heavily populated by Kurds encompassing parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.) To achieve this end, PKK launched a violent campaign in 1984 that has led to over 40,000 deaths. Following the first Persian Gulf war, it moved into northern Iraq, ensconcing itself in numerous bases along the border with Turkey. In 2000, PKK was placed on the US FTO list, largely as a result of political pressure from Ankara.
In 2007, again due to Turkish pressure, the US secretly began sharing surveillance videos of PKK activities acquired by unmanned Predator aircraft operating from Iraqi bases. Since then, Ankara has become very dependent upon the intelligence provided by the Predators and other aircraft. As a withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq appears imminent, Turkey has offered to host a fleet of Predators on its soil to keep the surveillance cameras rolling. While the joint intelligence effort has improved US-Turkish ties, PKK leaders have made veiled threats against the US involving itself in PKK’s struggle with Turkey, especially if “special assassination aircraft” are given to Ankara.
The third member of the terrorist troika is MEK—an Iranian opposition group now confined by the Iraqi government to Camp Ashraf located along the border with Iran. MEK has been totally opposed to Tehran’s clerical rule. When MEK’s existence was threatened by Iran’s mullahs who killed thousands of members, it relocated in 1986—at Saddam Hussein’s invitation—to Iraq, where it conducted raids against the IRGC.
In 1997, with little basis for doing so, President Clinton listed MEK as an FTO to improve relations with Iran, which feigned interest in doing so in exchange for the listing. Having fallen for the ploy once, Washington fell for it again in 2003 when Tehran agreed not to get involved in post-invasion Iraq as long as the US disarmed MEK. MEK voluntarily surrendered to US forces who, as an occupying force, became responsible to maintain their safety as “protected persons” under the Geneva Conventions. When the US turned over responsibility for Ashraf to Iraq in 2009, it was based on Baghdad’s promise to protect the residents. However, since then, several unprovoked attacks against Ashraf’s unarmed residents have been launched by an Iraqi army doing Tehran’s bidding—brutally killing dozens of innocent men and women.
Baghdad believes it has a “license to kill” Ashraf residents because the US never removed MEK from the FTO list. President Bill Clinton’s 1997 mistake in listing them has now been compounded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2009 mistake in refusing to de-list them—despite no indication of violent MEK activity since 2001. (Even the EU and UK, which followed the 1997 US FTO listing with one of their own, delisted MEK in 2008 and 2009 respectively.) This flies in the face of requirements under US law for delisting. A 2010 US Court of Appeals faulted State’s 2009 decision-making, requiring Secretary Clinton to revisit the issue. A decision is pending shortly.
What should make State’s decision a no-brainer is today we know about Iran’s nuclear program because of MEK. They continue to provide intelligence on Tehran’s nuclear weapons efforts.
The US military’s superhuman effort to ensure stability in Iraq is being foiled by our State Department’s efforts to punish friends and reward enemies. That may make sense on Bizzaro’s planet but not on ours.