Obama’s Middle East: Iranian Arms Flow to Syria Via Iraq

The Obama administration’s abandonment of Iraq in its final stages of transition, leaving it to drift into the orbit of Iran, is beginning to reap enormous consequences. According to a Western intelligence report obtained by Reuters, Iran has been using civilian aircraft flying over Iraqi airspace to ship tons of weapons and military personnel to Syria, aiding Syrian President Bashar Assad’s effort to crush the rebel uprising against his government. The transfers have reportedly been organized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“This is part of a revised Iranian modus operandi that U.S. officials have only recently addressed publicly, following previous statements to the contrary,” said the report, a copy of which was provided to Reuters by a U.N. diplomatic source. “It also flies in the face of declarations by Iraqi officials. Planes are flying from Iran to Syria via Iraq on an almost daily basis, carrying IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) personnel and tens of tons of weapons to arm the Syrian security forces and militias fighting against the rebels.” The report also reveals that Iran is “continuing to assist the regime in Damascus by sending trucks overland via Iraq” as well.

In early September, U.S. officials revealed they had been asking Iraq about the flights, with then-Senator John Kerry threatening a review of U.S. aid to Iraq if the flights were not stopped. Yet American efforts to get the Iraqi government to randomly inspect the flights have been largely rebuffed. An ostensible commitment made in September by Iraq’s foreign minister to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that such inspections would take place was little more than a charade. Iraq inspected all of two planes as of late October, one of which was on its way back from Syria after delivering a shipment there. No weapons were found, possibly because American intelligence reports reveal that Iraqi officials warned the Iranians when the inspections would take place.

Although charges regarding such operations aren’t new, the report alleges that the scope of them is far more extensive and far more coordinated than previously acknowledged, due in large part to an agreement forged between senior officials from both Iraq and Iran. Thus, as the New York Times puts it, the “air corridor over Iraq has emerged as a main supply route for weapons, including rockets, antitank missiles, rocket-propelled grenade and mortars” on their way to Syria.

Ali al-Moussawi, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s media adviser, dismissed the report’s findings. “Iraq rejects baseless allegations that it allows Iran to use its airspace to ship arms to Syria,” he said. “The prime minister has always called for a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict and … the need for a ban on any state interfering in Syria whether by sending arms or helping others to do so.”

Interviews conducted by the Times with administration, military and congressional officials, most of whom requested anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, say otherwise. “The abuse of Iraqi airspace by Iran continues to be a concern,” an American official said. “We urge Iraq to be diligent and consistent in fulfilling its international obligations and commitments, either by continuing to require flights over Iraqi territory en route to Syria from Iran to land for inspection, or by denying overflight requests for Iranian aircraft going to Syria.” Furthermore, an Iraqi official, who also requested anonymity because he feared Iraqi government retaliation, claimed that some government officials favor Iranian intervention in Syria. As a result of those sentiments, efforts to address U.S. concerns have been minimal.

None of this should surprise. Obama’s decision to bring American troops home without leaving a large enough stabilizing force behind was publicly portrayed as a triumph by the president. In a speech given on October 21, 2011, Obama talked about bringing the war in Iraq “to a responsible end–for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world.” Yet as the New York Times revealed at the time, “some top American military officials were dismayed by the announcement, seeing it as the president’s putting the best face on a breakdown in tortured negotiations with the Iraqis.”

Yet is was not merely a breakdown in those negotiations that were completely mishandled. According to officials interviewed by the Times, “the arguments of two White House officials, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, and his deputy, Denis McDonough, prevailed over those of the military” with regard to deciding the number of troops that would remain behind. That decision was based on intelligence assessments that Iraq was “not at great risk of slipping into chaos in the absence of American forces.”

Yet when American troops withdrew, Iran began taking advantage of the reality that Iraq has no air force, and is incapable of controlling its own airspace. They began shipping weapons and military personnel to Syria almost immediately. Facing pressure from America, Iraq managed to get Iran to stop the flights last March, when Baghdad was preparing to host a summit of Arab nations. Obama kept up the pressure with an April 3 phone call to Maliki, emphasizing that the flights should not be resumed. Yet when a high-ranking member of Assad’s government was killed in a bombing last July, Iran resumed the flights. They continued to do so despite two more efforts made by administration officials to persuade Maliki. One was a phone call made by Biden to Maliki in August, the other a face-to-face meeting between Maliki and deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough in October. Neither effort gained any traction.

