Iran's Quds Force takes on IS in Iraq

With few groups willing to fight the Islamic State on the ground, the chief of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Qasem Solemani, has stepped up to the mission.

al-monitor Qasem Soleimani (R), chief of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, sits with fellow Revolutionary Guard commanders in this photo from a Facebook fan page, Nov. 1, 2014. Photo by

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militias, shiite, revolutionary guard, islamic state, iraq, iran

Nov 6, 2014

Following the liberation of Kuwait in 1999, and the defeat of former President Saddam Hussein's regime, a broad Iraqi opposition emerged. The fundamental discourse of this incompatible opposition has become identical when justifying the alliance with “the enemies” of the ruling regime in Baghdad: namely, the United States, Kuwait, Syria and Iran. The opposition says, “We are ready to set up an alliance with the devil” to get rid of Saddam. “The devil” is the United States. As soon as it ousted the dictator, other Iraqis said, “We are ready to have an alliance with the devil” to get rid of [the United States] and the governors who allied with it.

A year after the US withdrawal, Iraq's Sunni areas, which represent more than one-third of ​​the country's map, have started their preparations to receive another horrible “devil,” the Islamic State (IS). The forces, clans and clergy in these areas were ready to “ally with the devil” to get rid of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his policies toward the Sunni areas.

Today, “the devil” has defeated nearly half of the Iraqi army in record time before taking control of over one-third of Iraq. IS has revealed its bloody massacres to such an extent that those who praised it and allied with it have now begun to enthusiastically support bringing foreign ground troops to fight it.

One may notice that three “Iraqi” victories have been achieved in the “Shiite” areas, meaning, in areas that are important to the Shiites in north and south Baghdad, namely Amerli, Dhuluiya and Jurf al-Sakhr. The victories were achieved under the auspices of nongovernment forces, like Shiite militias and volunteers, as part of “the popular mobilization.” Many of these forces are under the direct leadership of Qasem Soleimani, chief of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The question is: Are the Iraqi Shiites, after 11 years of total control over the security forces, on which nearly $200 billion was spent by their country and the United States, unable to suggest a real military initiative? Why has Iran’s Revolutionary Guard become the key to “Iraqi victory”? The answer is: “Why not? We are ready to set up an alliance with Iran, and also with the devil, to keep the danger of IS away from our areas and save our people and our sleeping places!”

In search of an 'Iraqi Soleimani'?

While this fact seemed normal among popular Shiite circles, Iraqi writers and intellectuals asked: "Is it the battle of others on our land, with the blood of our children? Are our mothers unable to give birth to another Iraqi Soleimani?"

Journalist Khalid Mutlaq said: “We are the country of a thousand brigadier generals, why is Soleimani leading our battles? Frankly, I loathe Abu Hafs al-Chichani as much as I loathe Qasem Soleimani. As an Iraqi, I only receive foreigners as guests who would enter our homeland after knocking at our door and asking permission to step in.”

Some believe that Soleimani, who is known for his discreet policies, is keen to make public appearances, broadcasting images and photographs where he appears alongside the peshmerga forces, just to boast that he is the Iranian counterpart of the US Gen. John Allen, who is coordinating the efforts in the coalition against IS.

Among Shiites circles, mainly represented by the “popular mobilization,” some stress the importance of the Iranian role and the confidence in its Revolutionary Guards. Meanwhile, they question the US and Western role, as in their eyes IS is nothing but a US fabricated game. According to this camp, this theory is true since US air forces have been targeting the “mujahedeen” while making progress against the terrorist organization, only to justify their actions later on by stating that the strikes were made by mistake.

Abadi to Obama: Your 'ally' bequeathed me a failed country without an army

Some government circles close to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi believe that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is the only way to prevent IS from entering Baghdad, overthrowing the government and massacring Shiites. The justification for the involvement of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (with Soleimani leading battles against IS in Iraq), is seen in the same framework as when extreme Shiite militias took part in the battle against IS. Although these militias were a far cry from being peaceful, even among each other, and although they reflect an extremist movement within Shiite society that pledges allegiance to Waliyat al-Faqih in Iran, they are seen to be fulfilling their “religious obligation,” and as being part of national rapprochement.

A prominent source who was informed on the meeting between Barack Obama and Abadi in September told Al-Hayat that the Iraqi prime minister showed the American president the real grim situation of Iraq today. Abadi also criticized his predecessor Maliki. “What did we have to do to save Baghdad from its imminent fall? Your ‘ally’ bequeathed us a failed Iraq with no army, therefore, we accepted protection from nongovernmental forces with a prominent Iranian role, which was inevitable as you were late to intervene against IS,” Abadi said to Obama, according to the source

Suddenly, the Iranians moved in defense of Baghdad and then in defense of key roads toward it, from the north and the south. One official Iraqi opinion states that, with the slow pace of Washington in its implementation of its obligations under the joint security agreement, an Iraqi-Iranian security agreement was put into action, whereby Tehran would rush to Baghdad’s rescue if the latter requests.

The 'demons' propose their armies

Sheikh Muzahim Tamimi al-Kanaan, a political and social activist in Basra, commented on the subject of the “reserve army” proposed by Maliki after the defeat of nearly half of the Iraqi army by IS, as well as the “popular mobilization” and the formation of the National Guard to provide internal security for each Iraqi province. He said, “Many names were given for it, but the result is still lower than nil. … In the beginning, there was the national army solution, and there were militias and chaos. They then formed what they called the National Guard, which was later called the army, but unfortunately, it was not. We then faced the popular mobilization, which they wanted to turn into a military formation that they called the alternative army.”

“We first had the police, and then we had two ‘police’ agencies, one federal and one local, and then a third to protect the facilities. Now we have what they call the National Guard, which is more dangerous than its predecessors. However, militias and gangs still exist and act as they please without anyone stopping them,” he said.

Security expert Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie said, “The popular mobilization is a necessity, and thanks to it, the rest of the state still exists. … It will not be a permanent alternative to the state and its institutions, whose members are subject to committing mistakes or falling under reactions to the criminal behavior adopted by IS at any given moment.”

Sumaidaie said: "With the government’s frequent calls, and the continuous warnings by the security apparatus regarding the increase in organized crime elements under the cover of popular mobilization, in addition to the measures taken by certain armed factions against abusive persons, I still acknowledge that all these actions will never be enough, as long as there is no clear timetable for the complete integration of the mobilization in the state’s security and military institutions. But before that, there should be a follow-up department or office in which the government and representatives of the factions would participate, under the direct supervision of the authorities, considering that it takes all the credit for the mobilization. This department would receive any complaints against the people who exceeded the limits of the sacred defense duties and the competence-based jihad, no matter their party."

By criticizing or justifying the “alliance with the devil,” the country is almost mobilizing demons in hope of granting the Iraqis “salvation,” which seems to have become an impossible dream.

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