Friday, August 24

Iran stages a provocation. Pass the aspirin.

Oh, blast war! There are never any timeouts. Pundita got a headache yesterday reading Kenneth Timmerman's report for Front Page Magazine titled Iran's High Stakes Game in Northern Iraq. My wild hope -- like clutching at seaweed for support during a tsunami -- is that because it's Timmerman, the situation might not be as bad as it sounds. Timmerman is a superhawk on Iran.*

However, the facts he sounds, while sometimes from anonymous sources, suggest that Iran has come up with their own Hail Mary pass. And just in time for General Petraeus's report to Congress in September.

Because the situation has so many moving parts, which include Turkey, I will provide only a few paragraphs from Timmerman's piece, and urge you to read the report in its entirety. That won't be time wasted if the situation blows up into a shooting war between US and regular Iranian forces:
Iran is banking on its secret “entente” with Turkey -- to supply Hezbollah through Syria, and to smash the bases of each other’s opposition Kurds in Iraq -- to deter the United States from any military intervention in northern Iraq.

The Turks have been threatening for months to go after the PKK, who have tens of thousands of fighters training in camps inside Iraq, along the Turkish border.

And so the Iranians have spread the rumor, which until now has been accepted at face value, that its own Kurdish dissidents (PJAK) are actually the Iranian branch of the PKK, which the U.S. has designated as an international terrorist organization.

Clearly, the Iranians believe they can thumb their noses at the U.S. military. For more than a week, they have conducted intermittent shelling of Iraqi Kurdish villages in the general vicinity of suspected PJAK bases.

My Iranian sources tell me that the Iranians are hoping to expel PJAK from the area and replace them with Ansar al-Islam, the precursor group to al Qaeda in Iraq, “They want to send Saad Bin Laden, who is currently in Iran under Iranian government protection, into a new base inside Iraq,” one source told me.
* Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).

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