Iran’s elite Guards , Hezbollah fighting in Iraq against Islamic State

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Hezbollah- iran guardsIn early July, hundreds of mourners gathered for the funeral of Kamal Shirkhani in Lavasan, a small town northeast of the Iranian capital Tehran. The crowd carried the coffin past posters which showed Shirkhani in the green uniform of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and identified him as a colonel.

Shirkhani did not die in a battle inside Iran. He was killed nearly a hundred miles away from the Iranian border in a mortar attack by the militants of the Islamic State “while carrying out his mission to defend” a revered Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, according to a report on Basij Press, a news site affiliated with the Basij militia which is overseen by the Revolutionary Guards.

Shirkhani’s death deep inside Iraq shows that Iran has committed boots on the ground to defend Iraqi territory.

At least two other members of the Guards have also been killed in Iraq since mid-June, a clear sign that Shi’ite power Iran has ramped up its military presence in Iraq to counter the threat of Sunni fighters from the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that seized much of northern Iraq since June.

Iraqi security forces largely dissolved in the path of the Islamic State’s advance on Baghdad, proving that the Shi’ite-led government could hardly defend itself.

In late June, a spokesman for the militant group, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, announced that it was shortening its name to the Islamic State and would rule its territory as a Sunni Muslim caliphate overseen by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Islamic State considers Shi’ites to be heretics deserving of death, and made a point of filming its fighters gunning down Shi’ite prisoners as it advanced. Iranian and Iraqi Shi’ites see it as an existential threat.

Iran, with deep ties both to the Iraqi government and to a number of Iraqi Shiite militias, stepped in to stop it.

Senior Iranian officials have denied that any Revolutionary Guard fighters or commanders are inside Iraq. But there’s no doubt that prominent politicians and clerics in Iran have been rattled by the rapid gains of the Islamic State and the threat it poses, not only to the Iraqi government but to Iran itself.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani pledged his government’s support to help counter the threat posed by the Islamic State if the Iraqi government requested it.

In late June, a senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, said in a statement that waging jihad to defend all of Iraq, particularly holy shrines that are visited each year by millions of Shi’ite pilgrims, is “obligatory,” according to a report from the semi-official Fars News agency.

Samarra, a city on the Tigris north of Baghdad where Colonel Shirkhani was killed, is site of the first of those major Shi’ite shrines to land in the path of the Sunni fighters’ advance. Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militia swiftly mobilised and have so far succeeded in defending it. The deaths of Shirkhani and two others is proof that Iranians were part of that successful response.

“When the Islamic State reached Shi’ite areas in Iraq, the Revolutionary Guards had forces there who fought them,” said Mohsen Sazegara, a founding member of the Revolutionary Guards who is now a U.S.-based dissident. “A number of them were killed.”

Qassem Soleimani, the head of the external operations branch of the Guards known as the Quds Force, recently travelled to Baghdad, according to reports from a number of Iranian news sites. An Iraqi parliamentarian posted a picture on the Internet of himself with Soleimani in Iraq in mid-June.

Regional experts believe the Revolutionary Guards have increased the supply of weapons and funds to proxy militant groups inside Iraq in recent weeks.

OPPONENTS BLAME TEHRAN

Critics of Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blame him for excluding Sunnis from government in Baghdad, inflaming sectarian tension and allowing hardliners like the Islamic State to cultivate support among Iraq’s Sunni community.

The Islamic State’s rise was partly Iran’s fault for doing too little to rein in the sectarian impulses of its ally Maliki, said Reza Marashi, a former Iran desk officer at the U.S. State Department who is now the director of research for the National Iranian American Council.

“Iran overplayed its hand. They overreached,” he said. “By seeking to advance its interests with its Iraqi allies at the expense of other foreign and domestic players, look at what’s happened: the Maliki government helped give rise to ISIS.”

Throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq, which ended in 2011, Washington accused Tehran of funding, arming and training Shi’ite militant proxy groups behind some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. troops and revenge killings of Sunnis. Those militia groups have re-emerged in recent months to join the fight against Sunni fighters.

A high-level Iraqi security official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media said Iran had now mobilised up to 20,000 Iraqi militiamen from groups it funded and trained.

The fighters are spread south from Samarra to Baghdad and down into the farming communities south of the capital, the official added.

Several thousand Iraqi fighters were also brought back from Syria where they were helping defend the government of president Bashar al-Assad, the same official said. Some have now joined units of security forces from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence. Some of the groups were deployed since the spring with the blessing of Maliki, and put under a military chain of command, as the Iraqi security forces first struggled fighting in western Iraq and in Baghdad’s rural hinterlands.

