Sunday, July 31, 2011

"...The al-Qaeda threat may be waning but not that posed by Hezbollah"

"Of all the leftover business for the Obama administration as U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq at the end of the year, nothing is more symbolic of the continuing threats there -- and throughout the region -- than the case of a Lebanese Hezbollah operative named Ali Mussa Daqduq.
Daqduq has been one of Iran's top covert operatives in Iraq, according to U.S. officials. He was captured in March 2007 by U.S. forces in Basra who had evidence he had plotted (with Iranian help) a kidnapping in Karbala that January that resulted in the deaths of five American soldiers. U.S. satellite photos showed the Iranians had even built a mockup of the Karbala facility inside Iran to practice the kidnapping. Daqduq is now a prisoner at Camp Cropper, a U.S. detention facility near the Baghdad airport. Thousands of other detainees have already been released, and the U.S. must close Camp Cropper by year-end, under the status-of-forces agreement negotiated by the Bush administration. The detainees will be handed over to the Iraqis (who would likely free many of them) unless they are transferred elsewhere.
Herein lies the Daqduq conundrum, which has been the subject of weekly interagency meetings this summer: The White House is leaning against releasing a prisoner who has American blood on his hands. But how should he be prosecuted?
The administration is weighing several options. First, Daqduq could be tried by a U.S. military commission, presumably at Guantanamo Bay, under the laws of war. A second option is to try him in a civilian court. That's what the Justice Department decided to do earlier this month with a Somali terrorism suspect named Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame. He was indicted and transferred to New York for trial, after being held for months in a naval vessel in the Persian Gulf...
Back in Tehran, Daqduq was told to organize "Special Groups" of Shiite extremists that would operate like Hezbollah fighters. According to Bergner, Iran was, at that time, funding the Special Groups with $750,000 to $3 million a month, as well as training them to use "Explosively Formed Projectiles," the sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed so many U.S. troops.These Hezbollah cadres, backed with Iranian money and intelligence support, have in recent years fanned out across the region. As Arabic-speaking Lebanese, they can work with Shiite activists from Bahrain and eastern Saudi Arabia, as well as Iraq. Iran's leverage in Iraq will be especially important if its ally, Bashar al-Assad, is toppled in Syria.
At a time when Iranian-made weapons are killing a rising number of U.S. troops who remain in Iraq, U.S. senior military commanders have warned the White House that releasing Daqduq would send what one calls "a horrible message." The Obama administration seems to agree -- and is weighing how to try this Hezbollah operative. I favor a trial, but not in the heart of Manhattan. The al-Qaeda threat may be waning but not that posed by Hezbollah."

1 comment:

William deB. Mills said...

A legal critique of the issue here would be very useful. Washington is considering putting an Iranian-sponsored militant defending Iranian interests in Iraq on trial for using military force to resist the American occupation. Exactly what is the legal basis for the U.S. to put an enemy combatant on trial? Since when is it illegal to resist invasion?

The U.S. seems to me to be on pretty thin ice legally and morally (after all, it was the U.S. that started the Iraqi war by invading).

If Hezbollah/Iran/Iraqi patriots attacked U.S. territory, the issue would be quite different.

And to do this after holding the prisoner without trial all this time only makes the U.S. case all the weaker.

Politically, the U.S. case is also weak: Washington is trying to end the U.S. war in Iraq and make the case that Iraq has now become an independent country again. So...why not turn war prisoners over to that independent country (Iraq) and close the book on this sad story? Why try to inflame the issue precisely when U.S. troops are moving out of Iraq, when the U.S. position is weak and getting weaker?

The U.S. started this war; Iran won it. Slapping Iran in the face as US soldiers depart is legally, tactically, and strategically questionable.