With a sharp reduction in the deadly landmine attacks used by the Iranian-backed Shia terrorists known as the Special Groups, a debate has raged over whether Iran has worked to reduce the number of attacks inside Iraq. The newly released Department of Defense report, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, refutes the notion that Iran has eased the pressure. In fact, the report states that Iran has continued to fund, arm, and train the Special Groups fighters bound for Iraq, despite a pledge by Iran’s president.
In late September, Iranian President Ahmadinejad pledged to Prime Minister Maliki to help cut off weapons, funding and other militia and insurgent support that crosses the Iranian border. There has been no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shia militias in Iraq. Tehran’s support for Shia militant groups who attack Coalition and Iraq forces remains a significant impediment to progress towards stabilization. The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) provides many of the explosives and ammunition used by these groups, to include Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM). Although Sadr’s late August 2007 freeze on JAM activity is still in effect, some elements continue to attack Coalition forces with Iranian weapons. The GoI (Government of Iraq) and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq have made it clear to the Iranian Government that IRGC-QF’s lethal activities must cease.
Multinational Forces Iraq goes on to state the reduction in attacks is due to efforts to target the Iranian networks, trainers and ratlines. “This reduction may be attributed to effective interdiction of EFP [explosively formed projectile] networks, death or capture of EFP facilitators, seizure of caches and other factors.”
Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces began heavily targeting the leadership of the Ramazan Corps in late 2006. Numerous commanders, including a Ramazan Corps regional commander, a senior Hezbollah leader assigned to establish the Special Groups, and several regional Special Groups commanders have been captured or killed. Numerous raids have been conducted against local leaders, facilitators, and cells. Most recently, Coalition forces have targeted Ramazan Corps trainers inside Iraq.
Iran’s Qods Force created the Ramazan Corps as a command designed to specifically conduct operations in Iraq. Split into three sub-commands, the Ramazan Corps recruits, trains, arms, and funds the Special Groups, which include elements of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
A host of senior generals, diplomats, and policy experts believe Iran has effectively cut support for the Iranian cells operating in Iraq. Major General James Simmons, the Deputy Commander for Multinational Forces Iraq, Iraqi spokesman Ali al Dabbagh, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, and the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon have stated the Iranian government has dialed back the attacks inside Iraq.
But military commanders engaged in the fight against the Iranian networks disagree. Major General Rick Lynch, the Commander of Multinational Division Central, Colonel Don Farris, the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division based in the heart of Sadr City in Baghdad, Colonel Mark Mueller, the commander of the border transition team in Wasit province, and Colonel Peter Mansoor, an adviser to General David Petraeus, have all expressed skepticism that Iran has cut its activities in Iraq.
Read Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq for a detailed account of Iran’s activities in Iraq.
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