American intelligence efforts regarding the aforementioned collusion between Iran and Iraq officials on inspections have centered on Hadi al-Amiri, Iraq’s minister of transportation, who reportedly has close ties with the Iranians. Amiri denied the allegations, even as he remained defiant. “This is untrue,” he insisted. “We are an independent country and our stance is clear. We will search whichever plane we want, whenever we want. We will not take orders.” Nasir Bender, the head of civil aviation in Iraq also insisted that there was no evidence of collusion, even as he offered a dubious excuse to explain why only two planes had been subject to inspection. “We can’t search every plane because there are so many heading to Syria,” he said. “It would be a big waste of money. Each plane we take down we must refill with fuel.”

That’s assuming they can get Iranian cooperation in the first place. American intelligence reveals that, on at least one occasion, an Iranian aircraft ignored a request to land made by the Iraqi government, likely because there was something worth hiding on board.

The Western intelligence report cites two specific planes, an Iran Air plane with the tail number EP-ICD, and Mahan Air’s EP-MNE, as being involved in arms shipment to Syria. They are two of the 117 aircraft blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department in September. Yet such blacklisting is largely toothless, with Treasury noting that they do nothing more than “make it easier for interested parties to keep track of this blocked property, and more difficult for Iran to use deceptive practices to try to evade sanctions.”

The foot-dragging by the Maliki government is motivated by calculations broader than pleasing or displeasing the Obama administration. Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated regime might be indirectly threatened by the fall of Assad in that it could encourage Iraq’s Sunni Muslim and Kurdish factions to challenge it. Maliki is already dealing with massive protests by Sunnis who believe they have been marginalized by his government. A victory of largely Sunni rebels over Assad–who is supported by Shi’ite Iran–might provide the spark for a full scale civil war in Iraq. Terrorist activity remains a problem as well: attacks with significant numbers of casualties have been perpetrated on a monthly basis ever since American troops were withdrawn in December 2011.

Thus, Obama’s chickens are coming home to roost. No doubt the administration would like Americans to assume that they did the best they could to get an extension from the Iraqi government to keep forces in the country. Yet it remains a fact that the failure to do so worked out just fine for a president whose “core commitment” was the complete withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011–a commitment frequently mentioned during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Not mentioned during the campaign? American ties to Iraq have been prematurely and unnecessarily weakened, even as Iranian influence grows stronger. The Obama administration has been reduced to carping from the sidelines while Iran exploits Iraqi airspace with impunity to arm their satellite regime in Syria. Iraq itself may be destabilizing, a reality that would betray the decades-long efforts of American soldiers and the thousands of lives spent in the process.

The Obama administration, the Democratic Party and the mainstream media have convinced a majority of Americans that not only withdrawing from Iraq, but getting out of the Middle East in general, is a good idea. What they fail to mention is who will step into the ensuing power vacuum. Iran, an apocalyptic regime with ambitions of imposing a worldwide caliphate by any means necessary, is undoubtedly willing to do so.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    The Pyromaniac-in-Chief set the unfolding Middle East fires, back in 2009, during his "outreach" in Cairo to the Muslim Brotherhood Mafia. All in a day's work. It was purposefully incendiary.

    However, what he didn't count on is Jerusalem reasserting its spine, even though Washington blah blahs that they gave the "green light". More to the point, Jerusalem informed them that "this and that" was going down, and the rest was a done deal – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/02/05/israel-is-fin

    And for those still sitting on the fence, whether or not the west can "do business" with Islamists, this should seal it – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/02/06/islam-barbari

    Don't blame the messenger.

    Adina kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • JacksonPearson

      You can bet your last penny, that the Obama administration are well aware of what's coming down in the Middle East, and especially Iranian arms being shipped through Iraq. This is all happening by design.

    • Kathy

      The American people are behind Israel, as well as most of our lawmakers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a whole lot when we have a president who isn’t. They say actions speak louder than words, and when it comes to the American President, we know who he stands behind.

      I enjoy reading your posts, AdinaK; Keep speaking the truth, and God bless you!