In addition, there are dozens of members of Lebanon’s Shi’ite militia Hezbollah in Iraq, sources familiar with the group say. Hezbollah militants have been fighting in Syria to support Assad for more than two years. Their presence in Iraq now is a sign of the broader regional dimensions of the conflict which has pitted Shi’ite Muslims against Sunnis.

Unlike the fighters in Syria, the Hezbollah militants in Iraq are battle-hardened veterans leading and supervising operations, sources familiar with the group say. One Hezbollah commander, a veteran of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel named Ibrahim al Haj, was killed near Mosul recently.

The presence of the Iranian Guards in Iraq also comes after months of committed military support from the Quds Force in Syria. Senior Iranian officials had denied Guard personnel were there until websites linked to the Guards and Basij began publishing pictures and posting video of the funerals of Iranian fighters killed in Syria.

Still, it was more than a year after the beginning of the Syrian conflict before reports of the first Guardsman killed there began to circulate on the web. In comparison, the three Guardsmen killed in Iraq since mid-June appear to indicate that the Guards have leapt more quickly into the fight in Iraq.

Aside from Shirkhani, the funeral for a second Guardsman killed in Samarra, Shojaat Alamdari Mourjani, was held in the southern city of Shiraz on July 4th. Mourjani, a pilot, “reached martyrdom while defending the shrine in Samarra,” according to a report from the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

The IRNA report does not give any further details whether Mourjani was killed in ground combat or while flying a combat mission. Pictures published by the Fars News agency show posters pasted on Mourjani’s casket with him wearing the uniform of the Revolutionary Guards and identifying him as a colonel.

Only a couple of days before Mourjani’s funeral, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies published a report that Iran had delivered a handful of SU-25 ground attack aircraft to Iraq. The report notes that the only SU-25 aircraft owned by Iran are operated by the IRGC and that, “these aircraft were likely delivered to Iraq by Iranian pilots” but it is unclear who would be operating the aircraft once in Iraq.

The death of a third Guardsman, Ali Reza Moshajari, was reported by the Hengam News site in mid-June. The report, citing a Lebanese news source, included pictures of Moshajari in Revolutionary Guard uniform and noted that he had been killed in Kerbala while defending holy sites there, southwest of Baghdad.

Unlike in Samarra, there has not been sustained fighting around mainly Shi’ite Kerbala, although there have been occasional attacks in the area. The report, which also included a photo of Moshajari’s bloodied face framed by a white burial shroud, does not present any more details of the circumstances of Moshajari’s death. His funeral was attended by prominent Guardsmen, including Hussein Allah Karam, a former Guard commander who helped found a radical militant group, according to Hengam News.

Unlike in Syria, where Iran has staunchly defended Assad, a member of the Shi’ite offshoot Alawite sect fighting mainly Sunni opponents, Washington and other Western capitals hope Tehran will use its leverage in Iraq to help push for a more inclusive government in Baghdad to help defuse the crisis.

“The Iranians have seemingly calculated that they cannot preserve their interests in Syria without Bashar Assad, They have not made those same calculations about Maliki,” Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in an email.

“But the question is whether there exists a unifying alternative to Maliki, an Iraqi politician who’s both a steadfast Iranian ally and still palatable to Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds.”

Reuters

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14 responses to “Iran’s elite Guards , Hezbollah fighting in Iraq against Islamic State”

  1. The real lebanese Avatar
    The real lebanese

    “The Islamic State considers Shi’ites to be heretics deserving of death, and made a point of filming its fighters gunning down Shi’ite prisoners as it advanced. Iranian and Iraqi Shi’ites see it as an existential threat.”

    Similar to how Hamas and Hezbollah view those who support Israel politically during times of conflict.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      …. or even might support some ‘reasonable’ Jews. Or say ‘Hello’ to a neighbour.

  2. hmmm…aren’t they the ones that keep blaming israel for meddling in other nations affairs?

    well.. we know they meddle i Iraq, they meddle in Lebanon,they meddle in Bahrain they keep Assad alive and yet ,they complain on others

  3. 5thDrawer Avatar
    5thDrawer

    Maliki and Assad …. better the devils you know than the ones you don’t?
    BASIC Problem being, there has rarely been another choice raised, or anyone else pushed forward by the devil. ‘The People’ are not used to having many good choices.
    The ‘dreams’ of wonderful times under ‘storied’ Caliphs – and the dreamer who touts himself as the next one, making the perfect world for all UNDER HIS RULES – are working now against good concepts of political reason FOR the people.
    And the ‘megalomaniac’ believes, once he has a following, that he should be the ‘glorious leader’ until death … and then his son should carry on his will, even if he doesn’t have the same abilities.

