Brussels, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) press release - The continuing increase in the number of Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) forces in Iraq, the airstrikes by Iranian jetfighters and the recent death of a terrorist Quds Force Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi, killed inside Iraq, reveal the horrendous scale of the Iranian regime’s meddling. The Quds force top Commander Qasem Soleimani, as well as a number of IRGC generals such as Esmail Qa’ani and Iraj Masjedeiare, are also present in Iraq.
On December 27, the Washington Post quoted a cleric close to Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stating that since last June "Iran has sent more than 1,000 military advisers" and "elite units to Iraq and has conducted airstrikes and spent more than $1 billion on military aid". The Post added that: "Iraq’s Shiite-led government is increasingly reliant on the powerful militias and a massive Shiite volunteer force, which together may now equal the size of Iraq’s security forces".
Similarly, in a statement on December 26, the Iranian opposition NCRI announced that the number of IRGC forces in Iraq stands at 7,000. It also disclosed details of the IRGC operations in Iraq.
The objective of the Iranian government in dispatching forces to Iraq is not to confront ISIS, but to expand its own dominion and influence. This was acknowledged by General Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme Security Council and a close associate of Iranian regime President Hassan Rouhani, during General Taqavi’s funeral on 29 December 2014: “These days, sick gossipers foster this question asking what relation is there between Samarra (an Iraqi city) and Hamid Taqavi and what is our business as to what is occurring in Iraq and Syria? The answer is obvious; if people like Taqavi don’t shed their blood in Samarra, we have to shed blood in Sistan, Azerbaijan, Shiraz and Esfahan (Iranian cities)… Taqavi and his like give this blood today because before we spill our blood in Tehran, we need to defend [fight] in Samarra and give blood there.”
General Hossein Salami, IRGC Deputy Commander in Chief, said on December 30: “Today, we see that the capacities of the Islamic revolution have gone over from Iran to Iraq and we have a popular army in Iraq that is linked to the revolution. This army is dozens of times bigger than the Lebanese Hezbollah… Similarly in Syria, as a major pillar in the axis of resistance, we have a popular army on the ground that is connected to the Islamic revolution with a Basij mind-set as its role model … In Yemen, where the heel of U.S. policies in that Peninsula is located, we have Ansarollah similar to Hezbollah is acting in our geopolitical atmosphere with the logic of the Islamic Revolution.” (Fars News Agency, affiliated with IRGC – December 30, 2014)
The atrocities of the Iranian regime and its militias in Iraq are even more horrendous than that of ISIS. The Washington Post on December 27 wrote: “Reports of abuses by Shiite militiamen have increased in recent months. A U.S. official said the militias’ combat power has come “at a steep price….Various Shia militants have pursued scorched-earth tactics leading to the displacement of thousands of Sunni civilians.”
On December 1, Khebat daily, the official paper of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq led by President Masoud Barzani, quoted Sheik Jafar, Chair of the KDP branch in Khaneqain: “The conduct of Shia militias is similar to ISIS or even worse. They are skilled in killing, burning and looting and have disrupted 90% of Sa’adiya looting and burning all the residences. They have also begun their military operations in Jalula. Their aim is to expand their rule and influence… They seldom use the Iraqi flag and usually hoist a flag with the emblem of the Islamic Republic of Iran… They have now begun to cleanse out the Sunnis and kill people anywhere they can… In another scheme, these forces blew up people’s houses under the pretence of neutralizing mines and explosives… Everyone is unhappy with the militias; they are hooligans that refrain from nothing.”
On 29 December Rafidain TV showed a video clip of Hadi al-Ameri, commander of the Badr terrorist militias and a close friend of General Soleimani, warning the people of Meqdadiya in Diyala province that “You will be harshly held accountable and that day is very near. We warn all families in this region to leave this area because we will deal such a blow that will destroy everything.” In the same clip, while threatening the residents of the Mansouriya al-Jabal area in the suburbs of Meghdadiya, Al- Ameri said: “On the issue of Mansouriya al-Jabal our treatment of terrorists will in no way be soft”.
Most astonishing here is the silence of the American and European governments in the face of this meddling which is not helpful in the fight against ISIS. This gives a message to the people of Iraq and in particular to the Sunnis that they are engaged in a sectarian war with Iran and its criminal militias on one side and ISIS on the other with the U.S siding with the Iranian regime. This can only benefit ISIS.
As EIFA has repeatedly stated:
“A solution to the crisis is hopelessly out of reach without the active and pervasive participation of Sunnis and tribal forces in the reconstitution of the broken political process. These forces are prepared to engage on the ground. In order to engage these forces effectively, the current policy has to be reconfigured and corrected. The new and pro-active policy should include the rigorous restraining of Iranian influence in Iraq and the expulsion of its destructive proxies, whose main objective has been to aggravate sectarian sensitivities and hostilities. Shiite militias such as the Badr Organization, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Kata'ib Hezbollah must also be evicted from Iraq in order to rekindle a lasting environment of political reconciliation. In the absence of such a policy, the war against ISIS will morph into a sectarian war pitting Shiites against Sunnis, which even if temporarily restrained, will resurface in due course, haunting the region for decades to come.”
President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)
Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.