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US Forces Storm Iranian Consulate in Irbil
The US military stormed the Iranian consulate in the northern Iraq Kurdistan city of Irbil on Thursday.
Irbil is the fief of Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. The Kurdistan Regional Government, which he leads, is semi-autonomous and maintains a regional army, the Peshmerga, of 60,000 men. Kurdistan authorities say that no federal Iraqi army troops may set foot in Kurdistan.
Kurdistan is eager to retain its semi-autonomy, and hopes ultimately for independence. It cannot expect the Baghdad government to fund its military. Sunni guerrillas have sabotaged oil exports from Kirkuk.
One scenario you could imagine is that Iran was sending some aid and weaponry to the Peshmerga on condition it be shared with the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The US raided a compound of SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim recently and captured Iranian intelligence officials there, who had come to consult about the shape of the Iraqi government.
Kurdistan authorities have long had good relations with the Badr Corps, to which they gave bases in Kurdistan late in the Saddam period when they were jointly trying to overthrow him.
Although Bush keeps implying that Iran is supplying weapons and aid to US enemies in Iraq, the circumstantial evidence is that it was helping the two main US allies in Iraq with their paramilitary capabilities-- Kurdistan and SCIRI. But it is likely that the money and weapons do bleed over into insurgent groups and have a destabilizing effect.
The most strident complaints about Iranian aid to Peshmerga and Badr come from the Sunni Arab political leaders. One wonders if this is a last gift to them by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad before he goes out, and a sign that the US is trying to get them back to the negotiating table?