The controversy over Iran’s involvement with the Shia terror groups continues to rage in the media. Late this week, a report indicated the top leaders at Multinational Forces Iraq believe Iran has ended its support for the Shia terror groups attacking Iraqi and Coalition forces. This report was incorrect. As the debate over Iran’s involvement in Iraq’s violence continues, Coalition special forces continue to target Iranian Qods Force-backed Special Groups cell
On Jan. 3, The Washington Times reported that Colonel Steven Boylan, the spokesman for General David Petraeus said Iran’s leadership has cut off support for the Special Groups. “We are ready to confirm the excellence of the senior Iranian leadership in their pledge to stop the funding, training, equipment and resourcing of the militia special groups,” The Washington Times quoted Boylan.
Boylan immediately denied Iran has cut off support for the Special Groups. “[The Washington Times] misunderstood the context and intent of what I was saying,” Boylan said in an email conversation with The Long War Journal. He indicated Multinational Forces Iraq was prepared to recognize that Iran has assisted in reducing attacks, but evidence of this does not exist.
Boylan clarified his position on Jan. 3 in a letter written to the news outlets that carried The Washington Times report. “We do not know if there has been a decrease in the supply of Iranian weapons,” Boylan wrote. “It is not clear if Iran’s leaders stopped supplying weapons or training to extremist elements in Iraq. We hope that they have, but until we can confirm it, we are in the wait and see mode. We have seen a decrease in the attacks using four specific types of Iranian weapons. However, this should not be misunderstood as anything other than lowered levels of attacks using these specific weapons.”
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This position matches the assessment made by Multinational Forces Iraq in the quarterly Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq report released in mid-December. Coalition and Iraqi interdiction, and not the Iranian government, was thought to be behind the decrease in attacks. “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,” the report stated.
Raids against the Special Groups occur on a near daily basis. Since Dec. 27, 2007, when Coalition forces killed 11 Special Groups fighters in the city of Al Kut, there have been six raids reported against the terror network. The Dec. 27 raid in Al Kut resulted in 11 Special Groups fighters killed. Al Kut is a strategic weapons distribution hub for the Special Groups.
Two days later, six Special Groups operatives were captured in a raid targeting a weapons trainer in the Ad Daghgharah area south of Baghdad. On New Year’s Eve, Coalition forces captured the Special Groups recruiter and weapons trainer for Karbala Province.
On Jan. 2, Coalition forces captured another Special Groups weapons trainer in the Adhamiyah district in Baghdad. The next day, US soldiers found an explosively formed penetrator cache in the Amil neighborhood in Baghdad.
There were two separate raids against Special Groups cells in Diyala province on Jan. 5. A raid in the Huwaysh area netted a Special Groups leader who acted as “an intelligence source and financial facilitator” for the province. Eight suspected associates were also detained. A second raid in the Qasarin area resulted in the capture of a financial facilitator who also planned attacks in the province.
Coalition and Iraqi forces began targeting the Iranian-backed Special Groups network in December 2006, just prior to the surge in US forces. Several Qods Forces officers, a senior Hezbollah leader, and numerous Special Groups commanders have been captured since then. Special Groups trainers have become a focus of Coalition operations since early December 2007.
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