    • EarlyBird

      No, Adkina.

      George W. Bush set the "fires" in the Middle East in 2003 by launching a counter-productive, disastrous war in Iraq, the worst foreign policy folly of an American since Vietnam. It broke open Iraq and made it a failed state vulnerable to Islamists, strengthened Iran, and led to the chaos in the Middle East right now.

      Perhaps worst – because there is a direct link between a nation's fiscal health and ability to defend itself – the TRILLION dollar debt that Bush racked up in that war has put the US on the brink to fiscal ruin, and our enemies know that. They know we will not make any major military commitments because WE CANNOT AFFORD TO.

  • Larry

    You could always black list them via charring.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Amazing how well Democracy is working in Iraq, no matter who wins and election you get a
    snake talking with a forked tongue, here a snake there a snake everywhere a snake. Iraqui
    religious police started purifying it's population by killing teenagers who displayed western
    syle clothing and haircust taking them out of school and stoning them. Nothing said by Obama
    about the purge, it was and immediate sign of his failure and the message, nothing American
    will be tolerated to the pleasure of Islamists everywhere. Leftists and Islamists will leave
    confusion, destruction and ruin as a result of thier very existence….not worth one drop of
    American blood……………………………………William


      Same applies to Aghanistan.

    • EarlyBird

      What did you expect when you were cheering W. Bush on during his invasion, William? Did you really believe that Iraqis would be throwing flowers at our GIs as they quoted Jefferson, as the necons told us they would?

      Obama is now responsible for not going back in time and correcting Bush's blunders as they occurred? He's responsible for now not being able to recreate an entire Arab culture and politics? Hey, I thought it was lefties who though the was the "Messiah."

      • WilliamJamesWard

        What makes you think I cheered the invasion of Iraq. Actually I was against it but would
        have been satisfied if Sadam and his top 100 villians met with timely and justified ends
        without all of the insane fanfare and shock and awe. Total waste of people, treasure
        and property. It turns out Iran and not so much Sadam was behind 9/11 but they are all
        bad guys who when they vacate open up a place for the next bad guy, thier culture is
        one of extreme evil that hopefully one day will meet justice………………..William

        • EarlyBird

          Sorry for my assumption.

          • WilliamJamesWard

            Hey it's easy to get caught up and you know, kind of flip the bird early………..William

        • SAM000

          At 2009 the Iraqis elected a pro-American secular and democrat named Ayaz Alawi for the office, but USA supported the loser who was Iran's favorite illegally, so the current Iraqi PM is occupying office illegally.
          There is a recent 64 page of Pentagon's report about the increased influence of the Iranian INTELLIGENCE SERVICES inside the STATE DEPT. and White House from 2008, in this research report it shows clearly that USA's M. E. politics is shaped by IRAN,
          The Library of congress has published another report that quotes the same results.
          I suggest all to read these documents.
          If you wish I can send you the link, Front page do not let the links to be published in the posts

        • SAM000

          At 2009 the Iraqis elected a pro-American secular and democrat named Ayaz Alawi for the office, but USA supported the loser who was Iran's favorite illegally, so the current Iraqi PM is occupying office illegally.
          There is a recent 64 page of Pentagon's report about the increased influence of the Iranian INTELLIGENCE SERVICES inside the STATE DEPT. and White House from 2008, in this research report it shows clearly that USA's M. E. politics is shaped by IRAN,
          The Library of congress has published another report that quotes the same results.
          I suggest all to read these documents.
          If you wish I can send you the link, Front page do not let the links to be published in the posts

  • Mutantone

    What people are missing is that Obama is all for them to, eliminate all borders, by becoming the New Arab spring movements results. A region under control of the Muslim Brotherhood, armed and financed by the USA with one enemy Israel targeted by them all. All the while kowtowing to the world adopting a posture of a weakened Nation.
    He openly admits that he has gone to Pakistan with a male friend this is where he was indoctrinated into the Brotherhood, just look at his history supporting Islamic expansion, even over the needs of Our Nation.

    • EarlyBird

      What you're missing is that Bush wanted and expected that the "example" set in Iraq would lead Arabs everywhere to insist on self-determination. He specifically stated this numerous times. He in fact took credit for the very brief "spring" in Lebanon and said it related to his invasion of Iraq.

