Many Years ago, New York Times prominent columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote:
“An iron curtain of fundamentalism risks falling over Iraq, with particularly grievous implications for girls and women”. His concern for Tehran’s thirst for an Islamic Empire was depicted in the famous line: “I am getting the impression that America fought Saddam Hussein and the Islamic fundamentalism won.”
Krisotof echoed a concern which was reflected by western observers and journalists visiting Iraq at the time, reflecting a complex dilemma confronting the US over Iraq’s future. The unleashed forces bred by the war and the lack of an organized and grass root alternative to the deposed ruler were some of the reasons for which weekend the bond of democracy in the young risen nation.
The core of the problem however that washed away the short path to Democracy for Iraq was the existence of an Islamic fascism in the neighboring country with a blood trenched history and a desire to establish its brand of Islam in the region.
Farid Zakaria working at Newsweek at the time wrote,
“It would be a tragedy if in the search for a quick legitimacy, America ended up empowering the kinds of forces it is currently battling all over the Arab world”, calling these forces ‘extremists, illiberal and intolerant.”
Middle East experts mostly concur that issues dominating Iraq at present fan from the flames of Iranian regime fundamentalism. The biggest illusion in analyzing the current situation in Iraq is to view the expanded phenomenon of fundamentalism as a home-grown and inherently “Iraqi” problem or a sectarian one. Stop the religious fascists in Tehran from fanning out terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism into Iraq and you will see a fertile land for Secular Democracy in the country.
This is where the irrefutable and existential role of the opposition to the Ayatollahs becomes more prominent.
Unfortunately till now Policy makers have been too oblivious of the determining role the change of regime in Iran would have on the pathway for Peace in the Iraq and the region.
Prof. Maurice Deeb, a Middle-East expert from John Hopkins University in the United States referes to the reality of regional geopolitics that the ruling dictatorship in Iran cannot refrain from export of fundamentalism with the intention of installing a similar state related to itself in that country, because:
I)”Export of terrorism” for ruling velayat-e faqih regime in Iran which considers itself as the “mother of all Islamic lands” and sees its supreme leader as “the leader of all Muslims in the world,” is in its natural character which forms its dynamism and maintains the religious fascism.
II)Iraq has always been at the top of the regime’s priorities for export of terrorism, as six of Shi’ite historic leaders are buried there, more than 60 percent of the population are Shi’ites and there is a 1200 km long common border, and many other cultural and historical similarities with Iran. The main reason for the regime’s insistence on keeping the war with Iraq going for eight years with the slogan of “Going to Jerusalim through Karbala,” refusing ceasefire until the threat of overthrow by the NLA was in prospect for the regime and never getting close to signing a peace accord in 15 years of ceasefire, all stems from the strategy of “export of Revolution.”
islamic Republic of Iraq Or Secular Democratic Iraq for The Region?
Not a day has gone by without the Iranian Mullahs not roaming about the “brothers in Iraq”.
Beginning in 1980, Iran actively promoted its own revolutionary vision for Iraq. All anti-Iraqi Islamic organizations, including Ad Dawah al Islamiyah, commonly called Ad Dawah, and the Organization of Islamic Action were based in Tehran, where they came under the political, religious, and financial influence of the ruling clergy. To control rivalry and infighting among the different groups, Iran helped to set up the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) on November 17, 1982. It was headed by Iraqi cleric Hujjat al Islam Muhammad Baqir al Hakim. Establishing SCIRI was viewed as a step toward unifying the political and military work of all groups and as an attempt to unite them under a single command directly supervised by their Iranian counterparts. In return, SCIRI acknowledged the leadership of Khomeini as the supreme commander of the Islamic nation. Nevertheless, the majority of Iraqi Shias resisted Tehran’s control and remained loyal to Iraq. 1
In a report entitled “Iraq: U.S. Regime Change Efforts and Post-War Governance,” the Congressional Research Service wrote:
“The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), was set up in 1982 to increase Iranian control over Shiite opposition groups in Iraq and the Persian Gulf States. SCIRI’s leader, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqer al Hakim, was the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s choice to head an Islamic Republic of Iraq, a vision that, if realized, might conflict with US plans to forge a democratic Iraq… In addition to its agents and activists in the Shiite areas of Iraq, SCIRI has about 10,000-15,000 fighters/activists organized into a ‘Badr Corps’ that, during the 1980s and 1990s, conducted forays from Iran into southern Iraq to attack Bath Party officials there…Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is politically aligned with Iran’s hard line civilian officials, has been the key patron of the Badr Corps. Providing it with weapons, funds, and other assistance. The Badr Corps fought alongside the Guard against Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq war. However, many Iraqi Shiites view SCIRI as an Iranian creation and SCIRI/Badr Corps operations in southern Iraq prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom did not spark broad popular unrest against the Iraqi regime.”2
A secret meeting of the Supreme National Security Council, held on December 22, 2001, and attended by Khamenei and Khatami, concluded: “The possible attack by the US against Iraq will create crisis in the region for some time and poses many dangers to us. The only way out for us is to take the upper hand in the future government of Iraq through the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq.”
