900 pages of leaked Iranian spy cables reveal how America's failures after invasions allowed Iran to seize control of Iraqi politics

An anonymous source claiming to be an Iraqi patriot sent The Intercept leaks of 900 pages' worth of spy-agency cables and memos sent by Iranian spies in Iraq; James Risen (previously) reported them out in a joint project with the New York Times that reveals how the US's post-invasion nation-building failures created a political vacuum that Iran filled, allowing it to dominate the political and tactical landscape in Iraq.

The leaks include a lot of juicy spy stuff — skullduggery, spycraft and thrilling escapes — but the main thrust of them is to show just how deeply embedded Iranian partisans are within the Iraqi state at the highest levels (and throughout the government at all levels), and how Iranian spy agencies have turned CIA informants into double agents, gaining the upper hand in the region (though that's changing somewhat as protests in southern Iraq have targeted political parties and institutions that are friendly to Iran).

The leaks also reveal how the US's chaotic failures in their post-invasion "nation building" exercises created the conditions for Iranian dominance over Iraqi politics. From "de-Baathification" that saw anyone who held any role in the Saddam Hussein stripped of their jobs (but not their guns!) after the invasion — a purge that included even the most petty of "officials" such as schoolteachers — to the string of grifty Beltway Bandits who were contracted with to deliver key initiatives but instead disappeared, leaving nothing behind but inflated cost-plus invoices.

In addition to shedding light on the way that other major powers reacted to the US failures in post-invasion Iraq, the leaks also provide a rare insight into the ultra-secretive Iranian intelligence apparatus, which has not suffered major breaches of this sort.

According to the intelligence ministry documents, Iran has continued to take advantage of the opportunities the United States has afforded it in Iraq. Iran, for example, reaped an intelligence windfall of American secrets as the U.S. presence began to recede after its 2011 troop withdrawal. The CIA had tossed many of its longtime secret agents out on the street, leaving them jobless and destitute in a country still shattered from the invasion — and fearful that they could be killed for their links with the United States, possibly by Iran. Short of money, many began to offer their services to Tehran. And they were happy to tell the Iranians everything they knew about CIA operations in Iraq.

In November 2014, one of them, an Iraqi who had spied for the CIA, broke and terrified that his ties to the Americans would cost him his life, switched sides. The CIA, according to the cable, had known the man by a nickname: "Donnie Brasco." His Iranian handler would call him, simply, "Source 134992."

Turning to Iran for protection, he said that everything he knew about American intelligence gathering in Iraq was for sale: the locations of CIA safe houses; the names of hotels where CIA operatives met with agents; details of his weapons and surveillance training; the names of other Iraqis working as spies for the Americans.

Source 134992 told the Iranian operatives that he had worked for the agency for 18 months starting in 2008, on a program targeting Al Qaeda. He said he had been paid well for his work — $3,000 per month, plus a one-time bonus of $20,000 and a car.

Leaked Intelligence Reports Expose How Iran Dominates Iraq [James Risen/The Intercept]