Iran masses troops for controlling Iraqi-Syrian routes. Soleimani hits defiant Iraqi Shiite militia
While the US and Israel confer on a military offensive against Iran in Syria, Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani is busy with preemptive steps – in Iraq, DEBKAfile reports.
The Al Qods commander has set Iranian forces and their proxies three tasks:
- A military buildup of Iranian and Shiite forces in the western Iraqi Anbar region and placing them on the ready for rapid response to the order to cross the border into Syria.
- Seizure of the main Iraqi routes crossing into Syria, especially the highway linking Baghdad via Ramadi to Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. (See attached map)
- A purge of central and western Iraq of military elements liable to hinder the movement of Iranian and Shiite forces towards the Syrian border.
Our intelligence sources have discovered that Soleimani began working on these objectives on Aug. 10. From that day until Aug. 19, six large explosions set on fire the weapons and ammo depots of the Iraqi Shiite Brigade of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas near Lake Razaza, a few kilometers west of the Iraqi Shiite shrine city of Karbala. (See attached map.) This Shiite militia, one of the few which refuses to bend the knee to Tehran or Soleimani, was founded by Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Sistani, the highest religious authority in Iraq, who is also widely respected in Iran. Its deployment around Lake Razaza places the militiamen in position for controlling the main highways from central Iraq to Syria. The explosions ordered by Soleimani were meant, say intelligence sources, to drive this noncompliant militia south of Karbala, out of the way for obstructing the Iranian drive for a land bridge from Iraq to Syria and the passage of troops across the border.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that these actions by the Iranian general mean that a prospective US-Israeli operation against the Iranian presence in Syria would have to reach into western Iraq. This may be what Defense Minster Avigdor Lieberman meant when he described the IDF as the best army in the Middle East in command of forces “capable of reaching any point in the Middle East.”