London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Government circles in Iran dismissed the authenticity of a statement by a senior US military official that contained explicit charges that the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard trained Iraqi Shiite assassination squads with help from Lebanese Hezbollah.
However Asharq Al-Awsat has obtained information from a former Iranian military official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat for the first time in May on the extent to which Hezbollah members are involved in operations against US and Iraqi forces in a number of Iraqi provinces, including Basra, Al-Amarah, Al-Najaf, and Baghdad.
Regarding these assassination squads, Brig Gen Al-Haj Reza told Asharq Al-Awsat
that “there are personalities in Iraq who the Iranian Intelligence Service and the Qods Force view as permanent enemies and that their elimination is at the top of the Qods Force’s list of priorities in Iraq.” He went on to say that “there are enemies who can be bought or forced to change their stands toward the Islamic Republic of Iran by terrorizing or threatening their family members who reside in Iran.”
Al-Haj Reza also sated that the list of the permanent enemies is getting longer every day and includes the names of senior officials and party leaders. The information indicates that some prominent personalities’ recent stands “caused their names to shift from the list of quasi friends to the list of enemies”, as Brig Gen Al-Haj Reza put it.
Brig Gen Al-Haj Reza, who asked that his real name not be revealed, said, “It transpired to the Iranian leadership that officials on whom it had counted are Iraqis before being friends of Iran. Even though they were allied with Iran during the time of struggle, they assume responsibility in their country. Therefore, they refuse to serve as a tool in the hands of the [Revolutionary] Guard and the Wali-e faqih [reference to Khamenei].” The former Iranian official added, “The Revolutionary Guard has begun to train Iraqi Shiite youths from the families that were deported to Iran on the eve of the US invasion.
In the past, the Revolutionary Guard trained some 10,000 fighters of Hezbollah and the Badr Corps (currently the Badr Organization) throughout the war with Iraq.” He continued: “However, the fighters of the Badr Organization and the secret units of the [Islamic] Dawa Party returned to Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein in the company of the late leader of the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. After their return, they joined the new police, security, and army units.”
According to a senior officer in the [Iranian] army, the Qods Force follows a new strategy in Iraq after it suffered harsh blows in the past months at the hands of the US forces, the Iraqi army, and [Sunni] Al-Sahwah men in areas such as Baqubah, Al-Amarah, Basra, and Al-Sadr City. The Qods Force now depends on special units made up of five-nine persons who are highly trained militarily and ideologically.