Further evidence of Iran’s support of the Shia death squads and Sunni al Qaeda has emerged. At the end of December, two Iranian agents of the Qods force were arrested in a SCIRI compound in Baghdad. The Iraqi government was angry over the arrests, as the Iranians were part of a diplomatic delegation, and the agents were later released and deported.
But the Washington Post reported the two Iranian intelligence agents captured in Baghdad possessed “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.” One was “the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ al-Qods Brigade.”
The New York Sun described the documents as “the equivalent of Iran’s Iraq Study Group” which “show how the Qods Force – the arm of Iran’s revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads – is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna.” “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,” an intelligence official told the New York Sun.
Iranian involvement with al Qaeda and other Sunni jihadis groups is nothing new, however the conventional wisdom in media and some intelligence circles is Shia Iran could never cooperate with Sunni al Qaeda due to ideological differences. This ignores a mountain of evidence to the contrary, such as Iran’s sheltering of over 100 al Qaeda leaders, including Said bin Laden, Osama’s son, and Saif al-Adel, al Qaeda’s strategic planner, or Iranian support of Somalia’s Sunni Islamic Courts by providing arms and training.
The 9-11 Commission Report was explicit about Iran’s connections with al Qaeda. “The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.” Contacts between Iran, Hezbollah
and al Qaeda were established in Sudan in the early 1990s. “Al Qaeda members received advice and training from Hezbollah,” according the the 9-11 Commission report. Many of al Qaeda’s 9-11 hijackers transited through Iran. “After 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda.”
Iranian involvement in Iraq with the Sunni terrorists has been an open secret in military and intelligence circles since the Fallujah uprising in March of 2004. Iranian mines and weapons were funneled to Zarqawi’s terrorists in Fallujah and elsewhere throughout Sunni dominated Anbar province.
Iran’s influence in Iraq must be countered for the U.S. and Iraqi governments to succeed in restoring order in Baghdad. For starters, the United States should seal the Iranian border and mount an information campaign exposing Iranian support for the murder of numerous fellow Shia, as well as for backing the group that is responsible for the destruction of the Golden Dome of the Al Askaria mosque, the holiest site in Shia Islam.
The United State has proven incapable of mounting a serious information campaign, let alone sustaining one, which is why Iran has operated with such success. The Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group, a grouping of State, Defense and Administration officials, is working to subvert Iran’s rise in the Persian Gulf and beyond, but at some point Iran must be countered outside of working groups.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.