The British Middle East Eye website quoted Iraqi leaders, politicians and officials as saying that the competition between the Iranian intelligence services operating in Iraq continues to cast a shadow that has a severe impact on the Iraqi security scene, deepens differences between Tehran’s allies and exacerbates their divisions.
According British site report, Which was published Wednesday 17 March 2021, since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraq has been a major arena between global and regional powers, especially the United States and Iran.
However, Iran, more than any other country, has built a powerful network of political, religious and armed groups, which has made the expansion of Iran’s influence in the country its overarching goal.
4 Iranian intelligence services in Iraq
Iran has used that network for a decade and a half to embody Iran’s will and goals. But what happens when Iran’s allies and proxies receive conflicting instructions from Tehran? This is what the last days revealed:
Iranian policies in Iraq are passed on through four intelligence services.
Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security is dealing with one of them.
As for the second body, it is supervised by the “monastic house” (the leadership house), and it is the special department of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the third is linked to the Revolutionary Guard, and the fourth is affiliated with the office of the Supreme Leader.
Iraqi politicians and officials close to Iran tell MEE that the last three agencies are receiving their instructions directly from Supreme Leader Khamenei and his closest aides.
While each of these agencies controls dozens of Iraqi armed factions, political and security leaders, and media and religious institutions. Although the work of these services depends primarily on Shiite forces, they have also worked to attract and recruit Iraqis, including Sunnis, Kurds, Christians, and Yazidis as well.
Rivalry is a great danger to Iraq
During the past two weeks, the activities of these factions increased, and as their activities escalated on the ground, the size of the difference in the visions, orientations, and goals of those bodies controlling them became clear.
An expert on Iranian affairs told MEE, “There has been an escalation at various levels in Iraq, on security, political and media levels.”
While the intelligence ministry agents were busy urging their agents to calm down, the agencies receiving instructions from Khamenei and his aides continued to provoke the situation. Although the Supreme Leader’s loyalists all strive to please him, their approaches and methods often vary greatly.
On the other hand, this rivalry poses a great danger to Iraq, as tensions are running high between Tehran and Washington over possible negotiations to return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The Iranians believe that the new US administration is weak, and that is why they are pressing.” [بضرب القوات الأمريكية وقوات الحكومة العراقية] To force the Americans to return to the nuclear deal, and to lift economic sanctions on Iran before starting any negotiations. “
He added, “They want to present the decision to lift economic sanctions as a victory, and then they are exerting more pressure on the Americans to announce the lifting of sanctions before returning to any negotiations.”
Iran is losing control
The Foreign Intelligence Unit was originally established as the repertoire of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security abroad, but it was the Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially the elite unit of the Quds Force, that became by far the most influential Iranian arm internationally, due to its direct association with the Supreme Leader’s office.
Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, worked to strengthen the Revolutionary Guard’s grip on foreign affairs, and sources say that the general who was killed last year in a US air strike did so at the expense of all other intelligence services, and that all political factions and armed groups backed by Iran may receive their instructions. from him.
But the situation has changed significantly since the assassination of Soleimani.
A big mess can’t be controlled
Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the spiritual father of most Iraqi armed factions, were killed in a bombing by a US drone, on January 3, 2020.
Sources say that these assassinations left behind great chaos, which was directly and clearly reflected on the work of the four Iranian intelligence services and its armed factions and the political forces associated with them.
The expert on Iranian affairs says: “Soleimani was the link linking all factions and political forces together, but the Americans killed him and also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, whose presence could have mitigated the severity of the existing divisions.”
The Iranians have failed to make up for the two so far, and the result is great, unmanageable mess.
According to the sources, the different armed and political factions later linked themselves to different Iranian agencies.
General Qaani, the successor to Qassem Soleimani, weakened
Commenting on this, the expert on Iranian affairs points out that this is “what made the existing differences inside Iran reflected on the performance of these factions and forces in Iraq.”
According to the sources, the weakness of General Ismail Ghaani, who succeeded Soleimani in command of the Quds Force, his lack of strong relations with Iraqi leaders, and his limited powers are all factors that opened the door wide for the return of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and other services to work in Iraq.
Sources also say that the evasion of control over the armed factions from the hands of Qaani in recent months prompted Khamenei to encourage his “monastic house” to intervene and play a greater role in Iraq.
