Iran-Iraq: Can we handle a menace?

Major General Rick Lynch, commander of US forces in central Iraq, said on Sunday that “We are seeing an increase in Iranian influence … the number of attacks that can be directly attributed to Iranian-linked groups, the amount of Shiite extremists trained in Iran.”

US President George W Bush issued a stark warning to Iran to stop interfering in Iraq yesterday and characterized Iran and Al Qaeda as “two of the greatest threats to America.”

Only recently Mr. Crocker said in an interview that the paramilitary branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was continuing to direct attacks by Shiite militias against American and Iraqi targets.

From Mr. Bush down, administration officials this week have been stressing on Iran’s malign activities in Iraq.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed the assessment that Basra offered evidence to counter statements that Iran was decreasing its efforts in Iraq. “As far as I’m concerned, this action in Basra was very convincing that indeed they haven’t,” the admiral said.

In addition, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, told reporters that while the Iraqi police and army troops had established security through most of Basra, “several significant neighborhoods are not under control of the Iraqi security forces.” Combating the Shiite militias in those enclaves of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, will be “a months-long operation,” he said.

Iran interference
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At a hearing before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, Ambassador Ryan Crocker stated that the ayatollahs’ regime was bent on the “Lebanonization” of Iraq, while General David Petraeus talked about Tehran’s “destructive role” which, if unchecked, poses “the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”

There is no doubt Iraq’s No. 1 problem is, in fact, Iran. Unlike Al Qaeda, which is a malicious, but nonetheless superficial threat, Iran under the expansionist rule of ayatollahs is a strategic threat for a sovereign, unified and democratic Iraq. Currently, Iran’s widespread and deadly presence in Iraq includes as many as 32,000 Iraqis on its payroll. Made up of agents within and without Nuri al-Maliki’s government, this list includes senior officials in the Iraqi police force, ministries, National Assembly and other institutions.

Any viable game plan must start by stepping up the arrest, restriction and curbing both the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army, as well as scores of other violent proxy groups such as Seyyed ol Shohada and 15th Shaban groups; and purging the Iraqi government of Tehran’s proxies. In other words, the U.S. must set about vigorously dismantling Iran’s terror network in Iraq.

This must be coupled with empowering the moderate, non-sectarian Iraqi political figures so that they can form a national unity government.

Many moderate Iraqi politicians, including some key members of Parliament, view Iran’s main opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), based in Ashraf City, Iraq, as a reliable partner for genuine democracy in Iraq and Iran. The MEK has acted as a catalyst for building stability, and has fostered unity among moderate Shiites and Sunnis.

A flash back: Iraq, Khomeini’s first step in realizing his Islamic empire

The history of mullah’s regime meddling in Iraq goes as far back as the idea of creating an Islamic empire similar to the Ottoman Empire which was dissolved in 1923. In his writings Khomeini vaguely refers to having a united governing entity for “Nation of Islam,” and Iran as its epicenter.

Not long after the 1979 revolution, with Khomeini and his followers in power, the theoretical idea was revitalized. To embark in the direction of establishing such an empire, Iraq seemed the best first step to take.

History shows that Iran and Iraq had difficulties in their relationship, prior to 1979 upheaval, not because they had so much territorial disputes, while border claims ignited the hostilities from time to time, but much of the problem rested with the geopolitical aspects and the race between the two world superpowers.

To that end, from the very first days, Khomeini’s menacing intentions about Iraq were very clear. “We have to dispatch an ambassador to Iraq who is a seasoned diplomat with enough experience in secretly contacting the Muslim groups opposed to Iraq’s government,” said Ibrahim Yazdi, the regime’s first foreign minister in what was called Provisional Islamic Republic.

“In recent days, [our] brothers arriving from Iraq have a single request that Imam Khomeini lead their revolution to victory just like he did in Iran,” said Hossein Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s deputy until 1988 when he fell out of favor with him and was reported by daily Bamdad on April 13, 1980.

On September 9, 1980, the semi-official Jomhouri Islami, the ruling Islamic Republic Party’s official daily wrote, “On the order of commander-in-chief [referring to Khomeini], the revolutionary forces, backed by the Muslims, have declared their readiness for occupying Iraq.”

