Hit squads sent by Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Quds Force have been targeting Iraqis seeking to distance their country from the Islamic Republic, The Daily Telegraph reported last week.
The hit squads, said to have been ordered by Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani, have been charged with “intimidating Iraqi opponents of Iranian interference in Iraqi politics,” according to the report.
The failure of Tehran-backed candidates to garner enough support in this past May’s elections prompted Iran to assert its influence more aggressively.
Iran had backed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had been a reliable ally, during the campaign. In order to improve its odds, Tehran also backed a second pro-Iran candidate, Hadi al-Amiri, for prime minister. Neither candidate received enough votes to form a government.
When neither candidate prevailed, Soleimani sent hit squads to Iraq “to silence Iraqi critics of Iranian attempts to determine Iraq’s political destiny,” British security officials explained to The Daily Telegraph.
Adel Shaker El-Tamimi, an ally of former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, was killed by the Quds Force in September. In addition to working towards healing Sunni-Shi’ite rifts in Iraq, El-Tamimi also sought to improved ties with Arab states such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Another victim of Iranian hit squads was Shawki al-Haddad, an aide to Muqtada Al-Sadr. Though Al-Sadr had once been aligned with Iran, he has recently become more nationalistic. Haddad was targeted after he accused Iran of election fraud.
“Iran in intensifying its campaign of intimidation against the Iraqi government by using assassination squads to silence critics of Tehran,” a senior British security official said to The Daily Telegraph.
He added, “This is a blatant attempt to thwart efforts by the new Iraqi government to end Iran’s meddling in Iraq.”
In Syria, Jonathan Spyer reported Friday in The Jerusalem Post, a similar dynamic is emerging.
Former rebel commanders in southern Syria, where the Assad regime has regained control, are increasingly targeted and ending up missing or dead.
With the end of the fighting, Spyer assessed, Syria hasn’t returned to its previous state, but “Iran and its allies have a central role in the emergent power structure.”
Ghanim al-Jamous, the former head of the Free Syrian Police in the town of Dael, was found murdered early last month. Jamous is “one of 23 former rebel commanders and opposition activists to have been detained or disappeared by the regime organs in recent weeks,” Spyer reported. Many others with less clear links to the opposition have also been detained.
The IRGC and associated militias, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq, “are an integral part of” the new order in Syria, Spyer assessed.
Iran’s situation in Syria, Spyer concluded, is “not coincidentally analogous to the situation in Lebanon and Iraq (minus the nominal institutions of representative government).”
[Photo: PressTV ]