  • Geppettwo

    This would have been entirely predictable had the west, primarily America, not been totally mesmerized by the notion that “Islam is a religion of peace” and that the animus against the west and in particular America, was our fault, the favorite stance of the American and the west's “hate Israel, hate America” crowd. Not that it was any different with former president Bush or Clinton, but more-so with Obama. Despite the evidence mounting daily of the true nature of the threat of impending violence and war posed by Islamic Jihad, the west's reaction is deny its existence and dig itself deeper into its own erroneous and dangerously inept analysis, unable to accept what should be painfully obvious to any not blinded by the predominant and ever persistent dogma.

    The most dangerous and violent entity on the planet is not North Korea or China or a reemerging Russian Bear but the predominantly orthodox Muslim regions around the globe intent on establishing Islam and its immutable code of jurisprudence, Sharia, as the one and only legitimate system of justice in an Islamic world. This is not one big country but many and the so called “Arab Spring” uprising was a watershed event, not in the fulfillment of the west's naive aspirations of a shift towards western democracy but a rise to prominence of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization dedicated to the west's destruction. If the west has learned nothing else from this Iraq, Afghanistan experience and the intractable nature of the so called “two state solution,” it should be that a desire for western style democracy among the indigenous people in the Muslim world is non existent and, to many, abhorrent.

    If these Islamic Jihadists succeed all those who do not submit, those they refer to as the unbelievers, will pay a tax (Jizyah), adopt a social position of servitude, slaves to their Muslim masters, or be killed. Jews being the most hated, “apes and pigs,” will only have the last option. “Palestine will be free from the Jordan to the sea.”

    This concept of a global Caliphate is so outrageous, in this the 21st century, that western society cannot bring itself to believe what is growing more prominent daily before their eyes. It is such an alien concept. How can it be other than the ravings of lunatics or the newly coined term, “Islamophobes”? Until the west can extricate itself from that notion this kind of seemingly illogical confusion and hand wringing will continue.

    It's time to realize that this whole exercise in military intervention intended to defeat a small, rogue band of terrorists led by one leader, Osama Bin Laden and devoid of any perspective regarding the true nature and identity of the enemy, a situation that persists and even grows more disconnected from this abominable reality today, was an exercise in futility. The Muslim world at large, those who strongly approve of governance by Sharia law, are in fact the enemy of western civilization. This includes a growing number who have established solid footholds in France, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, the US and others and, where they have settled in significant numbers, making increasingly belligerent demands for indigent locals to adapt to the needs of their Muslim culture. Multiculturalism at its worst.

    And to those who take the domestic Muslim apologists, CAIR, ISNA, MSA, MAS, IIIT, etc. who constantly whine about even the slightest criticism of Islam and declare themselves dedicated to the proposition of peace, what should the west expect? That they will openly declare themselves as intractable enemies while in a weak, minority position? They will not attempt any overt action on foreign soil until they've established strong footholds, a process made infinitely easier by the wests notions of lax immigration policies, political correctness, multiculturalism, freedom of religion, accommodation and appeasement. The “destruction of its (the west's) miserable house by their hands………” part of the Muslim Brotherhood's creed. Hoist us on our own petard.

    Defeating this threat will require what western civilization dreads the most, all out war. Or, if the west can get its act together, a less violent approach; a concerted, determined effort to marginalize the threat by a steady grind towards isolation and impoverishment. This has not been possible before the recently improved technology and unjustly criticized practice of extracting previously unreachable and surprisingly huge reserves of oil and gas being discovered all over the world, most especially here in America and in Israel, who has or will become completely energy independent, by the process of fracking.

    But, given the acquisition of nuclear weaponry and the devout Muslim's acceptance of death in the cause of Allah as their immediate ticket to paradise, all out war and near annihilation may be the only path to victory by either side. Those devoted to their orthodox Muslim faith will not be deterred by MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. May the best man wake up, take the bit in his teeth, bite the ugly bullet and get on with an effective strategy or face the inevitable. We will not likely be left with a peaceful option if any remain available.

    • EarlyBird

      How are you able to get so much bandwidth on FPM? I am limited to small posts at a time.