Such direct comments and other preparations led to one of the most devastating wars of the last millennium, leaving only on Iranian side, more than one million casualties and a trillion dollars in economic losses.

The same philosophy led to seven years of continued war despite Iraq’s withdrawal from Iranian territories in September of 1981. Khomeini was often quoted as saying, “We have to conquer Jerusalem by first freeing Karbala [the holiest Shiite shrine in southwestern Iraq}.”

War ended however without Khomeini’s victory and expectedly only less than a year later he died. His heirs however did not make peace with Iran’s western neighbor officially to date and still both countries are maintaining a ceasefire.

When forced to accept the UN Security Council resolution 598, Khomeini did not offer any logical explanation as to why war in the first place with Iraq and what triggered the sudden change of heart. “I drank the poison chalice [referring to signing on to the resolution to end the war],” said he.

Now that close to two decades have passed it is quite clear as to why the mullahs have not given up the idea of devouring Iraq. They are still nostalgic about Khomeini’s idea of an Islamic empire with Iraq as its springboard.

The Qods Force and a covert occupation of Iraq

On December 22, 2001, in a closed meeting of the regime’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and presence of supreme leader Ali Khamenei as well as then president Mohammad Khatami, they concluded that the US attack on Iraq is imminent.

In the same session, for the Islamic Republic to come on the top, it must have a strong voice in Iraq’s future government and to achieve that objective the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and its arm the Badr Brigade should be mobilized.

It was in the same meeting that Qods Force commanders asked, and received instant approval, for a $26,020,000 for equipments and supplies to the Badr Brigade.

Following the new decision, the Qods Force announced that members of the Badr Brigade were no longer allowed to go into early retirement and receive compensation, at least not for the following two years. The fact is that some Iraqi POWs had been recruited into the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) subordinate the Badr Brigade. However, at the time they did not desire to stay on the force and sought early retirement to look after their families. At the same time the IRGC began recruiting for the fatigued Badr Brigade in the mosques to revitalize it.

According to a document leaked out of the SNSC dated September 9, 2002, in a meeting held in Khamenei’s personal office in which Khatami was present, Iraq’s crisis was carefully examined. The meeting concluded that Coalition Forces’ incursion in Iraq was forthcoming. The US presence in Iraq will be long term and to protect Iran’s interest, it should relay on “the covert diplomacy by using the Iraqi dissidents.”

The report clearly showed that the mullahs’ final goal in Iraq was to create a vicious cycle of violence preventing the neighboring country from realizing peace and tranquility while pushing for the establishment of a duplicate Islamic Republic and ousting the US.

In October 2002, SNSC took the next step by recognizing the Qods Force as the single authority in Iraqi affairs and the instrument to help implement its long term policies in Iraq.

Khamenei behind mullahs’ onslaught in Iraq

With war breaking out in the winter of 2002 in Iraq, the mullahs in Tehran who had been planning for such opportunities to fulfill their dreams in the neighboring country wasted no time by putting the Qods Force on red alert.

In turn, the force in a series of meeting at its headquarters in Tehran, called in its local agents from Iraq to be briefed of the upcoming postwar conditions. Shortly before the fall of Iraq’s former government in April 2003, a few units of the Qods Force were already in place in various parts of the country ready for operation such as:

  • Unit 60044 in the northern cities of Kirkuk, Soleimanieh, and Mousel under the command of Mehdi Albayati;
  • Unit 60310 in the eastern province of Diyala under the command of Ali Hamoud Alsadi a.k.a. Abuzar Khalisi. He was assassinated in southern city of Mahmoudeh in September 2003;
  • Unit 60450 in the city of Samaveh in the southwestern Iraqi province of Najaf (al-Mothanna) under the command of an IRGC veteran officer named Abu-Ahmad Roumesi formerly headed the IRGC training garrisons in the south-central city of Varamin and Imam Ali Garrison in the western city of Kermanshah in Iran;
  • Unit 60750 in the southern oil rich city of Basrah; the port city from start has had a strategic importance for the mullahs. The IRGC appointed one of its most ruthless men for the job, Brig. Gen. Abu-Ahmad Rashed, former head of the IRGC’s Heidar-e-karar Garrison in the southern city of Dezful in Iran. He is one of supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s closest confidants;
  • Unit 60840 in the southwestern city of Najaf under Brig. Gen. Haj Abu-Ali formerly Badr Brigade’s head of logistics in Tang-e-Kenasht Valley outside the western city of Kermanshah in Iran;
  • Unit 61000 in southern city of Nassereh under the command of Brig. Gen. Abu-Anvar Hosseini formerly Badr Brigade’s top intelligence officer in southern Iraq;