In early July 2002, the regime’s leaders again discussed the Iraq-US crisis. Hashemi Rafsanjani said: “If we could bring the US to the position to attack the Mojahedin, we would guarantee our survival. After that, we could easily confront the US with the help of Iraqi groups and form an Islamic Republic in Iraq.” In September 2002, Khamenei summoned the commanders of the Qods [Jerusalem] Force and the Nasr terrorist headquarters to instruct them to quickly prepare the Ninth Badr Corps mercenaries for intervention in Iraq.
background to The Grounds Held By Today’s Qods Force Affiliated to Tehran
The regime’s leaders decided to send sufficient weapons into Iraq and prepare safe houses and weapons warehouses to hide weaponry. They also decided to form rapid reaction armed cells.
In late February, Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force commander Guards Corps Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Ramazan Garrison commander Brig. Gen. Iraj Masjedi, Ramazan Garrison operations commander Brig. Gen. Hamid Taqavi and Fajr Garrison commander Brig. Gen. Obeidavi were entrusted with directing the operational plan in Iraq. Soleimani personally followed up this plan.
Ramazan Garrison deputy commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Forouzandeh implemented plans to infiltrate Iraqi towns and popularize the slogan of “neither east, nor west, only an Islamic Republic.” This was intended to gain a bigger share of power in the future Iraqi government. He held many meetings with the 9th Badr Corps commanders, including Hazrat Rassul Division commander Ahmad Rashed, Imam Hussein Division commander Montazer, Heidar Karar Division commander Ahmad Badran.
In early February, Badr Corps commanders were briefed about their missions in Iraq:
– Heidar Karrar Division’s mission was to control the town of Al-Amara through the Howeiza axis;
– Imam Hussein Division’s mission was to control the city of Basra through the Khorramshahr axis;
– Hazrat Rassul Division’s mission was to control the town of Al-Kut through the Mehran axis;
– Imam Ali Division’s mission was to control Baghdad and Diyala Province through Marivan and Khaneqin axes.
The Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces and the Joint Command Headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards Corps in Tehran took control of and monitored the activities of the 9th Badr Corps divisions. On March 28, 2003, the Badr Corps intelligence and reconnaissance units secretly entered Iraq in small groups.
On April 6, Ramazan Garrison commander Brig. Gen. Iraj Masjedi announced in meeting with Iraqi groups affiliated with the regime that southern cities had fallen and the borders were wide open, making it ideal for military forces and groups to enter Iraq’s cities in the south. Ramazan Garrison commander coordinated the entry into Iraqi territory. They gave everyone entering Iraq a Kalashnikov, a cartridge belt and some cash in US dollars. Guard’s commanders emphasized that “we must infiltrate as many Iraqi forces as possible to fill the future power vacuum in Iraq.” Forces of the Fajr Garrison and the Badr Corps positioned themselves around the town of Al-Qorna on April 7. They began registering agents and distributed weapons among them.
A number of agents affiliated with the Fajr Garrison went to Nasseriya, Al-Kut, Al-Hay and Al-Muqyia to organize their forces and coordinate with tribal leader to set up their networks.
