In a move that is sure to cause a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth around the world - illegal though it was but OH MY GOD SO SATISFYING! - American forces raided the Iranian consulate in northern Iraq just hours after the President’s speech:
U.S. troops raided an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq late Wednesday night and detained several people, Iran’s main news agency reported today, prompting protests from Tehran just hours after President Bush pledged to crack down on the Islamic Republic’s role in Iraqi violence.
Iran released news of the raid through its Islamic Republic News Agency in a dispatch that was broadly critical of Bush’s plan to deploy about 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.
The IRNA report said that U.S. forces entered the Iranian consulate in Irbil, in Iraq’s Kurdish-dominated north, and seized computers, documents and other items. The report said five staff members were taken into custody.
Yes, I realize it is childish and churlish of me to feel this way about giving the Iranians a little payback for 1979. But there are times when indulging your natural inclinations is so right, so proper, that suppressing the higher brain functions that tell you to behave like an adult is the thing to do.
Besides, aren’t you dying to find out what’s on those computer hard drives and what was in those filing cabinets they carted away?
Although U.S. officials have not confirmed that an Iranian diplomatic building was involved in today’s raid, a man who lives next to the consulate, Sardar Hassan Mohammed, 34, said he saw what he believed to be U.S. forces surrounding the building with their vehicles before entering it. Mohammed said at least five people were taken.
An official with the Kurdish Democratic Party, who declined to give his name, said the U.S. troops confiscated belongings inside the consulate in addition to arresting people inside.
Without addressing the recent incident, top U.S. officials in Washington were pointed in remarks today about how they intend to follow up on Bush’s pledge to curb Syrian and Iranian influence in Iraq.
There are times when revelling in historical irony and glorying in a cold dish of revenge can’t be helped. The nature of the 1979 humiliation perpetrated by the Iranians was so profoundly disturbing to those of us who lived through it that this clearly illegal violation of the “sacred soil” of Iran just doesn’t matter very much - even in an intellectual context. We know it is wrong and yet the satisfaction is so complete that world opinion, international law, even the consequences of the raid to our diplomats just don’t balance the ledger against it.
And those consequences will be real. It is almost a certainty that the world just got a little more dangerous for our diplomats all over the world - which should sober all of us up right quick. And, of course, the precedent shattering nature of the raid could place our embassies and consulates in similar danger.
But please note the rather low key response (so far) from the Iranians. They can hardly make a big stink about this violation after what they pulled in 1979. And irony of ironies, we are using the exact same excuse in raiding their embassy 27 years later - that it contained a “nest of spies:”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the United States is systematically trying to identify networks of people who bring weapons and explosives into the country — a central allegation against Iran — and will move to shut them down.
Improvised explosives have been a key source of U.S. casualties and deaths since the war began.
“We will do what is necessary for force protection,” Rice said at a press conference. “Networks are identified. They are identified from intelligence and they are acted upon . . . whatever the nationality.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , Gen. Peter Pace, referring to the earlier arrest of Iranians, said that Tehran’s involvement in Iraq “is destructive. . . . They are complicit . . . and we will do what is necessary.”
The Iranians won’t have to make a big to do about this clear violation of international norms - their allies on the left in this country will be more than happy to oblige, I’m sure. Perhaps if Jimmy Carter were to come out and dance a little jig…
Richard Fernandez and I are on exactly the same wavelength: “A Downpayment on 1979.”
Jules Crittenden says that this indicates that the gloves are off:
The Washington Post reports U.S. troops raided an Iranian consulate in Iraq and seized a number of Iranians suspected of aiding the insurgency. No doubt the Iranians will squawk about the violation of diplomatic immunity, incursion on sovereign Iranian territory, international law, blah blah blah. I encourage them then to raid our embassy and consulates in Iran. …oh yeah, we don’t have any. Remember why? This is an early indicator that the gloves are in fact off, which is the key component to success in this change of strategy.
Greg Tinti from Political Pit Bull has the predictable reaction from Lambchop:
The dumbest reaction I’ve seen to this on the left is from Glenn Greenwald, whom without apparently understanding the irony of his question, asks, “Isn’t it a definitive act of war for one country to storm the consulate of another, threaten to kill them if they do not surrender, and then detain six consulate officers?”
I don’t know about you, but it seems that Greenwald’s rather quick to side with Iran on this one. It is indisputable that Iran has been actively involved in supporting the insurgency in Iraq–especially by providing insurgents with IEDs and weaponry that have contributed directly to US casualties. Don’t those actions by Iran count as a definitive act of war? Doesn’t the US have a right to fight back against Iranian interference? In Greenwald’s mind apparently, the answer to those questions seems to be no.
Will Bunch also smells a war brewing with Iran.
As I’ve said many times, there is a huge downside to military action against Iran. Any possible benefits would be far outweighed by the almost certain attacks against our troops in Iraq as well as probable action taken against tankers in the Straits of Hormuz - a choke point for 20% of the west’s oil. We wouldn’t be able to get all the anti-ship missiles Iran posesses nor would we be able to destroy the Islamic Republic’s ability to create absolute havoc in Iraq; with attacks on our troops using their intermediate range missiles and the probable rising of the Shias who would take great offense at our hitting their co-religionists.
But interdiction and an intelligent use of our military to stifle the flow of supplies to the insurgents (who would never take any help from those dirty Shias in Iran now, would they?) while not violating Iranian air space or raiding their territory (beyond a consulate or two) may be almost as effective as a bombing campaign and have the extra added attraction of putting the onus of attack on the Iranians if they chose to make an issue of their meddling in Iraqi affairs.