US, Iraq step up operations against Iranian terror groups

US forces detained five members of the Hezbollah Brigades in Baghdad on Saturday as part of a renewed push to blunt the return of Iranian-backed Shia terror groups reentering Iraq. The Iraqi and US military have stepped up operations against the Special Groups over the past two weeks. Iraqi and US forces killed two Special Groups fighters and captured 107 since Sept. 16.

The latest series of raids in Baghdad netted five members of the Hezbollah Brigades in New Baghdad, a former stronghold of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The Hezbollah Brigades is an Iranian-backed terror group that has been behind multiple roadside bombings and rocket attacks against US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. The group films these attacks and posts them on the internet. More than 30 Hezbollah Brigades operatives have been captured over the past two months. The group is estimated at having several hundred members.

The US military says Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah have helped establish, fund, train, and arm, and have provided operational support for Shia terror groups such as the Hezbollah Brigades and the League of the Righteous. The US military refers to these groups as well as the Iranian-backed elements of the Mahdi Army as the “Special Groups.” These groups train in camps inside Iran. The US Treasury Department placed sanctions on a senior Iranian general and a Mahdi Army commander for arming, training, and funding Shia terror groups in Iraq on Sept. 16.

Recently an Iraqi police chief said Special Groups fighters and leaders were beginning to return into Iraq from bases in Iran.

“The Special Groups are returning from Iran after receiving training in using new tactics,” Brigadier General Sabah al Fatlawi, the chief of police in the southern province of Dhi Qhar, told AFP on Sept. 16. “We have seized 20 motorcycle bombs in Nasiriyah. Some groups have arrived in Nasiriyah … They are crossing the border through Amarah.” Amarah borders Iran and served as the Mahdi Army and Special Group’s headquarters in the South.

One of the largest single roundups of Iranian-backed fighters occurred on Sept. 25-26 north of Nasiriyah. Iraqi forces detained 53 Special Groups operatives and found large weapons caches during a series of operations north of the city.

The Special Groups and the Mahdi Army fled to Iran after the Iraqi military, backed by Coalition forces, launched a series of operations against the Mahdi Army in central and southern Iraq in March 2008.

The Mahdi Army took heavy casualties while opposing the Iraqi security forces in Basrah and the South and against US and Iraqi forces in Sadr City during operations to secure the areas in March, April, and May. More than 1,000 Mahdi Army fighters were killed in Sadr City alone, according to a Mahdi Army commander in Baghdad. Another 415 were killed in Basrah. More than 400 were killed during fighting in the southern cities of Najaf, Karbala, Hillah, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Samawah, and Nasiriyah in late March and early April, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Thousands more have been wounded or captured.

In June, Sadr announced he would disband the Mahdi Army and form a small, secretive military arm to fight Coalition forces. He also withdrew the Sadrist movement from the political process and instead vowed to back independent candidates. The decisions caused shockwaves in the Mahdi Army, as some leaders wished to continue the fight against US forces in Baghdad and in southern and central Iraq. The Mahdi Army has been disbanded while Sadr still lives in Iran.

Recent operations against the Iranian-backed terror groups operating inside Iraq:

Sept. 27: Coalition forces captured five Hezbollah Brigades fighters in New Baghdad

Sept. 25-26: Iraqi and US forces captured 53 Special Groups operatives north of Nasiriyah. Large amounts of weapons were also uncovered.

Sept. 24: Coalition forces captured a senior weapons smuggler for the Army of the Righteous in Amarah.

Sept. 21: Coalition forces detained five Hezbollah Brigades operatives during two separate raids in New Baghdad.

Sept. 20: Iraqi and US forces captured two Special Groups fighters in Al Kut in Wasit province.

Sept. 19: US soldiers captured two Special Groups operatives in the Hayy Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad’s Rashid district.

Sept. 18: Iraqi security forces killed one Special Groups fighter and detained four during a raid in Hillah.

Sept. 16-18: Iraqi Special Operations Forces and Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics teams captured eight Special Groups fighters and killed one during operations in Hillah, Amarah, Diwaniyah, and New Baghdad.

