US Iraq commander, Gen. David Petraeus, strongly criticized the failed offensive led by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to subdue Shiite militias in Basra last month in his testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, April 8. He called it ill-prepared and planned but, above all, underscored the destructive role Iran plays in the training, arming and funding of insurgent militias, as demonstrated in Basra, citing the activities of Tehran’s forward arms, IRGC’s al Qods and the Lebanese Hizballah’s Iraq cells, in the fighting.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly 343 of April 4 described in detail how Iran intervened in the Basra campaign to the detriment of US efforts in Iraq. The following excerpt posed this question: How come the US army failed to counter this intervention?
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to launch 20,000 troops in a crackdown on the Shiite militias rife in southern Iraq took the US army and intelligence commands completely by surprise, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources report.
Because the US military command was not approached for assistance, Tehran stepped into the breach with logistical support to supply food, water, ammo, fuel and vehicles for mobility.
All the Iranian military and intelligence agents and cells who were working undercover in southern Iraq, behind such fronts as charitable foundations, medical facilities and religious seminaries, were quickly mobilized. Armed with fistfuls of dollars, they hired a fleet of hundreds of trucks and pick-ups to ferry Iraqi government forces fighting to dislodge armed groups between Basra, Kut, Nasiriya, Dawiniya, Al Amara and dozens of small townships and villages.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers distributed the vehicles among the sectors. They delivered ordnance from Iraqi army stores across the country and food to the soldiers in the South, filling the tanks of Iraqi armored vehicles. Pick-ups rounded up the wounded from the battle arenas and drove them to hospitals.
IRGC agents also succored the militias, notably Moqtada Sadr’s Mehdi Army, which government forces were fighting to quell. This militia too depended on the Iranians for supplies, food and vehicles. (The al Qods Brigades are responsible for running Iran’s external terrorist organizations in Iran, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and the Gulf.)
By keeping its hand on the levers of the two Shiite antagonists, Tehran was able to govern the level and intensity of combat. This control was further exercised by attaching Iranian intelligence officers to the militia chiefs and their commands. Their biggest gun, Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, chief of the IRGC’s al Qods Brigades, was attached to the largest and most powerful militia, the Sadrist Mehdi Army.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that the Americans stood by and did not interfere with the Iranian initiative, only ascertaining that they stayed out of four towns, Baghdad, Najef, Karbala, and Samara. The Iranians, understanding they were warned off, treated the four towns as no-go zones and moved around without restraint in the battle arenas.
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debkafile‘s military sources note that Israeli leaders prefer to ignore Hizballah’s role as Iran’s proxy in Iraq, because it would shoot down prime minister Ehud Olmert’s portrayal of the Lebanese terror group as weak and scared of Israel’s long arm. In reality, the Shiite Hizballah is capable of holding down two fronts and not afraid to take on US forces in Iraq.