On April 9, when there were no longer any doubts about the fall of the Iraqi government, the Qods Force and its affiliated garrisons sent the 9th Badr Corps commanders and forces to the already specified locations in Iraq through five axes. In addition to the 9th Badr Corps, Iraqi clerics working under Khamenei and political advisers to Baqer Hakim entered Iraq in large and small groups under the command of Fajr and Zafar garrisons to take control of Iraqi cities.
All commanders of Ramazan Garrison and intelligence commanders as well as personnel of the garrison’s 1st Corps entered Iraq on April 9 and 10. The Garrison’s operations commander Hamid Taqavi and Abu Mojtaba, Intelligence Commander of the Hezbollah movement affiliated with the Fajr Garrison in Ahwaz as well as all Iraqi personnel of the Ramazan Garrison entered Iraq.
The Crisis Headquarters Chief Ahmad Forouzandeh had organized the 1st Corps in groups, allocating each group to a different city. He personally took command of dispatching the forces. The commanders of the Ramazan Garrison were:
– Abu Mojtaba, head of the Hezbollah movement from the Fajr Garrison in Ahwaz;
– Abu Zeinab Khalesi, commander of terrorist groups affiliated with the Intelligence Ministry and the Ramazan Garrison;
– Abu Fallah, an intelligence commander of the Fajr Garrison;
– Abu Hatam, in charge of a terrorist group who went to Al-Amara;
– Abu Zeinab Helli, commander of a terrorist group;
– Abu Hanna Baghdadi, in charge of the mission in Baghdad. Ramazan Garrison commander Iraj Masjedi put him in charge of several terrorist groups in the town of Al-Kut as well.
On April 10, the 9th Badr Corps forces entered the border town of Khaneqin and captured half of the city. US forces, however, clashed with them a few days later and forced them to withdraw.
When the commanders of the joint operational headquarters of the Qods Force entered Iraq on April 10, they formed a tactical command headquarters in the Maydan region near the Iraqi town of Sulaimanyia.
On April 13, Tehran open all borders to Iraqi living in Iran and issued a memorandum based on which Iraqis in Iran could return to Iraq with permission from the Nasr and Ramazan garrisons or the MOIS. The mullahs were concentrating the dispatch of forces from Qom to Najaf and Karbala. Some 14,000 Revolutionary Guards Corps personnel, forces of the 9th Badr Corps and 2,000 clerics entered Iraq in a relatively short period.
Imam Ali Division forces set up their headquarters in a location called Qal’eh in the Maydan region in Iraqi Kurdistan. Its commanders, including Abu Majed Basari and Abu Aqil, its deputy commander, went to that headquarters. The Badr Corps also set up bases in Sulaimanyia and Penjwin. The Badr Corps and Imam Ali Division entered Iraq through the Nowsoud axis.
Imam Ali Division, Mostafa and Malek Ashtar brigades took control of Diyala Province in central Iraq. Parts of those forces took up positions in Maydan, Kelar, Khaneqin, Mandali and Naftkhaneh. Part of the Imam Ali Division were stationed in Baquba on their way to Baghdad.
On April 15, forces of Imam Ali Division and Malek Ashtar and Mostafa brigades started descending on Baghdad. To enforce the regime’s forces in the central region, Mahmoud Farhadi, an Intelligence commander of the Ramazan Garrison and Abu Leqa, the 9th Badr Corps commander and other commanders were based in Baquba. Large amounts of US dollar was brought by the Ramazan Garrison for the forces based in different Iraqi cities. The next day, Mostafa brigade forces and the intelligence brigade of the 9th Badr Corps stationed in different parts of Diyala Province, especially in Baquba and Khalis. This Brigade was responsible for the Province and its commander Abuzar Khalesi was stationed in Baquba. All of the Brigade’s forces were transferred to Diyala Province by April 17.
When the war began, the forces were dispatched at nights according to the plan by the Ramazan Garrison whose intelligence commanders warned the 9th Badr Corps that people in Khuzistan Province support the PMOI and would report your movements to the organization. The Guards commanders used ambulances, equipped command communication systems, with to cross the border.
Annotations;1 1Up Info – Iraq – Impact of the Iranian Revolution on Iraqi Shias/Iraqi Information Resource
2 Iraq: US Regime Change Efforts and Post-War Governance, Updated 4 August 2003, Congressional Research Service, Order Code RL31339