The Islamic State’s elite unit wiped out the forward command group of the a commando force belonging to Iran’s Al Qods Brigades early Monday, Jan. 12, killing its commander, Gen. Mehdi Norouzi, debkafile’s exclusive counterterrorism and military sources report. The attack took place at Hashimiyah, a small town 125 km north of Baghdad. It was the most striking feat of the ISIS’s new tactic, which is to go for the top commanders of enemy forces in order to throw them into disarray and undermine their morale.
Norouzi was the second Iranian general fighting in Iraq to succumb to this tactic.
Last week, an ISIS sniper took down Brig. Gen. Hamid Taghavi at his command post in Samarra, central Iraq. Tehran tried claiming he was only a military adviser attached to the Iraqi army. However, his real mission was far more active: commanding officer of the Iranian and Iraqi Shiite militias and the Revolutionary Guards forces fighting ISIS in the central region of Iraq.
The late Gen. Norouzi no sooner arrived to take over from Taghavi when he too was taken down.
The new ISIS tactic was last week demonstrated on another front, when on Jan. 5, a jihadi force conducted a raid across the Iraqi border into northern Saudi Arabia near Suwayf in the Arar region. Among the three Saudi guardsmen killed was Gen. Odah al-Balawi, commander of the Saudi border guard in that sector. The Al Qaeda-ISIS force was made up entirely of Saudi jihadis.
When these three episodes are examined in context, the Islamic State’s current modus operandi takes shape, as outlined here by debkafile’s military analysts:
It starts with the detailed tracking of the movements of targeted commanders and staff, followed by the penetration of spies, usually locals converted to the jihadist philosophy, to their staffs. These moles keep their bosses in ISIS abreast of the targeted commanders’ movements, time tables, staff aides and the forces assigned to their security.
ISIS tacticians use this information to fix on the means and timing of assassinations.
For taking out Taghavi in Samarra, they chose a sniper unit, which was apprised in advance of the visit he had scheduled to his command center there.
Following this blow, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards moved this command cemter from Samarra to Hashimiya, and appointed his successor.
Less than two weeks later, the new chief was cut down. This time, the means chosen by ISIS was a unit of armed men, some of them suicide killers, who blew themselves up in the midst of Gen. Norouzi’s Al Qods forward command group and his aides.
According to our military and intelligence sources, ISIS forces have been able to wipe out 555 Iranian officers in the four months since last October, most of them by means of jihadist hit squads.
This and other disturbing developments were raised by Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz when he met the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon in Washington on Jan 8.
Israel is getting extremely worried about the expanding Iranian military operation in Iraq – and even more by the deepening military cooperation and coordination between Washington and Tehran in that country, especially the close consultations between their officers in Iraqi battle arenas.
Dempsey took exception to this view and brushed Israel’s concerns aside. Indeed, he made a point of defending Washington’s position, when he told reporters: “If it is a path that ties the two countries [Iraq and Iran] more closely together economically and even politically, as long as the Iraqi government remains committed to inclusivity of all the various groups inside the country, then I think Iranian influence will be positive."