Flash Presentation on the Ramazan Corps and the Iranian Ratlines into Iraq. Click the map to view. A Flash Player is required to view, click to download.
With Muqtada al Sadr set to decide on the status of the Mahdi Army cease-fire on Feb. 23, US and Iraqi security forces continue to step up operations against the Iranian-backed Special Groups and Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The latest raid netted a senior regional Special Groups leader and 10 others. According to the Iraqi press, two senior members of the Sadrist current were detained in the raid.
The senior Special Groups leader was captured in Hillah during a raid conducted by a joint Coalition Special Forces team and elements of Iraqi police. The leader is believed to be a regional commander of Special Groups teams in Wasit, Babil, and Najaf provinces, as well as a coordinator for weapon shipments and a planner and operational leader of attacks against Iraqi security forces and Coalition forces. Eleven Special Groups operatives were reported captured in the raid.
Two of those captured were senior leaders in Muqtada al Sadr’s political movement, according to Voices of Iraq. A raid by “joint Iraqi Scorpion forces and U.S. troops arrested Basim al Kilabi, the tribal affairs official at al Sadr’s office, and ten others following a raid on one of Hilla’s villages on Sunday,” a member of Sadr’s media office told the Iraqi newspaper. Also captured was Qassem al Fatlawi, another member of the Sadrist movement.
While it is unclear if either Kilabi or Fatlawi are the captured senior Special Groups operative, it is likely Kilabi was the target of the raid. As tribal affairs officer, Kibali would have contacts cutting across the provincial boundaries, and his position would mask his movements and contacts.
The Special Groups was created by Iran’s Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, to destabilize the Iraqi regime, strike at US and Coalition forces, and extend Iran’s sphere of influence in southern and central Iraq. Iran established the Ramazan Corps as a sophisticated command structure to coordinate military, intelligence, terrorist, diplomatic, religious, ideological, propaganda, and economic operations. The Special Groups falls under Qods Force’s Ramazan Corps.
The picture of Qods Force’s command structure and operations in Iraq became clearer since US forces began heavily targeting the Iranian networks in late December 2006. Several high-level Qods Force officers – including Qais Qazali, Azhar al Dulaimi, Ali Mussa Daqduq, and Mahmud Farhadi – have been captured in Irbil, Baghdad, and several unnamed locations.
During these raids, Coalition forces seized computers and computer drives, documentation, journals, and other evidence that reinforced information obtained through the interrogations of the Qods Force officers. Communications intercepts and satellite imagery are also likely to play a key role in understanding the Qods Force’s activities in Iraq.
Critical information about the structure of the Ramazan Corps comes from the Iranian operatives captured in Iraq. Qais Qazali was the leader of the Qazali Network, which was responsible for several high-profile attacks on US and Iraqi forces. Qais, along with his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members of the Qazali Network were captured in early 2007. Azhar al Dulaimi, also a member of the Qazali network, was the tactical commander behind the attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center, which resulted in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of five US soldiers. Ali Mussa Daqduq, who served as the chief of guard to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and was the commander of Hezbollah’s special forces, was tasked by Iran to organize the Special Groups and “rogue” Mahdi Army cells along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Mahmud Farhadi was the Qods Force officer in charge of the Zafr Command, one of the three units subordinate to the Ramazan Corps.
The Ramazan Corps is split into three separate commands – Nasr [North], Zafar [Central], and Fajr [South] – each covering a rough geographical area in Iraq. The senior Special Groups operative is likely a leader in the Zafar command.
The US and Iraqi military commands have stepped up pressure on Sadr to extend the cease-fire beyond the February deadline by increasing raids on Mahdi Army and Special Groups operatives throughout central and southern Iraq.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.