Friday, June 13, 2014

Reports of IRGC-QF participation in counterattacking ISIL/ISIS, defending Iraq

Above: ISIL/ISIS at war with the region  (source: the Long War Journal)

Highlights from the Wall Street Journal report, followed by commentary:
Faced with the threat of Sunni extremists eclipsing the power of Shiite-dominated Iraq, Iran sprang into action to aid its besieged Arab ally and deployed Revolutionary Guards units to Iraq, according to Iranian security sources. 
At least three battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of the Guards, were dispatched to aid in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an offshoot of al Qaeda rapidly gaining territory across Iraq, they said.
One Guards unit that was already in Iraq fought alongside the Iraqi army, offering guerrilla warfare advice and tactics and helped reclaim most of the city of Tikrit on Thursday.
Two Guards’ units, dispatched from Iran’s western border provinces on Wednesday, were tasked with protecting Baghdad and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, these security sources said.
General Qasem Sulaimani, the commander of the Quds Forces and one of the region’s most powerful military figures, traveled to Baghdad this week to help manage the swelling crisis, said a member of the Revolutionary Guards, or IRGC.
Qassimm al-Araji, an Iraqi Shiite lawmaker who heads the Badr Brigade bloc in parliament, posted a picture with Mr. Sulaimani holding hands in a room in Baghdad on his social-networking site with the caption, “Haj Qasem is here,” reported Iranian news sites affiliated with the IRGC on Wednesday.
The two IRGC battalions that moved to Iraq on Wednesday were shifted from the Iranian border provinces of Urumieh and Lorestan, the Iranian security officials said.
Iran has also positioned troops on full alert along its border with Iraq and has given clearance to its air force to bomb ISIS rebel forces if they come within 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, from Iran’s border, according to an Iranian army general.
There appears to be a mustering of fighting forces being organized and directed into battle by IRGC-QF officers, in roughly similar but rushed fashion as to what has been taking place in neighboring Syria. Shia militiamen and volunteers continue to mobilize, given the level of threat against Shia holy sites such as Samara, Karbala and Najaf, as well as Baghdad.

In a sign of Shia closing ranks, Senior Iraqi cleric grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani voiced his support for the Iraqi army urged the Iraqi government and political figures to stand united against "terrorists."

Below is the photo referred to in the WSJ report, of Iraqi MP Qassimm al-Araji holding hands with IRGC-QF commander Suleimani (in civvies) in Baghdad (per

At this point in the war, it would be surprising to see the intervention of Iranian combat aviation. The Iraqis (and possibly even the Iranians) hope for the intervention of American air power. However this poses something of a realignment for the United States, alongside Iran and Syria in the war against ISIS/ISIL. Additionally, much of the criticism levied against the SyAAF against built-up areas might also in some ways apply to U.S. airstrikes. The president must be weighing heavily on this.

There is some opportunism taking shape, with the Kurdish Peshmerga seizing Kirkuk. Any efforts at retaking Mosul will likely involve Peshmerga forces. At this fluid point in time, the Peshmerga act as an effective buffer force on the other side of this section of Iran's border.

Above: Kurdish Peshmerga seen deploying T-55 type tanks

Highlights from Jessica Lewis' report at Institute for the Study of War, followed by commentary:
On July 12, 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani claimed that ISIS will target Samarra, Baghdad, Karbala, and Najaf. These cities and their Shi’a shrines will not fall the way that Mosul did. Tucked behind layers of Iraqi Security Forces, Shi’a militias, and Iranian Quds Force operatives, these locations represent the hardest military targets in Iraq.
ISIS may execute a tactical deception indicating their intent to destroy the al-Askari mosque in order to concentrate the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Samarra. ISIS may then open a corridor for advance to its main objective, which is likely the seat of Iraqi government in Baghdad.
ISIS will seek to target the seat of Iraq’s government in the Green Zone…If ISIS is able to assault the Green Zone with a ground attack force, they will realize the full defeat of the Iraqi Security Forces. The command and control of Shi’a militias, police forces, and Iraqi civilians in the wake of such an attack would overwhelm the Baghdad Operations Command. The core functions of the Iraqi state would break down. Baghdad would become a ward of the Iranian government to protect the Khadimiya shrine, and Baghdad would become a buffer zone for low-level attacks across an Iranian-ISIS demarcation line.
BLACK SWAN: ISIS may also execute a spectacular attack upon the Shi’a holy cities of Karbala & Najaf. This is not likely as a main effort, but ISIS may still view them as strategic targets that accelerate the demise of Iraq through civil war; alternatively, as a feint to support the Baghdad assault, ISIS may claim this intent in order to cause the ISF and Iranian reinforcements to concentrate south of Baghdad. Especially on Saturday, June 14, 2014, during religious processions commemorating Lailat al Bara’ah, security surrounding the shrines is likely at surge capacity.
Ms. Lewis' scenarios apply if ISIL/ISIS is able to maintain the initiative. This writer does not share her alarmism, should ISIS forward elements penetrate into Baghdad. Such penetrations into Damascus have in the past not brought down the Syrian government.

