The September 20 capture of an Iranian Qods Force – Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander in the northern Kurdish province of Sulimaniyah created a stir inside both Iran and Iraq. The Iranians swiftly closed the northern border, claiming the man was an Iranian trade delegation representative named Agha Farhadi on a sanctioned business trip. Multinational forces Iraq later identified the Iranian as Mahmud Farhadi. Today, Major General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq, disclosed that Farhadi was in fact the commander of one of the three Iranian commands inside Iraq.
“Farhadi was the officer-in-charge of the Zafr Command, one of three units subordinate to the Ramazan Corps of the Qods Force,” said Bergner. “This Corps is responsible for most of the Qods Force operations in Iraq. As the Zafr Commander, he was responsible for all Qods Force operations in north-central Iraq that included cross-border transfers of weapons, people and money.”
Farhadi has been independently identified by outside intelligence sources, and has a long history of operations inside Iraq. “Multiple sources implicate Farhadi in providing weapons to Iraqi criminal elements and surrogates of Iran,” said Bergner. “We also know that for more than a decade, he was involved in Iranian intelligence operations in Iraq.”
Farhadi is one of the most senior officers in Iran’s Qods Force captured in Iraq, Colonel David Bacon, the Chief of Strategy and Plans, Strategic Communications, at Multinational Forces Iraq, told the Long War Journal during an press conference on Wednesday morning. “But I’d have to check on the ‘Irbil Five,” Bacon noted, referring to the Iranian Qods Force officers captured in January 2007. Bacon did not identify the names of the two other sub-commands in the Zafr Command.
When asked about the difference between Qods Force operatives and members of the Special Groups or Hezbollah operatives, Bacon stated Multinational Forces Iraq is “careful to make distinctions on nationality,” noting that men such as Hezbollah’s Ali Mussa Daqduq or the Special Groups’ Qais Qazali are not Iranian born. When pressed on the issue, Bacon stated operatives such as Daqduq “could be considered Qods Force.”
Bacon also noted that Iranian weapons are still being smuggled into Iraq, despite Iran’s denials. Iran is claiming any weapons arriving in Iraq with Iranian markings are “smuggled through black market channels.” Bacon stated the weapons are newly manufactured, and evidence from captured Qods Force, Hezbollah, and Special Groups operatives backs up Iran’s direct involvement in supporting Shia terror networks inside Iraq.
Background on the targeting of the Special Groups
Coalition forces began targeting the Iranian networks and captured senior members of Iran’s Qods Force in Baghdad in December 2006 and Irbil in January 2007. Iranian surrogates — the Qazali and Sheibani networks, which are now collectively referred to as the Special Groups — stepped up their attacks on Iraqi and Coalition forces in January 2007.
The Qazali network conducted sophisticated operations against US forces at the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center, kidnapping and killing five US soldiers during the aborted operation. Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have been heavily targeting these “Special Groups” and “Secret Cells” since General David Petraeus’ briefing on the Qazali and Sheibani networks on April 26.
In March 2007, Coalition forces captured Qais Qazali, his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members of the Qazali network. Qazali was a spokesperson and senior aide to Muqtada al Sadr. The Qazali network was behind the Karbala Provincial Joint Command Center attack, which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers. Multinational Forces Iraq has stated Iran is behind the Karbala raid, and satellite imagery discovered a mock-up of the Karbala complex at a camp inside Iran.
In July, US forces captured Azhar al Dulaimi, the tactical commander behind the Karbala PJCC attack. In early September 2007, Multinational Forces Iraq announced the captured of “a highly-sought individual suspected of being an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force” operative in Karbala.
The most significant capture occurred in the spring of 2007, when the US captured Ali Mussa Daqduq. Daqduq is a senior Hezbollah operative who was tasked by Iran to organize the Special Groups and “rogue” Mahdi Army cells along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Documents seized during Daqduq’s capture, along with statements made during interrogations and information given by other captured Special Groups operatives confirmed Iran’s significant role in the Shia terrorist insurgency.
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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.