  4. sweetvirgo Avatar
    sweetvirgo

    I hope IS disappears….just goes away. They are proving to be killers without mercy. Get rid of them….heck thorw an atomic bomb and good riddens.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      Open a door to ‘Caliph-Ville’ and let all the brain-dead of the world in first.

      1. MekensehParty Avatar
        MekensehParty

        the Admin should create a door from Yalibnan for a bunch of them who roam on this site to go join the Caliph
        yek yek yek

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar
          5thDrawer

          At least after 3 years of ASSad’s War, they finally got Canadian News talking about ‘the problems’ … and we can see that ‘Partisan Politics’ has a hard time sorting out how to argue against the ‘in-charge-at-the-moment-government’ making some contributions, when kids are dying in the most horrible ways … but it largely begins to emulate American News-Shows for ‘fear-factor’ reporting … and Canadians just switch to something else. 🙂
          Which is better for the psyche. :-))))

          1. MekensehParty Avatar
            MekensehParty

            How???? just how can a man look at a 12 year old and see anything arousing? Poor little baby, he can rot for 25 years in jail and may he get raped 25 times a day in there screw him, but what about that little girl? How will she live?

  5. Are the Majos and Zionist hastening the arrival of the Shia Mahdi/Dajjal/The False Messiah/Anti-Christ/Lucifer/Fallen Angel/Light Bearer/King of Babylon/ETC.?

    Figures:
    Khorasani/The preparer = Khamenei (Already there)
    Yamani = Nasrallah (Already there)
    Khorasani/Khamenei’s military leader = Qassem Suleimani (Already there)
    Shia Mahdi = The hidden Dajjal (Will be coming out of Occultation)?

    Dates:
    The Second Dajjal – 2014/2015?
    The Real Dajjal – 2020?
    Return of Eashoa’ M’sheekha = 2022/2023?

    Background:
    Iran and Hezbollah view the Syrian civil war not only in a strategic context, but in a prophetic one. In their belief, the radical Sunnis (IS Khawarij’s)will conquer Syria for a short period of time and then Iranian forces will intervene on their way to destroying Israel.

    The Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is, like Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, “known for being a strong believer” in the Shiite prophecy that Iran will lead an End Times war against Islam’s enemies. At that time, the Mahdi will “reappear” and defeat the infidel.

    Both Iran and Hezbollah rely upon a book of prophecies called “Al-Jafr” to guide them. It was passed down to Jafar al-Sadiq, for whom the Jafari school of Shiite jurisprudence is named after. Teachers of this book say that the Syrian leader (Assad) will be killed in a civil war during the End Times.

    A radical Sunni leader (Khawarij “al-Baghdadi”) will take over Syria and persecute Shiites and Sunnis, Allawites and Christians. The persecution will continue until an Iranian army (Revolutionary Guards under the command of Qassem Suleimani) invades Syria via Iraq, killing this radicalSunni leader (Khawarij “al-Baghdadi”) on the way to capturing Jerusalem. Once Jerusalem is taken, the Shia Mahdi will appear. Interestingly, in a modern context, this means that Hezbollah is fighting to preserve the regime of a man (Bashar Assad) that they believe will be killed.

    Keep in mind, the Jafari school of jurisprudence is mainstream Shiite doctrine. There’s bound to be disagreement over the interpretation of prophecy, but these are not the beliefs of an isolated cult. In July 2010, a senior Iranian cleric said that Khamenei told his inner circle that he had met with the Shia Mahdi, who promised to “reappear” during his lifetime.

    A very similar eschatological viewpoint is articulated in a 2011 documentary produced by the office of then-President Ahmadinejad. The film, titled “The Coming is Upon Us”, does not predict a Syrian civil war but shares many of the same details articulated.

    A critical point of convergence between the two sources is about Saudi Arabia’s role in prophecy. Both agree that the death of Saudi King Abdullah will be a major trigger. In fact, this event is so central to the Iranian film that it opens up with the statement, “Whoever guarantees the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I will guarantee the imminent reappearance of Shia Mahdi.”

