The whole thing has the smell of a big pot of something being gleefully stirred. I am just trying to figure out who is doing the stirring! Is this a US led thing to further incite Iran, or an Iranian ploy to get the US to back off, or is it just pure dumb co-incidence that an Iranian diplomat got kidnapped by Shia or Sunni extremists?
As I understand it (if I can trust the media who are undoubtably fed stories by the US and UK Govts) Iran has been training militias and even sending their forces into Iraq in an effort to destabilise the country and to support the Iraqis who oppose the troops in the south.
While it can be said that the invasion by the allies initally created the situation the Iranians have added to it and could be blamed for some of the mess it has become.
Or more like the Presidential Palace's one in Tehran. All we know so far are that a bunch of Iraqi's - and you can't exactly tell a Sunni from a Shia just by looking at them - dressed as police grabbed the guy. If you want an alternative theory to the usual The US Is To Blame one then I could see Ahmadinejad trying something like this to keep things unsettled and maybe drum up a little support back home.
Whilst the public still massively supports him on the nuclear enrichment/power situation, some of his more barking statements on things like Israel or his aggressive stance of almost picking a fight with the world over the nuclear affair have made him much less popular. Even some of the conservative government elements have been looking at him a bit askance lately as an embarrassment. Wasn't it a week or so ago that he got snubbed by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei when he wanted a meeting over nuclear matters? He's reportedly a bit more moderate on the issue than Ahmadinejad. Well, that's my contribution to the conspiracy pot.
Interesting stratfor.com bulletin this morning (....I really must learn how to post links!). Reasoned analysis setting out the options:
1. US op
2. 'plausible denaibility' US op
3. Sunni op trying to stir up the US-Iranian rift which AQ mouthpieces have gone on record saying helps them.
Abductors in 36th Commando Battalion uniforms, apparently closely linked with US. Seems a bit obvious for (1) or (2) but you never know.... Perhaps the fact that, whatever, the Iranians think it was the US the key point. The bulletin cites a recent precedent when 5 US soldiers were abducted and killed in Karbala on January 20 after 5 Iranians were killed in Arbil with no clear culprit.
The thing that interests me about this is the IO side of things. The kidnapping itself is hardly new or unexpected, with the civil war and widespread criminality people get snatched every day, they just don't get into western papers. Maybe some lowlife just got lucky ? (Although I suspect not)
By accusing the US the Iranians are trying to legitimise their own activities in Iraq. Given recent US pronouncements, their intimate links to the Iraqi security services, their ties to the Sunnis in the Iraqi govt who hate the Persian Shia their target audience can easily believe that the US did it. Indeed, with the Iranians targeting occupying foreign forces within Iraq and the US targeting "civilians" they can even start to claim the moral high ground. This won't gain traction in middle America of course, but then Iran does not see that as the schwerpunkt for IO operations in Iraq.
As to the future, I strongly suspect we'll see another hit on US forces. The Iranians can play tit for tat just as well as the US - to be honest, they can play it better as they know the language and people better. Of course the Iranians are assuming the US to be realpolitik players who understand that big boys games means big boys rules, they may come unstuck when the US do something irrational and disproportionate.
Longer term I see this type of activity as serving several aims as far as Iran is concerned:
1. Keeps the pot boiling, a US Army being shot at in Iraq is not available for ops in Iran;
2. Sends a message that it's Iran's back yard and the US are a long long way from home;
3. Gives Iran room to manoeuvre and manipulate Iraqi Shia loyalties so that should push come to shove some or all will join in against the US. Look at the supply lines for US forces and suddently the scale of the threat is clear;
4. The US need to disperse in small groups dispersed among the populace to win, this sort of action uses US force protection guidelines to prevent such dispersion.