      • Geppettwo

        I generally start out thinking "be brief and to the point" and end getting carried away. My only problem with these long posts is losing access over time. I beat that by writng long posts in a comment file, then re-access the article and do an immediate copy/paste in the comment field.

  • geneww1938

    What Obama helped to do there is what will happen here.

    The One World Government can not exist [comfortably] with strong independent leaders and countries in the world. They also can not rule comfortably in the presence of Godly people [Judeo-Christians].

    This is really a battle between evil and righteousness. You must pick your side. You may die for one or the other and eternity is too long and life is too short to be wrong about God, His Bible, Jesus or salvation.

    • EarlyBird

      Grow up. It was a good Judeo-Christian who broke apart Iraq and left it open for terrorists to begin with. Bush's good Christian war is what made Iran stronger. It is what made America weaker.

      You can not possibly be blind to the massive failure which was the Iraq War, and blame the affects of it on Obama.

  • EarlyBird

    What a disgraceful pile of garbage this propaganda by Ahlert is. It makes Dan Greenfield look honest.

    Obama is following the very treaty that existed when he took office, which was signed by George W. Bush, a legally binding treaty between the US and Iraq (you know, a soverign government), to get all combat troops out of the country by December 31st, 2012.

    At least Ahlert doesn't pretend that it was a good idea to invade, or that it successful in any way.

    Bush chose to get us into a counter-productive war that cost us nearly 5,000 American lives, countless maimed Americans, hundreds of thousands killed and maimed Iraqis, a stronger Iran, and now…an Iraq which is broken and open to Iranian and Islamist influence as never before.

    Everyone knows this is Bush's and his necons' disaster, and anything that comes of it is his fault. Obama is simply smart enough not to keep dumping more good American lives after bad.

  • Ghostwriter

    Ah,the favorite target of the left,neo-cons,or in this case,President Bush's advisers who are attacked because they are Jews.

    • EarlyBird

      I don't have a problem with neocons being Jews, but for failing and not admitting failure. You should too, as they are working on another "victory"in Iran.

  • Ghostwriter

    And,in my last statement,I was talking about YOU,EarlyBird just to clear everything up.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    The most prudent policy the USA could have towards Syria is a hands off policy, while wishing and hoping at the same time that the jihad lasts for as long as possible and result in the most casualties possible to both sides of the equation as both factions are our mortal enemies.

    Moreover, with respect to Islam, there is no such thing as civilians, as all Muslims first and foremost must submit to the will of Allah, i.e., Sharia, and hence all Muslims are jihadists. Otherwise they are blasphemous apostates that per the dictates of Islam must be executed.

    Additionally, AQ style jihad, i.e., violent jihad, only makes up a tiny miniscule amount of the jihad that takes place in the world today, as the vast overwhelming amount of jihad takes place in non-violent ways and via stealth, deceit, and deception.

    The Obama administration’s abandonment of Iraq in its final stages of transition, leaving it to drift into the orbit of Iran, is beginning to reap enormous consequences.

    One of the most incompetent moves ever made in the annuls of history was GWB occupying Iraq to lift up Muslims and to democratize the Islamic world after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Not only is Islam not a so-called "Religion of Peace" as GWB and stupid Dhimmicrats and Republicans both gullibly assume, it is in fact a very aggressive form of totalitarianism and there is no such thing as so-called "moderate Muslims." In Islam, Western style democracy and freedom are abominations that must be obliterated. Yet, GWB like an unhinged loon was actually going to democratize and transform the Islamic world and with the aid of an extremely incompetent Congress and very compliant media, he sold that garbage to the American people who stupidly swallowed that nonsense hook, line, and sinker. The truth is the mission was a failure from the get go and trying to blame it now on Obama is only an exercise in self-deception. The writer of this garbage should know better by now.

  • SAM000

    Very dear Mister Arnold Ahlert;
    There is a recent 64 page of Pentagon's report about the increased influence of the Iranian INTELLIGENCE SERVICES inside the STATE DEPT. and White House from 2008, in this research report it shows clearly that USA's M. E. policy is shaped by IRAN,
    The Library of congress has published another report that quotes the same results.
    I suggest all to read these documents.
    If you wish I can send you the link, Front page do not let the links to be published in the posts