Iran Plans to Bring the Hizballah Model to Syria and Iraq

The Islamic Republic has managed over the decades to establish Hizballah not only as a powerful military force in Lebanon and a base for terrorist operations but also as a means of exercising political control over the Beirut government and infiltrating the Lebanese military. In Iraq since the early 1980s, and in Syria since 2011, the ayatollahs have been cultivating similar Shiite militias for similar purposes. In an extensive study, Hanin Ghaddar explains how the militias operate, Iran’s plans for them, and what the U.S. can do to counter them:

Through participation, indirect or direct, in various wars and confrontations, . . . Iran has managed to [create] an army of around 200,000 non-Persian Shiite fighters. Individually, these fighters may look scattered and containable, but in reality they are very well organized under the command of the Quds Force, [the expeditionary arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)]. To understand how these militias function, one needs to see them as they see themselves: not as a loose assortment but as a single army with a very clear structure and hierarchy. . . . [M]ost Shiite militias fighting in the region today are organized, trained, and funded by the IRGC and the Quds Force. . . .

While the IRGC still serves as a supervisory entity, Hizballah, Iran’s top Arab Shiite force, is itself training and leading Iraqi, Syrian, Pakistani, Afghan, and Yemeni Shiite militias. Indeed, as Iran’s role in the region grows, so does that of Hizballah. This gives Hizballah more confidence when faced with its other domestic and regional challenges; the group knows that in its next war—possibly with Israel—these Shiite militias will come to its aid. . . .

Meanwhile, Iran has already worked its proxies into Iraq’s military and its political system:

Today, [one Iranian-backed group], the Badr organization, leads the [Iraqi] Ministry of Interior, which allows it to support or undermine provincial police chiefs across the country. The ministry also commands the 37,000-strong Federal Police, a five-division motorized infantry force, and the Emergency Response Division, a divisional-sized special-weapons and tactics group. . . . Since 2005, Badr has likewise controlled the leadership and manning of the Iraqi army’s 5th Division, . . . and is interested in folding [the army’s] dozen or so Popular Mobilization Force brigades into a new Badr-controlled Iraqi army or Federal Police division.

Taken together, these [units] make up the largest concentration of ground forces in the country, outnumbering the functional parts of the federally controlled Iraqi army and counterterrorism service. . . . The key issue for the United States is whether Badr might one day play a role in attacking U.S. personnel or evicting U.S. troops from Iraq. Badr includes many deeply anti-American elements, not least the current minister of interior, Qasim al-Araji, who spent 26 months in U.S. military custody and has been accused of supporting deadly attacks on U.S. personnel. . . .

Tehran [could] use radical Badr members to form another splinter group . . . to deploy in Iraq and in regional struggles such as Syria or Bahrain. Like the Lebanese original, these smaller Iraqi Hizballah clones will be used to attack Iran’s enemies such as Israel, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, and possibly to pressure Iraqi political, military, or religious leaders who push back too hard against Tehran’s priorities. Many of these mini-Hizballahs will be partially enmeshed within the security forces, and their part-time involvement in foreign wars with Sunni neighbors will be politically difficult for Iraq’s Shiite prime ministers to prevent. . . .

Yet, Ghaddar concludes, it is not too late for the U.S. to take action to contain Iran.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Iraq, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat