He Must Be Joking: Biden Says 'Iranian Influence in Iraq Is Minimal'

The sectarian violence that continues to plague Iraq is also partly the result of Iran’s playing of both sides. It is no secret that Iran supports the Shiite end of the violence, but the regime also is involved in Sunni attacks on Shiites.

On January 9, 2008, the Treasury Department blacklisted Ahmed Forouzandeh, a brigadier general in the Revolutionary Guards’ elite al-Quds Force. Forouzandeh’s Iranian intelligence staff was attacking Iraqi officials and security personnel, and in mid-February 2007, they were commanded to attack Shiites in order to provoke sectarian violence. Of course, the U.S. still refuses to drop the myth that Islamic extremists of different ideologies don’t work together, causing the Iraqi foreign minister to criticize America’s close-mindedness on the issue.

Furthermore, the Iraqi intelligence chief resigned after massive bombings shook Baghdad in August 2009. He had reportedly received proof of Iranian involvement, but Prime Minister al-Maliki told his staff not to officially accuse Iran. This continued a long-standing practice of only referring to “neighbors” when discussing the terrorists’ backers.

If Iranian influence is so “minimal” as Biden said, then why is there such a reluctance to state the obvious truth?

The August 2009 bombings carry another lesson. The Iraqis had enough of Syrian support for terrorism in their country and took matters into their own hands. They bluntly threatened the Assad regime and released proof after proof of Syrian sponsorship of terrorists, including al-Qaeda, and publicly blamed Syria for the Baghdad bombings. They even tried to get international support for a UN tribunal to prosecute Syrian officials and terrorists harbored in Syria (which the U.S. disappointingly did not support).

Terrorism in Iraq fell 75 percent during the ensuing diplomatic crisis, proving two things: Syria and Iran are the primary instigators of the violence in Iraq and their behavior can be influenced through exposure and confrontation.

The implication of Biden’s statement is that Iran can sleep at night knowing the U.S. doesn’t recognize the depth of its role, and therefore won’t do anything. The Iranians continue this destructive activity simply because it works and it’s worth it to them. They’d be crazy to stop with this lax and non-responsive U.S. attitude.

And Joe Biden’s remark will only further persuade Iran that meddling in Iraq is a risk-free investment.