Iranian military commander killed fighting in Ramadi

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Photograph of Jassem Nouri released by Iranian media.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) military commander was killed fighting the Islamic State in Iraq’s Anbar province, according to reports in the Iranian press. Iran has sent IRGC and Basij members to fight in both Syria and Iraq. Those in the IRGC are likely members of the elite Qods Force, the external operations wing of the IRGC.

The commander, Jassem Nouri, was reportedly killed on May 28 while fighting against the Islamic State near Ramadi. The Islamic State defeated the Iraqi military in Ramadi and drove it out of the city on May 17. The Iraqi government has called on Iranian-supported Shiite militias to eject the jihadist group from the provincial capital of Anbar. Hezbollah Brigades, which is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and is supported by Qods Force, is leading the fight to retake the city.

Little information was given about Nouri, other than that he was from the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which borders Iraq. News agencies also identified Nouri as having been a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War. When discussing his role in Iraq, the Iranian press reported that he was a “defender of the shrines,” which refers to holy Shiite shrines in places such as Najaf or Karbala. According to Radio Free Europe’s Farsi service, Nouri was “actively involved in the Syrian and Iraqi fronts.”

Nouri is not the first IRGC commander to have been killed in Iraq. The IRGC announced that Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi was “martyred” while serving in Samarra, close to the “shrine of Imam Hassan Askari,” on Dec. 27, 2014, Jahan News, a hard-line Iranian media outlet reported. Taqavi was killed by an Islamic State “sniper,”ABNA noted. The Iranian general fought alongside Saraya Khorasani, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia. [See LWJ report, Islamic State kills Qods Force general in central Iraq.]

Other IRGC members have been killed in Syria. In January, a Qods Force general was killed alongside five other Iranian officers and six Hezbollah fighters in an Israeli airstrike in southern Syria. Several senior Qods Force officers and Iranian politicians spoke very highly of the general after his death. [See LWJ reports, Senior Qods Force general killed in suspected Israeli airstrike and Iranian political and military leaders laud Qods Force general killed in Syria.]

Additionally, an Iranian Basij general was killed fighting in Aleppo in October 2014. The Basij forces are a voluntary paramilitary force within Iran that is directly under the command of the IRGC and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. In December 2013, a commander within the IRGC was killed in Damascus. In June 2014, another commander was killed in Damascus. And in July 2014, seven members of the Revolutionary Guard were killed fighting rebel forces.

IRGC leaders have also been spotted on the front lines of key Iraqi battles. For instance, Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Qods Force, was at the forefront of Iraq’s fight to take back Tikrit from the Islamic State. Soleimani was photographed several times with various Shiite militias that Iran directly supports. In October 2014, he was also seen near Jurf al Sahkar in Iraq’s Babil province after Iraqi forces took the city back from the Islamic State. In November 2014, Soleimani was spotted near Samarra helping Iraqi forces in the defense of that city.

Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Anbar

The presence of Iranian military advisers in Anbar should come as no surprise. Several Iranian-backed militias are leading the fight in the province, a predominately Sunni Muslim area of Iraq. Thousands of fighters from Shiite militias operating under the aegis of the Popular Mobilization Committee, backed by units from the Iraqi Army’s Golden Division and more than a thousand policemen, launched a counteroffensive last weekend from the city of Habbaniyah, one of the last government-controlled areas in eastern Anbar yesterday.

One of those groups, the Hezbollah Brigades, is a US-designated terrorist organization. Hezbollah Brigades confirmed on its website that it was involved in the fighting in Ramadi. The group blamed the fall of Ramadi on Iraqi politicians who held the militias back from the fight in Anbar.

“The security breach that took place in Ramadi was the result of some politicians trusting the Americans,” Hezbollah Brigades quoted one of its commanders deployed near Ramadi. The statement is a swipe at Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, who has been advised by the US not to deploy Shiite militias to the province.

The Hezbollah Brigades also recently released footage from Anbar. The 10-minute video, which can be seen below, shows its forces, along with the Iraqi Security Forces, mobilizing for the operation, which is titled “Labaik ya Hussein,” or “At your service, oh Hussein.” The phrase is used by Shiite Muslims to remember the martyr Hussein, the son of Ali.

The Hezbollah Brigades video shows the terrorist group operating several US-made M113 armored personnel carriers, Humvees, and other US equipment supplied to the Iraqi military. Several US M1 Abrams tanks are featured in the video, but it is unclear if Hezbollah Brigades or Iraqi Security Forces are using them. The Hezbollah Brigades, however, has shown to be in possession of at least one M1 Abrams in the past.

