On the night they were detained, the two Iranians had met with Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Organization, once the militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Ameri also heads up the security committee in the Iraqi National Assembly. The two officials had come, Ameri told NEWSWEEK, to discuss security issues. Ameri said two top Iraqi government officials, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and national-security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, had asked the Iranian government to help rein in the Mahdi Army, the rival Shiite militia directed by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that is believed to be responsible for death squads and other sectarian violence, as well as attacks on U.S. troops. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki âwanted Iranâs help and said you can influence this issue," Ameri said in an interview. âThis led to the Iranians sending the group with the diplomatic passports.â He added: âThey had a meeting with me and we talked about how to put pressure on the Jaish Mahdi [Mahdi Army] not to attack Sunnis â¦ how to prevent the Jaish Mahdi from working against the government and not to raise their weapons illegally.â
It's appropriate to treat this report with skepticism. Hadi al-Ameri is a ruthless militia commander, and SCIRI has long and deep ties to Iran, so it's hardly surprising that al-Ameri would seek to exonerate his sponsors. Still, as Newsweek writes, "The upshot is that while the American military is blaming the Quds Force and IRGC for all sorts of misdeeds, the highest officials in the U.S.-backed Iraqi government appear to be buying weapons from them and asking for their help on security issues."
Indeed, it's even more convoluted than that. U.S. troops in Baghdad have broadcast their intent to go after the very Mahdi Army that Qods operatives were reportedly trying to defang. Furthermore, administration officials like Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Ryan Crocker -- whom Bush nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq -- have said that they would accept a constructive Iranian role in Iraq. If al-Ameri is telling Newsweek the truth -- again, a big if -- then either by accident or design, that position is the latest administration statement on Iraq to be subverted by their own actions.