Iran 'taking control of Basra by stealth'
Daily Telegraph Link
Daily Telegraph Link
Iranian intelligence is preparing for complete dominance of southern Iraq when the British withdraw by penetrating Basra's security network and political parties, it can be revealed.
Iraqi intelligence sources disclosed to The Daily Telegraph that Iran plans to reap the huge financial rewards presented by the southern oil fields and prevent Western businesses from gaining a foothold inside Basra.
British and American political and military leaders are also concerned over Teheran "giving succour" to terrorists who continue to kill troops every week.
Commanders are anxious that once they pull out of Basra in May the Iranian-backed militias will take over the political and security structures, undoing four years of work that has cost 129 British lives and billions of pounds.
Only the Iraqi army stands in the way of the murderous militias. But while it is regarded as competent, the key moment will come when responsibility for administering Basra is given to the Iraqi government with local politicians taking over. At that point a showdown between the Baghdad-controlled Iraqi army and Iranian-backed Basra militias is expected.
Iran has found it easy to build alliances with fellow Shias who form the majority in southern Iraq. The Iranian-backed insurgents have many recruits among the city's jobless. They are encouraged to attack British patrols and positions to make them look strong as part of the power struggle for Basra, an Iraqi official said. He added that if the British withdrew from the region too early Sunnis would be killed to drive them out and the work of the last four years would have been destroyed.
The ammunition and weapons used to kill and maim British troops have almost certainly crossed the border from Iran 10 miles outside the city and gone straight into the hands of terrorists.
British military intelligence is certain that the insurgents have received training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard with the accuracy of mortar and rocket attacks improving by the week.
"We know some extreme elements in Basra are being given support and succour from Iran and get weaponry, money and IED (improvised explosive device) technology in order to try to destabilise this part of the country," said Lt Col Justin Maciejewski, commanding officer of the 1,200-strong 1 Bn Royal Green Jacket battle group.
"Local people here are pretty fed up with it. Its impact in certain segments of Basra society is causing violence against us and those elements of the Iraqi security forces seen as not susceptible to Iranian influence."
A senior American official, based in the British camp, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was deep concern over the "destabilising effect" Iran was having on the area. "The indications we are receiving is that the militia firing rockets into this compound are receiving support from Iranian factions," he said. "This is very troubling when we are trying to bring peace and stability."