Buried inside an AP report today on very belated attempts by the U.S. to patrol the Iran/Iraq border (why did it take so long, given all those allegations?) is a remarkable admission.
The former Soviet republic of Georgia sent 2,000 troops to help last month, but they haven't yet left a major base in the area. Mueller and his troops are also getting a late start, basically trying to secure the thinly patrolled border from scratch after it was largely ignored during more than four years of war.Please try to remember this the next time some Bush official or rightwing hack says the Iranian leadership must know about weaponry smuggled into Iraq from Iran and that the Iranian leadership must be fully complicit in any smuggling going on.
The area has attracted new U.S. attention as the military steps up allegations that Tehran is aiding Shiite extremists who have killed hundreds of American troops with powerful bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, believed to be brought in from Iran. Tensions between the two countries also have been rising over Iran's nuclear program and the recent detentions of each others' citizens.
Mueller, 48, from Yorktown, Va., is the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's border transition team at the heart of an intensified U.S. push to stop the smuggling. The strategy is similar to American efforts elsewhere in Iraq - build up the infrastructure and train the Iraqi forces to take over eventually.
The 900-mile border between the two countries, however, is laced with ancient smuggling routes and tribes who spent decades bringing in weapons to fight Saddam Hussein's regime and are now believed to be making their living from Shiite militias. The problem is particularly stark along the 90-mile section in predominantly Shiite Wasit province, southeast of Baghdad.
Mueller acknowledges the virtual impossibility of securing such a border but says the U.S. forces can at least disrupt the flow of weapons into the capital.
If the Best Military In The World (tm) can't secure the Iran/Iraq border against smugglers, what chance do the Iranians have? The entire region is a maze of smuggling trails and the arms smuggling market is one of the biggest growth areas in the Middle East as a whole. As I keep saying, criminal private entrepreneurs explain all cases of Iranian weaponry found in Iraq to date and absent some hard and verifiable evidence otherwise there is no causus belli against Iran as a nation.