Iranian Qods Force Agents Detained in Irbil Raid
US Pressure uncovers further evidence of Iran's involvement with the Iraqi insurgency and al Qaeda
Thursday's raid on an Iranian liaison office and the subsequent arrest of five Iranians has provided further evidence of the Islamic Republic's interference in Iraqi affairs and involvement with the insurgency. Multinational Forces - Iraq has reported the Iranians are members of Qods Force. "The five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces," noted the Multinational Forces - Iraq press release. The Iranian office Irbil was not a consulate or diplomatic mission, as earlier reported, but a liaison office.
Qods Force [or Jerusalem Force] is a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and is responsible for planning and conducting foreign operations, intelligence gathering and terrorist activities. The unit works extensively with Hezbollah. Qods Force regularly uses its diplomatic missions to provide cover for its operatives.
In late December, US forces raided a SCIRI office in Baghdad and detained two member of Qods Force, including "the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Qods Brigade," according to the Washington Post. The New York Sun identified the senior Qods commander as Chizari. Also seized were "weapons lists, documents pertaining to shipments of weapons into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, among other sensitive intelligence information... [and] information about importing modern, specially shaped explosive charges into Iraq."
Evidence the Iranians were helping the Sunni insurgency was also uncovered in the Baghdad raid. An intelligence official told the New York Sun that the Baghdad Qods Forces agents were "working with individuals affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunnah... We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to." Irbil is in the Kurdish North, where there are no Shia death squads. The only organization fighting the Iraqi government in this region is Ansar al-Islam, the al Qaeda founded and funded terrorist group.
The raid in Irbil followed an unusually direct warning to Iran and Syria during President Bush's speech on the new Iraq strategy just last Wednesday. "[Security in Iraq] begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."