Despite the overt presence of Iranian military advisers and Hezbollah Brigades in the Ramadi counteroffensive, General (retired) John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL, or the Islamic State, has attempted to portray the Shiite militias operating in Anbar as separate from the “extremist elements” that are supported by Iran. [See Threat Matrix report, US support for Iranian-backed Shiite militias ‘should not alarm us,’ General Allen says.]

The US has been conducting airstrikes in the province despite the prominent role played by Hezbollah Brigades. Over the past 24 hours, the US launched three airstrikes in Anbar targeting Islamic State fighters and equipment in Ramadi, Fallujah, and Hit, according to a US military press release.

Hezbollah Brigades video from Anbar province

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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20 Comments

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    Now IS has kryptonite?! (Note Superman hat on Nouri.)

    • jp says:

      I did take note,I zoomed on it but wasn’t sure it was a Super Man
      hat. What a crazy war this is,the whole middle east is on fire.

  • mike merlo says:

    thanks for the info. Great news & good riddance. The presence of upper echelon Iranian Officer’s is indicative of a large presence of Iranian Rank & File. Much like in Tikrit these Iranian elements are taking heavy losses along with many wounded & maimed.

    So how long before the Iranians realize, if they already haven’t, that for them to at least put a dent in ISIS/ISIL & their like minded brethren scattered throughout the Syrian Iraqi Theater they’ll have to at least put a Force 2 1/2 times larger than what the US & its Coalition had at its height of the Occupation? Am also looking forward to ISIS/ISIL targeting neighborhoods, locales & ‘townships’ within Baghdad & immediate environs where many of the Iraqi Shia Militias hail from. Little spoken of, if at all, is the ISIS/ISIL Intelligence Network. Its obviously quite good!

    There’s a lot of hatred within ISIS/ISIL, particularly among the Iraqi’s in their ranks, who will enthusiastically target those areas housing Shia Militia Families. Revenge is very much part of the ‘mindset’ of certain elements within ISIS/ISIL. So when this targeting of Shia Militias’ ‘home turf’ comes to pass how long will they allow themselves to linger on the Front Lines engaged in Combat Operations while their Families & Neighborhoods are being ‘Terrorized?’

    • Jeff Edelman says:

      Yeah. How much blood and treasure are the Iranians willing to commit to this battle? How much military and political capital? Is this Iran’s Iraq all over again? If it loses, what will the neighbors think? Is this a proxy war between Sunni-dominated countries and Iran? The Saudis and the Egyptians just have to throw enough money and weapons into the fight to eventually bleed Iran. I don’t know if this is actually happening. Haven’t heard any reports in that regard. But, why wouldn’t it be happening? It’s hard for this simpleton to believe that your enemy is fighting your people in a neighboring country, and you’re going to stand by and watch as a disinterested party. And, there is one other bigger question. Are they called sunnies because they have a brighter disposition than the shias?

      • mike merlo says:

        @ J Edelman

        IMO the Iranians are in ‘this’ till the bitter end. The Ayatollah’s have never had an opportunity like this & they’re not about to let ‘it’ slip away no matter what it cost’s them in Iranian lives & resources. I can’t ‘see’ the Iranians ever getting another opportunity like this in the foreseeable future especially if they somehow manage to loose everything South & East of Baghdad. As distasteful as they would find it I’m sure the Iranians could stomach the shifting of the Goverment from Baghdad to Basra as long as they controlled & dominated it.

        This beyond just a Vietnam style quagmire for the Iranians. For ISIS/ISIL & their like minded ‘brethren’ this a “Fight To The Death.”

        I haven’t ‘seen’ or read anything that would lead me to believe the Egyptians have committed resources or manpower to the Syrian Iraqi Theater besides maybe ‘physically’ supporting Jordan & acting as a go between of some sorts between GCC Members & other parties interested in providing just enough to ISIS/ISIL to keep them strong enough materially to take the fight to the Iranians & their surrogates/proxies. The GCC is undoubtedly using every possible covert ‘conduit’ & then some to assist ISIS/ISIL & their on again off again ‘bros’ in AQ, al-Nusrah, etc.,.

    • HA says:

      These comments show – how sick is the thought process of those who wrote them… It is one thing to have enmity towards certain group(s) – it is ANOTHER thing to have ANIMOSITY and BARBARIANISM towards those who are fighting pure EVIL (ISIS/ISIL/DAESH) – founded and funded by the US/West – primarily.