Qods Force spreading its wings across Iraq

Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, Qods Forces’ top man, was directly briefed by supreme leader Ali Khamenei in late spring 2003 to begin organizing the Iranian regime’s sympathizers in a move to execute different phases of covert Iraqi occupation. That of course involved massive transfer of both men and equipment to the country.

To ensure the plan’s success, in an unprecedented move, Khamenei through Soleimani called on the Badr Brigade commanders who had just gone to Iraq as little as a month before to come back to Tehran for emergency meetings with him. They were received by Khamenei in his personal quarters in downtown Tehran, something again strange for him to do.

In a meeting on May 21 and 22, 2003, the mullahs’ supreme leader and the commander-in-chief briefed the Badr Brigade’s commanders in various parts of Iraq.

Khamenei made it abundantly clear that those unit commanders, many of whom formerly held commanding positions in Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), were to strictly obey Soleimani’s orders in Iraq. He was responsible for infiltrating the Badr’s agents into different levels of the new Iraqi government.

The Iranian regime’s embassy in Baghdad

In the past three years, the mullahs’ embassy in Iraq played a major role in the IRGC’s overall plan in the country’s turmoil. Hassan Kazemi Qomi a top ranking Qods Force commander with a long record of service both in Afghanistan and Lebanon has been a key figure in pursuing the regime’s vital interests this time in Iraq.

Qods Force has a separate section in the embassy in Baghdad. Kazemi Qomi has his own team with three highly professional officers working for him. Nasseri, Nobakht and Jabari make up the tem. They are very active in gathering intelligence, espionage, and organizing terrorist attacks on previously assigned targets. In addition, Kazemi Qomi and his team are very active in establishing contacts with Iraqi groups and media.

To implement the measures adopted by the regime in Tehran, it required unleashing the Qods Force in Iraq. The degree of ruthlessness with which the dreaded force performed and the tactics employed in the streets of the neighboring country to achieve its objective are unbelievable.

Qods Force’s physical presence in Iraq

The Qods Force has some 40,000 men in Iraq. In January 2007, in a press conference in London, the Iranian Resistance revealed a detailed list of 32,000 on mullahs’ payroll with their account numbers in Iranian banks and their ranks in the IRGC’s military hierarchy.

In addition, to pursue its goal in Iraq, the Qods Force has established dozens of terrorist and intelligence networks throughout the country.

Over the past few years, millions of books, pamphlets, CDs, posters and ideological banners promoting the teachings of the mullahs’ supreme leader Ali Khamenei have been pouring into Iraq by the agents of the force.

To follow the guidelines from Tehran, the Qods Force has bought or rented more than three thousand buildings, apartments, farms, hotels, shops and other properties in Iraq. These premises have been used as safe houses, hide outs for the force’s commanders and intelligence agents of the Qods Force and rendezvous points for members of terrorist squads.

The real state purchases have been mostly made in the three Shiite strong holds of Najaf, Karbala and Basrah. The Iranian regime’s tactics have been widly scrutinized by the media in the country.

Qods Force front entities for fulfilling its task in Iraq

To manage its day-to-day business in the country, the force has been using front organizations. Various front organizations have made it easy for IRGC and Qods Force to conduct their covert and illegal activities; employing such networks have provided the necessary cover for the Iranian regime to keep a low profile while having a hand in most of terrorist operations in Iraq. At the same time, it is difficult for authorities to blow the covers and get the terrorists out since they are well mixed with the ordinary citizens.

By setting up a number of charitable organizations, mostly in Shiite dominated parts of the country, the Qods Force is expanding its covert intelligence and terrorist networks.

The Ramadan Garrison with its four tactical bases: Fajr in the southern city of Ahwaz, Zafar in the western city of Kermanshah, Raad and Nasser in the northwestern cities of Marivan and Naqadeh on the Iranian side of the border provide logistic support for the Qods Force operations in Iraq.