    What’s amazing about this film is the high level of detail of the discussed prophecies. It is easy to see why, if you were a devout Shiite, you would believe that the Shia Mahdi’s return is near.

    The arrival of Jews in Palestine from the West and the birth of the state of Israel, the conquering of Arabia by the Al-Sauds and the global dominance of the U.S. and the West are all clearly foretold, it claims.

    A blessed revolution will take place in Iran led by a man based out of Qom. The narrators point to the 1979 Islamic Revolution as a clear fulfillment. After this happens, a series of vague and specific “signs” are to follow.

    The most specific “signs” are related to Iraq. The Iranian video claims that prophecy requires the invasion of Iraq by infidels from the south with heavy use of aircraft, as happened in 2003. The infidel will cause tribal divisions and the evil dictator of Iraq (Saddam), will be killed.

    Other signs include the Westernization of Muslim youth (with the 2009 Green Revolution offered as evidence), the Iran-backed Houthi rebellion in Yemen and the overthrow of Egyptian President Mubarak.

    “The preparer,” named Seyed Khorasani, will rule Iran at this decisive point in history. He will come from Khorasan Province, his strong army will have black flags and there will be a “sign” in his right hand. The filmmakers point out that Khamenei fills these requirements and has a disabled right hand.

    Yamani will coordinate the offensive against the infidel with Khorasani that trigger the Mahdi’s reappearance. The film argues that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is his incarnation. Yamani will have a Yemeni background and it says that Nasrallah’s ancestors came to Lebanon from Yemen.

    Khorasani/Khamenei’s military leader is given the name of Shoeib-Ebne Saleh (Qassem Suleimani). The film allegedly produced by then-President Ahmadinejad’s office predictably says he is the incarnation of this figure. However, any military commander under Khamenei can arguably be him.

    Analysis of these prophecies helps us see the future through the eyes of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime.

    Iran and Hezbollah are first focused on assembling an anti-Western Arab coalition. The Coming is Upon Us film specifically cites the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a step towards this, even if Iran and the Brotherhood are on opposite sides in Syria.

    This stage includes fomenting internal strife in Bahrain, a Shiite-majority country governed by a pro-American Sunni monarchy. A representative of Khamenei said in 2011 that Bahrain presents “the best opportunity to begin setting the stage for the emergence of the 12th imam, our Mahdi.”

    The development that Iran is eagerly awaiting is the death of the Saudi King Abdullah, which will trigger internal strife throughout Saudi Arabia. It is probable that this is when Iran hopes to begin a rebellion in the Shiite-majority Eastern Province where 90% of the country’s oil is.

    After Assad is killed and replaced by a vicious Sunni (Khawarij) leader, Iranian forces are to invade Syria from Iraq. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the Iraqi government’s slide into the Iranian orbit are undoubtedly seen as dramatic “signs.”

    Once an Arab coalition is formed and Syria is invaded, Jerusalem is to be captured by the Iranian-led forces. At this point, the Mahdi is to reappear and final victory will come that includes a Nasrallah-led march to Mecca.

    These events appears fanciful until all of these pieces are put together. Once they are, it is easier to understand why the Iran-Hezbollah bloc is confident of victory.

    “According to Shiites who believe in this [Al-Jafr] book, mainly Khamenei and Nasrallah, there is one possible explanation. The signs of reappearance of Shia Mahdi are being successfully unveiled, and the Great War with Israel and the disbelievers is just around the corner.”

    The Shiite Islamist’s End Times worldview does not necessarily result in recklessness. They do consider military strength and geopolitical realities, but the objectives of those calculations are to fulfill prophecy. Any policy debate that takes place among them is not about whether to pursue the war that summons the Shia Mahdi, but how.

  6. Janan Hunter Avatar
    Janan Hunter

    At least somebody is fighting ISIS. I don’t believe Obama is doing enough to stop the towns from being seized.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      They don’t take fighter-jets down close enough to strafe troopies any more.
      Always need some ‘boots’ on the ground to eliminate the gun-holders.
      Kurds seem to be doing well at that in Kobane, as ISIS loses it’s stolen ‘heavy-stuff’.

    2. MekensehParty Avatar
      MekensehParty

      The only other thing he can do is send boots on the ground…
      Oh wait!! There were boots on the ground specifically sent to keep something like this from happening, but what happened to them? They got kicked out by the same people who are asking for their return.
      How about the Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Persian, Phoenicians… decide once and for all what they want, and for once, how about they handle their own problems without calling for Obama “to do more”?

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