      • mike merlo says:

        @ HA

        total nonsense. “…(ISIS/ISIL/DAESH) – founded and funded by the US/West – primarily.” What makes this observation even more ridiculous is that both Syria & Iran had made ‘common cause’ with ISIS/ISIL progenitors & were aiding & abetting the murder of US Military Personnel & their Coalition Allies

      • GR says:

        Are you on crack HA?

    • Fatima A. says:

      @mikemerlo, #1) From the article: “The Iraqi government has called on Iranian-supported Shiite militias to eject the jihadist group from the provincial capital of Anbar.”, Looks like the Iraqi government/people THEMSELVES want ISIS out of their country, so, your comment makes NO sense whatsoever.
      #2) YOU wrote: “Am also looking forward to ISIS/ISIL targeting neighborhoods, locales & ‘townships’ within Baghdad & immediate environs where many of the Iraqi Shia Militias hail from.”. WOW! So you support ISIS & their human-rights violations in a country they have no right to be in!!!.

      • mike merlo says:

        @ Fatima A

        What “Government?” There is no Government in Iraq, just an Iranian puppet, an autonomous Kurdistan & a new Nation set up by ISIS/ISIL.

        I support ISIS/ISIL & the Iranian’s & their puppets in Syria & Iraq killing each other. Both Syria & Iran had every opportunity to make ‘common cause’ with the US & their efforts but they opted to do otherwise. So be it. Let them both reap what they’ve sowed. The Iranians & their surrogates/puppets are just as bad in violating “human rights” as ISIS/ISIL. Welcome to reality

  • Oberron says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra7mHzBodvM

    We need a little humor every now and again.

  • Muhammed says:

    WoW, seeing the article and the comments show how much ignorance the west have about Iraq. JASSEM NOURI is not Iranian and we have said for the millionth time that Iraq doesn’t have fighting Iranian personnel, but they have a much needed advisers. JASSEM NOURI is a 100% Arabic name, which means that he is indeed Iraqi.

    Cant believe how many people prefer the fail of a peaceful sect (the shia) against ISIS!!!!!

    • Pure Iraqi says:

      Are you serious peaceful sect, the Shia in Iraq are just as bad as ISIS, the reason Isis exist is because of the Shia crimes against the Sunni population in Iraq all under the command of the Shia government in Iraq, now you have the Iranian Shia in on the action as well. Also a video has come out today of Shia militia men burning alive an Iraqi Sunni man. What makes them any different than ISIS.

      I also can not wait to see the Shia militia families in Baghdad getting bombed in the offensive, it’s about time the Shia start tasting what the Sunnis in Iraq has been tasting for the past 10 years

    • mike merlo says:

      @ Muhammad

      many Shia & non-Arab Muslims have Arabic names

      “…a peaceful sect (the shia)..,” now that’s funny. Start by asking the Marines at the barracks blowin up by a suicide bomber in 1983 how “peaceful” “the shia” are!

      The Iranians easily have 20,000 to 30,000 military personnel, most likely more, ‘scattered’ throughout the Syrian Iraqi Theater with a massive increase not long in coming

  • An UnHappy Camper says:

    A couple of things stood out on the video. I saw the M-1 Abrams, anybody have any idea how many of these things we gave to Iraq? I couldn’t help but think there was only one there and they kept showing it from different angles. The video showed some shooting, APC’s rumbling around and helicopters flying around but not much “combat”. It reminded me of what Mussolini told Hitler when Italy invaded Greece. “Fuhrer we are on the march” We all know how that ended.

  • Joel Wing says:

    In Iraq’s case when the Iranians talk about one of their men defending the shrines they’re referring to Samarra in Salahaddin. Tehran’s line is that their men are defending the Golden Dome mosque there against the IS.

  • Lucky Sofar says:

    Killing for Revenge? Muslims continue to contradict what Islam belief demands, killing infidels. ISIL jihadists, aka Islamic Terrorists, are hunting humans for personal reasons, not for their religion.

  • RT says:

    When you consider how few elite soldiers the US lost in Iraqi, I can’t help but think the Iranian elite soldiers are just as poorly trained as the Iraqi army. And for such a high level commander to be killed, makes me think the Iranians are taking an awful beating themselves.

    • Arjuna says:

      Yes and no, all your points are valid, but IS are fielding some well-trained and well-equipped snipers and these Quds-type guys do go “outside the wire” otherwise their boys won’t fight. Middle Easterners fight like wusses until they surprise you with their fanaticism. It’s crazy. I hope like me you’d like to see more USSOF active beyond just spotting and division-level advice. ISIS must be crushed.

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