The force in coordination with the Iranian regime’s embassy in Baghdad and based on the friendly relations with the Iraqi government contacts the Iraqi political groups.

Kazemi Qomi has a pivotal role in Iraq; he is a veteran Qods Force commander with a mission initially not as a diplomat but as a field officer for the mullahs’ ominous intentions in Iraq.

What role do Hezbollah and other Qods Force’s proteges play in Iraq?

One should not overlook the role Qods Force’s proxies play in its bloody campaign against the Iraqi people in that country. It is no doubt a battle for survival for those national forces who want to salvage Iraq from the devastating outcome of a hidden occupation by the mullahs’ regime and its different proxies, now called by the US “Special Groups,” under the Qods Force command in Iraq.

Commander of Lebanon Garrison of the IRGC leading terror networks in Iraq

Brigadier General Abtahi, one of the Qods Force’s veteran officers who spent years in Lebanon as a high ranking officer of the IRGC-QF in Lebanon, has emerged with a fresh task of commanding the special terror groups in Iraq since summer of 2006. He has been chosen by the Qods Force for the job because of his valuable experience in turning Lebanese Hezbollah into a potent force carrying out the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s orders in southern Lebanon.

Following the downfall of Iraq’s former government in spring of 2003, Abtahi was assigned by the Qods Force to Iraq when Brig. Gen. Rabii took over from him the operations in Lebanon. He then entirely concentrated on Iraq using Mobin Organization as cover for his terrorist activities in the country.

Fajr tactical base in Ahwaz

It was setup in the southwestern city of Ahwaz in Iran by the Qods Force to provide logistic support for its terrorist operations in southern Iraq. All contacts with Iraqi terror groups are made possible through Fajr tactical base of the Qods Force. Fajr’s main headquarters is located in the populated area of Chahar-Shir Square in Ahwaz. Abtahi enjoys the support of a number of most experienced Qods Force officers on Iraq in the Fajr base.

Iraqi Hezbollah

The Qods Force in Iraq runs a number of terrorist networks such as Fifteenth of Shaban, Seyed-ol-Shohada, and Hezbollah among others. The most effective one however is Iraqi Hezbollah.

This organization initially started off in two major Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra; as a carbon copy of the Lebanese Hezbollah. Its new members routinely train in the capital for the nation’s north and mid sections and in Basra for the southern regions of the country. Arms, supplies, and trainers for the newly formed terrorist organization, as it is expected, come from neighboring Iran.

Most of the logistic support pours in from a narrow border passage between the two countries called Shalamcheh in the outskirts of the southwestern city of Khorramshahr. The rough terrains and a flat piece of land dividing the territories of Iran and Iraq, with hardly any geographical demarcations, make only the aborigines comfortable to cross the international borders at night. Something the Qods Force makes use of abundantly to supply its proxies such as Iraqi Hezbollah.

Commanders of Hezbollah from Iraq are dispatched to receive their military trainings and intelligence gathering courses in Iran. Such training sessions have between 30 to 50 beginners and last 30 days. They first arrive in Fajr tactical base in Ahwaz and then continue their way up north to Tehran.

Jamal Jafar Mohammad Ali Al-Ibrahimi a.k.a. Mehdi Mohandess is Abtahi’s deputy in Iraq.

Jamal Jafar Mohammad Ali Al-Ibrahimi with his Iranian identity, Jamal Ibrahimi, is one of the most ruthless veteran officers of the IRGC with long track record in terrorism across the Middle East, in particular Kuwait. He is wanted by the Interpol for the deadly explosions of American and British embassies in Kuwait in 1984.

Currently he is a member of the Iraqi National Assembly from Babel Province in southern Iraq. However, in fear of his real identity being revealed in Iraq, Mehdi Mohandess went into hiding not showing up for the parliament’s sessions. But his role in directing the terrorist activities has not been abated.

This article has been gathered with the help of:

Reza Shafa is an expert on the Iranian regime’s Intelligence networks, both in Iran and abroad.

CSH/SAzari is a journalist reporting on #Iran / #IranProtests, a freelance commentator, researcher-Policy advisor at ISCC/IHRM/CSDHI, and ground reporter at SA TV, who writes to be informative and educative and loves to receive feedback.