Ali Asghar Hijazi, the security advisor to Khamenei and in charge of the “monastic house,” became directly responsible for the most prominent Iraqi armed factions, including the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Meanwhile, a political leader close to Iran told MEE: “Qani is the weakest link, as are the leaders of the factions [العراقية المسلحة] They do not evaluate him by weight, and are not afraid to violate his orders. The actual leader of the factions at the moment is Hijazi, and when he wants something from them he asks them to meet him in Khamenei’s office [في طهران]”.
According to the political leader, Iran is trying its best to find someone who can fill Soleimani’s place. “The Supreme Leader is trying to restore his control over the agencies operating in Iraq and the local forces associated with them, to unify decisions and limit the damages resulting from this chaos,” he explained.
These divisions and their extent were evident in the aftermath of the US air strike, on February 26, 2021, against Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada fighters in Syria, near the Iraqi border.
Despite the death of one fighter and the wounding of three others, most of the Iranian-backed Iraqi armed factions remained silent, while the leadership of the Popular Mobilization Forces called on the government to investigate whether the raid took place on Syrian or Iraqi lands.
Meanwhile, Asghar Hijazi, leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Fadak, and a number of Iraqi factions called for an “urgent” meeting in Tehran. Meanwhile, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, invited the leaders of a number of smaller factions to another meeting in Beirut.
Even though The two meetings took place around the same time On February 28, their results were different. While Nasrallah recommended calm and non-escalation against US forces and the Iraqi government, the Tehran meeting urged the opposite, leaders familiar with the outcomes of the two meetings told MEE.
As the voice of the apparatus associated with Khamenei’s office was the loudest and most influential, Tehran’s orders triumphed, and the leaders of the factions represented in the “Coordinating Body for the Iraqi Resistance Factions” met the next day in Baghdad to plan the next moves.
The decision to escalate was quickly translated into a missile attack, as on March 3 it targeted the Ain al-Assad military base in western Anbar province, which is hosting the largest US military presence. The Iraqi military said that the attack did not result in casualties, but the US Department of Defense said the next day that a US contractor had died during the raid of a heart attack.
At the same time, pro-Iranian media outlets launched an intense media campaign against the Iraqi government, claiming that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazimi was seeking to increase the number of US forces in Iraq and provide cover to extend their stay as part of the NATO mission.
Al-Kazemi fighter fires
Before the whirlwind about NATO and its future in Iraq subsided, the country was hit by a new disaster.
On March 8, a grenade exploded, which security officials said was placed as a trap in a garbage dump near the Imams Bridge in Baghdad, targeting Shiite pilgrims in memory of the martyrdom of Imam Musa al-Kadhim.
Such incidents are not uncommon in Iraq, but this attack prompted dozens of Facebook and Twitter accounts linked to Iranian-backed groups to post regular sectarian comments, accusing residents of the Sunni-majority Adhamiya region of targeting Shiite pilgrims.
A prominent Shiite political leader close to Al-Kazemi told MEE: “It was clear that the fronts were [ضد الحكومة] It was opening one after the other. Al-Kazemi was like a fireman. Whenever he closed a source of fire, another door opened. “
This crisis will not be the last
Despite the importance of armistice agreements, the recent armistice agreements will not put an end to the conflict between the United States and Iran on the one hand, nor will the armed factions and the Iraqi government on the other hand.
Iraqi officials told MEE that the past two weeks’ crisis was not the first and it will not be the last. Small armed groups bearing names that had never appeared on the scene, such as the “Awliya al-Dam Brigades” and the “People of the Cave” militia, have claimed responsibility for the attacks on American targets in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, officials said it was a new tactic adopted by well-known factions to launch attacks without bearing the consequences.
“All these groups,” says the expert on Iraq [الجديدة] Fakes and non-existent. These attacks were carried out by known factions, but they do not want to bear the consequences, so they attribute them to fake groups. “
The expert also noted that the conflicting messages that come from Iran are sometimes intended in reality to serve Tehran’s purposes, and are part of a broader strategy.
He added that the Iranian airlines are good at the game of maneuver. While one line denies its connection with this attack, another line claims responsibility for it. They are playing the game of good cop and bad cop with the Americans and the Iraqi government. This tactic always pays off.