UK ‘Thoroughly Blindsided’ by Iran in Iraq Policy

Dramatic evidence based on highly confidential information concludes that Britain was ‘thoroughly blindsided by Iran, and [has] inadvertently helped neutralize one of our most effective allies in helping limit Iran’s increasing activities’ in the Middle East, despite its own intelligence of links between the Shia militia, Baghdad, and Tehran. This is outlined in a letter to the Chairman of the British Foreign Affairs Committee, which published it on its website, Kurdish media network Rudaw reports.

The evidence in a December 14th letter from Tom Hardie-Forsyth, who has extensive experience of Kurdistan and UK security interests, disputes FCO assertions that Baghdad’s seizure of disputed territory caused ‘limited clashes and loss of life,’ and also challenges the Iraqi Embassy’s assertion of totally false allegations about the presence of non-Iraqi forces or irregular militias or groups backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

He writes that these statements illustrate Baghdad’s ‘pathological refusal to either tell or countenance the truth about the role and behavior of key elements of Hashd al Shaabi that are directly under Iranian control,’ and the British Foreign Office’s ‘seemingly uncritical acceptance of Baghdad’s narrative.’

He cites previously highly confidential discussions and evidence that he says has been ‘circulating in official departments since at least February 2016,’ that shows Iran’s ‘high-level aim to create through Iraq and Syria an unbroken land corridor to the MENA region, to further threaten Israel and The Lebanon. This also, together with their record of eschewing the norms of civilized behavior in warfare in respect of the treatment of civilians and surrendering combatants.’

He contends that Iranian backed forces have ‘successfully embedded themselves into the formal politico-military structure of Iraq,’ and ‘successfully encouraged Baghdad to take a heavily punitive approach to the KRI post-referendum, thus advancing Tehran’s ends by further cementing their takeover of key areas such as Kirkuk, Tuz Kurmatu, Nineveh plains and Sinjar, up to and beyond the Iraqi/Syrian border.’

This required ‘the effective isolation of KRI from normal international access, financial and communications facilities, thus neutralising KRG’s capacity to assist in resisting this process,’ and ‘another significant round of well attested and documented atrocities and population displacements in these key areas, including major reversals of population returns to them following the defeat of ISIS.

Particularly targeted have been the Christian communities in Nineveh, Yezidi populations in Sinjar and Kurdish populations in Kirkuk and Tuz Kurmatu.  A conservative estimate of population displacement is around 160,000 people.’ Baghdad and the Shia militia are changing the demography of Sunni areas, especially in Diyala Province, close to the Iranian border, as well as Kurdish, Christian, and Yazidi areas.

He argues that ‘The UK Government’s official response to the above has frankly been muted at best and, even more bizarrely, outright denial of many of these activities,’ while France, Germany, and Bahrain have taken a far more robust approach.

He recommends ‘an urgent re-appraisal’ of the UK’s ‘blanket support’ for Baghdad over its acceptance of bad behavior by the Shia militia and their publicly declared role in Iran’s goals and increasing interference in the MENA region.

This dynamite evidence from a respected former security official has been put into the public domain by the FAC and could encourage MPs to ask searching questions of the Foreign Office. Hardie-Forsyth was until recently Senior Adviser (Capacity Building) to the KRG Prime Minister’s Office and remains an unpaid senior adviser to KRG UK Representative office on capacity building and internal democratization processes.