Sept. 16: Iraqi police captured six Special Groups fighters behind an IED attack that killed a policeman in the Ur neighborhood in Baghdad.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Alex says:

    Sadr and his gang have basically been reduced to irrelevancy at this point.

  • Freedom Now says:

    Unfortunately, much of the media is still “objective” on the subject of Iran’s role as an instigator of violence in Iraq.
    A recent AP article gave equal footing to U.S. and Iranian positions on this issue despite the overwhelming evidence against Iran:
    “U.S. officials have accused Tehran of supporting violence in Iraq. Iran has denied the allegations.”
    In light of recent events the media has lost some of its love for the Sadrists, but the inertia built up over the years keeps a bit of it going.
    We have moved long past the accusational mode and it is now a factual statement to say that Iran uses violence to meddle in Iraqi affairs.

  • Ali says:

    As the Iraqi forces become more capable working side by side with our American allies we will crush these terrorists who seek to cause damage in the country and kill American/Iraqi forces.
    Hopefully SOFA will be signed soon so that Iraq will not fall to neighbouring countries but become the most trusted democratic Arab ally of the region to the USA. Some neighbouring countries are using all their power in order to stop the deal – it needs to be signed ASAP.
    Long live the USA and Iraq.

  • Jessica says:

    HAHAHAHAHA! Good job to everyone catching these crazies. I pray God gives the Iraqi people strength and protects everyone over there that is trying to make the world a little safer. Thank you to the brave men and women in our military and the brave Iraqi people that are fighting for their freedoms.

  • KW64 says:

    Sure hope you are right Ali in comment three.
    Maybe it is good that Iran is moving these folks back in while we are still there to help round them up. Holding them back until we are gone would be another strategy they could employ. Wonder if they have big plans for before our election?

  • Marlin says:

    The roundup continues on Sunday.

    Coalition forces apprehended three suspected members of the Kata’ib Hezbollah network early Sunday in Naharwan, about 25 km east of Baghdad.
    Kata’ib Hezbollah is assessed to be a proxy of Iran and its members are believed to employ improvised rocket assisted munitions as well as explosively formed penetrators in civilian areas.

    MNF-Iraq: Coalition forces catch three Iranian backed Kata’ib Hezbollah suspects

  • JusCruzn says:

    Bravo Ali! The power is slowly shifting into the hands of the Iraqi people, and it sure looks like they know what to do with it.

  • Private Finch says:

    This looks like more good news and hopefully it will continue. As usual, you don’t see one word of this in the ‘MSM’ that ignores any good news from Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/29/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Buff52 says:

    The time has come for a naval quarantine of all Iran Navy and Iranian terrorist merchant marine shipping in the Persian gulf and a “No Fly Zone” of all Iranian air force and militarily significant civilian air activity in the skies of Iran.
    Terrorist training bases and munition manufacturing factories need to be bombed including the Iranian base in the Bekaa Valley of Lebenon. Iranian ballistic missile activities also need to be bombed.

  • Neo says:

    I hate to be rude but the chest thumping routine is getting really old. The US can’t afford another war right now and neither can Iran. The US and Iran will spend the next half decade cursing and throwing walnuts at each others heads. A large military flair-up right now would be a disaster for both sides.

  • Freedom Now says:

    While I would like to see the scenario that you suggest, I dont think that it is practical.
    Unfortunately the War on Terror is much more political than military and in order to examine it in the detail that it requires, we must address the motivation of all concerned parties:
    Islamist, moderate Islamist, Democratic Socialist, militant Socialist, Paleo-Conservative, Libertarian, Neo-Conservative etc 
    Since we cannot go into such details in these comments I can only say that at this point it is impossible to confront Iran on the level that we should due to the political situation. Therefore we must wait until Iranian operatives cross the Iraqi border before we can challenge them militarily.
    We really don’t have a choice. This is the political reality.

  • ehunter says:

    The idea that Iran and the US will reach a stalemate of accusations and counter accusations is naive. After 10,000 Islamic radical car bombs and suicide attacks Americans still dont grasp what they are dealing with. Iran will pursue its path of self
    destruction/martyrdom as inexorably as a suicide bomber does. No reasoning will stop it.

  • Neo says:

    “The idea that Iran and the US will reach a stalemate of accusations and counter accusations is naive.”

