Friday, Oct. 17th 2008

IRGC Reorganizes Effort in Iraq; Pays Iraqi Officials to Derail SOFA

Iran has restructured its efforts in Iraq, creating three avenues of prosecuting its efforts in Iraq, according to CNN:

According to the latest assessment of U.S. intelligence, the Iranian effort has broken into three main groups: Asaib-al-haq; Khataib Hezbollah; and a reorganized so-called “special groups” effort, the official said.

He noted that the first two groups represent fighters are coordinated by Iranian elements, instead of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al Sadr’s group, which formerly controlled them.

“They are now directly funded and trained by the IRGC,” the U.S. official said. It is believed the IRGC is trying to model this effort after Hezbollah in Lebanon, he said.

That view would suggest the Iranians will try to exert their influence through social outreach organizations, such as providing schools, health care and other services in Iraq.

All three groups “have changed tactics and are primarily focused on assassinations and kidnappings,” along with targeted bomb attacks, rather than the large-scale attacks against Iraqi civilians seen in the past, the official said.

In support of the IRGC efforts, an Iraqi general who is connected with the IRGC has been arrested for attempting to derail the U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement (SOFA) currently being negotiated. The general admitted to accepting payment from Iran for his efforts at blocking the SOFA agreement and was arrested at the Iranian border with a large amount of cash in his possession.

Analysis:This CNN report is relatively detailed, naming the elements of the Revolutionary Guard effort in Iraq. Many media reports gloss over the Iranian involvement in Iraq. The ongoing and difficult negotiations over the SOFA are likely impacted by Iran’s efforts to influence the Iraqi position. The United States maintains a SOFA with nearly every country where it has troops stationed. Because a SOFA is an indication of an expected continued presence, Iran seeks to discourage continued US influence and presence in Iraq.

The CNN report documents the continuing Iranian effort, both political and military, in Iraq as described in The Intelligence Wars: Lessons From Baghdad. Iran will continue to take every step it can to reduce American influence in the area and to inflict casualties on US forces.

Also note the unnamed US official quoted in the CNN report describes how the IRGC has bypassed Moqtada al Sadr and is directly controlling armed elements inside Iraq. In years past there was a continuim of control of various Sadr affiliated groups and some Sadr elements were merely influenced by the Revolutionary Guard but still controlled (at least ostensibly) by Sadr’s organization. With Sadr’s prolonged absence from Iraq, the IRGC’s direct control of militia forces has become more apparent.

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