Iraq: A Small War Guaranteed to Damage a Superpower

At 3 am on January 11, 2007 a fleet of American helicopters made a sudden swoop on the long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in northern Iraq. Their mission was to capture two senior Iranian security officials, Mohammed Jafari, the deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. What made the American raid so extraordinary is that both men were in Iraq at the official invitation of the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who held talks with them at his lakeside headquarters at Dokan in eastern Kurdistan. The Iranians had then asked to see Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, in the Kurdish capital Arbil. There was nothing covert about the meeting which was featured on Kurdish television.

In the event the U.S. attack failed. It was only able to net five junior Iranian officials at the liaison office that had existed in Arbil for years, issuing travel documents, and which was being upgraded to a consular office by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad. The Kurdish leaders were understandably furious asking why, without a word to them, their close allies, the Americans, had tried to abduct two important foreign officials who were in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi president. Kurdish troops had almost opened fire on the American troops. At the very least, the raid showed a contempt for Iraqi sovereignty which the U.S. was supposedly defending. It was three months before officials in Washington admitted that they had tried and failed to capture Jafari and General Frouzanda. The U.S. State Department and Iraqi government argued for the release of the five officials as relative minnows, but Vice-President Cheney’s office insisted fiercely that they should be held read more

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