  • Buff52 says:

    A nuclear armed Iran is what I am concerned that we prevent with military means. The President of Iran desires to become a Shiite martyr to bring in chaos and thus their Maadi. A nuclear weapon will tempt the Iranian President to this end.
    Also, please recall that the Southern and Northern “No Fly” zones were effective in denying Saddam Hussein of Iraq from destroying the Kurds of North-east Iraq in the 1990’s.
    Air Superiority over Iran can be maintained by the U.S. Navy today.

  • Freedom Now says:

    As the Shiite revolt in during the Iraqi Sanctions proves… airpower is not the means to an end by itself. The Kurdish Peshmerga was strong enough to hold back Saddam’s forces and they were fortunate that the terrain favored the defenders. While it is true that we allowed Saddamite (kind of a catchy phrase!) helicopters to operate during the Shiite revolt (but not warplanes), the Shiites were clearly not capable of standing against Saddam’s tanks and artillery when the Saddamites regrouped. Their revolt didn’t have a chance.
    And look at the repercussions of the Shiite revolt. It is unlikely that the Shiites would have been so receptive to the brand of anti-Americanism that defines the Sadrists if they didn’t feel betrayed by us after the revolt.
    Then think about the Battle of Ramadi. It shows that we must be 100% committed to our allies. I don’t see the possibility in this political environment of our government being able to do that for the Iranian opposition.

  • Buff52 says:

    Please correct me if I am wrong on the facts, but if I recall correctly, the Iraqi Shiite revolt shortly after the first Gulf War circa 1991 was not supported by an American “No Fly” zone. It was a shame that we let them get slaughtered by Saddam Hussein.
    The Northern and Southern “No Fly” zone did not begin until after 1995.
    [Moderator note: 1992. I was a participant at the start.]

  • Freedom Now says:

    You are right, my memory was a bit off. The southern no fly zone was set up in 1992 and the Shiite rebellion was in 1991.
    My bust.
    I remember that the helicopter gunship attacks by the Saddamites was controversial and the U.S. was criticized for allowing them to happen. So my memory glazed over the details.
    Here is an interesting article about the no fly zones:
    Link to article
    Maybe I should stick with my newspaper route so I don’t get in over my head!!!

  • Freedom Now says:

    Moderator Elliott: Buff may be referring to the extension of the No Fly Zone in 1996.
    From the linked article:
    “Late in 1996, it was extended northward, closer to the Iraqi capital, to the 33rd parallel, covering the southern third of Iraq. The expansion came after Iraq intervened in fighting between Kurdish factions around the city of Irbil, a UN-designated safe haven.”

  • Ali says:

    Freedom Now,
    I was very sad to see the Americans allowed Saddam to quell the uprising in 1991 with such brutality. A lot of my relatives perished and I just wish that George Bush Senior had the courage like his son to get rid of Saddam in 1991 rather than leaving him on – and slapping snactions on Iraq which only affected the Iraqi people.
    The crushing of the uprising allowed the true patriotic Shias of the south to be slaughtered which meant in 2003 all the pro-Iranian Shia migrated back across the border and got into power with their pro-Iranian ideologies.

  • Freedom Now says:

    Please accept my condolences. Your people suffered for way too long.
    I wish your country the best prosperity and hope that our people can live in brotherhood in the future.

  • Ali says:

    God willing both countries will work side by side and I’m hopeful a new dawn has emerged. Hopefully Iraq will be the new ‘Germany’ of the Middle East.

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    The average Iranian does not like thier supressive Gov. Iran has a large, young populace, alot of them students. The US should try and work for regime change from within. As far as Iranian interference in Iraq, we must think about being pro-active. There are sites across the Iraqi border that are being used by the Qouds force, and the IRGC. A taste of thier own medicine is wats needed here. A clandestine program to sabotage the Iranian effort may be feasible. Using anti-gov. forces in Iran or our own Spec. Ops, we need to throw a monky wrench into the works. You do not have to be right over the target to hit it these days. It could fly/glide many miles before reaching its destination. Small groups moving at night, marking targets and painting them would make them think twice. We have to play the same, dirty game, but with more lethality. We cannot let them de-stabilize Iraq.


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