Iran inside Iraq


The Iranian government is unlikely to be playing a decisive role in the sectarian warfare and insurgency in Iraq

The Iranian government is unlikely to be playing a decisive role in the sectarian warfare and insurgency in Iraq, says a new BASIC study released today. Iranian support for violence in Iraq: a review of the evidence concludes that although Iran has a considerable presence in Iraq, its role in the violence has been exaggerated.

"A glut of anonymous accusations against the Iranian government could obstruct the path to a lasting solution to the nuclear crisis. Iran's role in Iraq is not above rebuke but criticism must be justified and based on firm evidence," said Dr Ian Davis, Co-Executive Director of the British American Security Information Council.

The study examines the role of, and Iranian support for, two Iraqi Shia militant groups - the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army - as well as the Iranian's own Quds Force. It finds little doubt that Iranian proxies or agents are operating inside Iraq, particularly in the south, but adds that the two countries share strong religious, cultural and historical ties, as well as an 800-mile mountainous border. There is a real danger that legitimate cross-border movements of people and interactions are being conflated with alleged Iranian involvement in the Iraqi conflict.

Recent media reports have linked Iran to the violence in the Sunni triangle, collaboration with al-Qaida, the supply of weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and even plans to attack European nuclear power stations.

Release of the study coincides with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that Iran's scientists are closer than previously expected to mastering the enrichment process that would allow them to produce nuclear fuel. If Iran is able to sustain this progress it raises the 'worst case' scenario of Tehran having the capability to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon within 12-18 months.

In releasing the study, BASIC Co-Executive Director, Dr Ian Davis, said:

Even under this scenario, an actual working Iranian nuclear weapon remains at least five years down the line. There is time for constructive dialogue. This wave of unsubstantiated media allegations undermines the potential for a diplomatic breakthrough. We hope that this report will put Iran's role in Iraq in context.

This discussion paper is the third in a new BASIC series on Iran's nuclear program and its international legal and geopolitical context.