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Re: [OS] IRAN/IRAQ/US/CT- The Sandman Cometh- Qassem Suleimani

Re: [OS] IRAN/IRAQ/US/CT- The Sandman Cometh- Qassem Suleimani

Released on 2013-02-13 00:00 GMT
Date2010-03-08 15:09:22
Re: [OS] IRAN/IRAQ/US/CT- The Sandman Cometh- Qassem Suleimani

Interesting article from last week on the head of the IRGC Quds force.

Sean Noonan wrote:

Few Days Old.
The Sandman Cometh
Tehran's master of clandestine operations, Qassem Suleimani, could hold
the key to Iraq's future-if he were not so busy back in Iran.

By Christopher Dickey | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Mar 4, 2010

The text message was cryptic and sent through an intermediary, but its
spookiness has become legendary among the Americans tasked with trying
to stabilize Iraq. The moment was May 2008, and once again all hell was
breaking loose. Shiite militias had gone to battle against each other.
The fighting threatened to spread to Baghdad. Gen. David Petraeus and
Ambassador Ryan Crocker were scrambling to find somebody to broker a
truce. Then the text message was passed to the American commander.
"General Petraeus," it began, "you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani,
control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and
Afghanistan." Within days it was Suleimani who brokered the truce.

What surprised Petraeus and Crocker was not the Iranian's role. They
knew that already. It was the blunt confidence with which Suleimani
stated it. As the head of the infamous Quds Force, he commands all the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) operations outside Iran's
borders-whether covert, overt, or outright terrorist. In the fractious
politicking almost certain to follow Iraq's parliamentary elections on
Sunday, this 53-year-old Iranian general could pull the strings that
make or break the new government in Baghdad.

Long before America's troops occupied Iraq, Suleimani's forces occupied
the shadows. In the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion, he was the go-to
guy for much of the Iraqi Kurdish and Shiite opposition to Saddam
Hussein. Suleimani's networks of agents, collaborators, military
advisers, client militias, and secret informers give him a degree of
power that is difficult to gauge, but it often seems proconsular: "I,
Qassem Suleimani," his text read, like an emperor's decree. And his real
message in 2008 was that he could turn up the heat, or turn it down, at

Crocker often used to tell his colleagues that what Suleimani probably
wanted to do in Iraq was to "Lebanonize" it. The idea would be to build
up as many networks and agents in Baghdad as Iran has in, say, Beirut,
so that it could create a crisis-and then solve it, at a political
price. As Petraeus described it, Suleimani might say, "We'll stop the
crisis immediately, but of course, you know, we'd like to have one more
vote in the council of this and that." A talented extortionist knows how
to set a price that will be met. Through the accretion of such little
victories, the Iranians can eventually gain a veto over everything from
economic policy to foreign alliances. In the case of Iraq, they also
want to make sure that Baghdad will never again challenge them as a
regional power.

But today Suleimani doesn't seem to be paying as much attention to Iraq
as he once did. For the last nine months, ever since apparent election
fraud in Iran sparked mass protests and continuing unrest, the head of
the Quds Force has been drawn back into the treacherous politics of his
own country. And what he tries to do in Iraq-indeed, the success or
failure of its democratic experiment-may well be a factor of his success
or failure in Iran.

Petraeus, who painted this picture when speaking in January to the
Institute for the Study of War in Washington, said the unrest following
"the hijacked elections" in Iran last year has forced Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei to rely on the IRGC and its Quds Force internally as well as
externally. "That has enabled them to then expand their already
considerable influence beyond just the security arena, but ever more
greatly into the economic arena and even into the diplomatic arena,"
said Petraeus, who now heads the U.S. Central Command, the military body
focused on the region.

According to people who have followed Suleimani closely and prefer to
remain anonymous, the spymaster and many other senior figures in the
Quds Force actually supported the presidential challenger, Mir Hossein
Mousavi, against incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Supreme
Leader's anointed favorite. But because of Suleimani's record fighting
the regime's enemies abroad, he still has Khamenei's confidence, and he
has a demonstrated range of skills, whether persuasive or coercive, that
are useful in squelching protests and more subtle kinds of dissent.

When senior American military officers and diplomats in Baghdad talk
about Suleimani, it's with something of the same hint of awe that George
Smiley, the hero of John le Carre spy novels, had when he spoke about
the East German spymaster Karla, who was nicknamed "the Sandman" because
"anyone who comes too close to him has a way of falling asleep."

Suleimani's agents were deemed directly responsible for equipping and
training Shiite militias in Iraq whose explosives had a devastating
impact on American vehicles and the soldiers in them in the middle of
the last decade. When U.S. forces captured the leader of one of those
militias, Qais al-Khazali, in 2007, kidnappers took five British
hostages and demanded his release. Not until al-Khazali was handed over
to the Iraqis late last year was the last of the Britons let go. Then
al-Khazali was released. Although London and Washington adamantly denied
a deal, in Baghdad Suleimani got credit for getting his guy out.

In Lebanon, the Quds Force created Hizbullah in the 1980s and remains
its armorer to this day. In recent years Suleimani's covert financial
and material support for Hamas in Gaza has been vital, and he reportedly
played a direct role building up both forces before and after their wars
with Israel in 2006.

In 2007, U.N. Security Council Resoluton 1747 cited Suleimani by
name-along with several other officials from the IRGC and apparatchiks
tied to Iran's ballistic-missile program-as a target of the sanctions
imposed in the failed effort to stop Iran from enriching uranium and
developing nuclear weapons. (The penalties weren't so tough as to stop
him from doing his job.)

But dangerous as Suleimani may be, his style is notably different from
that of his predecessor at the Quds Force, Ahmad Vahidi, who is now
Ahmadinejad's minister of defense. Vahidi's list of alleged links to
horrific terrorist incidents stretches from Beirut to Buenos Aires.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s his agents waged a ferocious
assassination campaign in Europe to wipe out leading dissidents and
political opponents. Suleimani, appointed in 2000 when the reformist
president Mohammad Khatami was in office, has concentrated on events
closer to home and played more subtle political games.

Petraeus said Suleimani and the Quds Force continue to provide "all
kinds of resources and weaponry and advanced technology" to Hizbullah,
to Hamas, "and to a much lesser degree ... to the Taliban in western
Afghanistan." But at the same time they use "soft power wherever they
can, as well, to complement the various activities of hard power."

Late last year, The Economist reported that the current American
ambassador in Baghdad, Christopher Hill, and the current commander, Gen.
Raymond Odierno, actually went so far as to meet with Suleimani in the
office of an Iraqi official to try to stabilize the country and the
region. But the Americans' denials were so vehement that The Economist
retracted its story.

For the moment, Qassem Suleimani may not be so much in evidence. But in
the world of shadows that is at the heart of Middle East politics, the
Sandman is always likely to return.

Sean Noonan
ADP- Tactical Intelligence
Mobile: +1 512-758-5967
Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

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