There are still three American citizens missing in Iraq, and the most likely culprits are Iran-backed Shiite militia. They were snatched from a private residence in Baghdad by gunmen on January 16, and there has been little progress in finding them, beyond Iraqi intelligence guessing they ended up in the Shiite precincts of Sadr City, where numerous other kidnap victims have resurfaced.
The Administration adamantly refuses to link Iran to the crime, and is now pleading for their help with recovering the missing Americans. The Wall Street Journal describes the crisis as a “fresh test of the Obama Administration’s relationship with Iran.”
“U.S. officials said they are specifically looking at three Iraqi militias for their possible role in the kidnappings: Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and the Badr Corps,” the Journal reports. “All of them, the Pentagon has long believed, receive training, arms and funding from Iran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
Secretary of State John Kerry “raised the issue” of the kidnapping with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Kerry said he asked Zarif if “Iran knew any way to provide help or there were some ways they could have an impact on getting the right kind of outcome… I asked him to give us that input.”
Thus far, the Iranians appear unmoved by this commanding example of global leadership.
The WSJ notes that some U.S. intelligence officials offer a “skeptical view of Iran’s willingness to play a role in gaining the Americans’ freedom,” noting that close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – including active collaboration in the kidnapping and murder of five American soldiers in 2007 – make it unlikely the militias would grab Americans without Tehran’s approval, or that Tehran couldn’t easily secure their release if it had.
The Journal quotes former CIA official Scott Modell arguing that these kidnappings should “come as no surprise to those who have been closely monitoring the messaging of Shia militia groups backed by Iran.”
“No group has been more vocal in its threats to U.S. forces in Iraq than Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and none more steadfast in its loyalty to IRGC hardliners,” Modell added.
Some of the skeptics discussed by the WSJ thought Iran was generally interested in misbehaving to demonstrate its dominance over the Obama Administration, while others speculated the abductions could be part of the long-running struggle for power in Tehran between “moderates” and “hard-liners.” Either way, longtime Iran-watchers agreed that they almost always grab more hostages after letting their prisoners go.
It is noted that the alpha hard-liner, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, went out of his way to congratulate Iranian troops for their war-crime treatment of captive American sailors, on the eve of Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address. The hard-liners also came very close to kidnapping the family of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, while in the process of releasing him from his long, blatantly illegal captivity.
Obama apologists often claim he is embarked upon a long-term strategy to empower the “moderates” in Iran. The Wall Street Journal notes that the moderate reformers were disqualified from the upcoming February elections by the Ayatollah’s clerics. Along with the latest round of kidnappings, and Iranian gestures of disrespect for the nuclear deal, that seems like compelling evidence that the moderate-boosting strategy isn’t working very well.