Iranian military logistics are far more direct and shorter than those to Syria.

ISF and Shia militias are currently counterattacking. Once the ISIL/ISIS advance ebbs, we're likely to see the current Syrian situation replayed in ISIL/ISIS-occupied Iraq, giving rise to what some observers refer to as areas of "Iranian protectorate."

That said, readers are encouraged to read Ms. Lewis' outstanding analysis in full.


Nader Uskowi said...

I do agree with Lewis’ assessment that an ISIL ground assault on the Green Zone would mean the full defeat of ISF. ISIL would not then be required to “topple” the government or even hold Baghdad. They would reach their goal of destroying an effective and powerful central government. As is, ISIL is controlling the Sunni areas size of Jordan, with roughly the same population, and a weak Baghdad would guarantee they could hold onto that territory, establishing their Islamic sate in Iraq.

I also agree with Lewis that ISIL’s pronouncement of attacking Karbala and Najaf could be military deception tactics to keep ISF and QF operatives focus on defensing the Shia shrines in the south. If attacking a Shia shrine were in ISIL's strategic plans, Samarra would be an easier target. And Samarra's shrine is an important place for the Shias, the place where the 12th Imam is believed to have disappeared.

Anonymous said...

I an really surprised by how much the Iraqi army seems to hate maliki. If Iran is going to do all of the work that's a very expensive proposition.

Anonymous said...

How many men in one IRGC battalion?

Anonymous said...

ISIS fighters are brutal and fearless,
but they are only 10,000 . The Iraqi Armee with help of Iran will finish them

Unknown said...

Just what is it with Arab national armies that makes them (almost always) so inadequate? First Iran has to back the Syrian army (where Hazbollah and IRGC are doing most of the work) and now it has to go in Iraq and fight the ISIL meanwhile Iraqi soldiers back up and run?

Something tells me no one in the government cares about the budget anymore!

Nader Uskowi said...

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian today denied media reports that Iran had deployed IRGC/Quds Force troops to Iraq, Fars News Agency reported. Interesting enough, it was Fars News Agency that carried the “news” on Thursday of Quds Force troops fighting alongside the Iraqi Army to “retake” Tikrit. The city has been in ISIL’s hands since Wednesday when they overran it.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on Thursday that Iran had deployed Quds Force units to Iraq; with one battalion fighting alongside Iraqi Army against ISIL. However, there were no other media reports on IRGC/QF involvement in actual combat yet. The Iranians are more likely involved in advising the Iraqis and probably directing strategy in the fight against ISIL. We need to see if and when (and where) the Quds Force troops get involved in actual fighting.

Nader Uskowi said...

CNN, quoting an unnamed senior security official in Baghdad, is reporting that Iran has deployed 500 IRGC troops to fight alongside Iraqi government security forces in Diyala province. Iranian Foreign Ministry has rejected that report. Hopefully, we could get eyewitness reports from Diyala if indeed the IRGC/QF troops are involved in actual combat. On Thursday, Fars News Agency had reported the QF troops were fighting in Tikrit, in neighboring Salah ad Din province

Anonymous said...

It's probably a safe assumption that these are officers and are there for training and directing engagements, and if needed, take the lead when necessary.

I am not surprised however. I predicted this a while ago.

Further i predict there will be a military co-operation between iran and the u.s. where the world's best counter-insurgency fighting force (the quds) are paired with the world's best air-force.

These takfiri ISIS savages will be totally obliterated. May God have merciful on their souls!

It's funny how things work out...the loses here are Isreal and Saudi.

Anonymous said...

These reports are true and Iran Army special forces (Nohed 23 division) are now taking positions alongside the north and central parts of Iran-Iraq border and they have also sent advisers to Iraqi Kurdistan. The problem right now is all the arms the Iraqi army abandoned in the occupied regions and which now are in the hands of the ISIL militia. This creates lots of problems as they now longer need to be immediately dependent on their weapon smuggling routes which Iran, Turkey, Syria, Iraq are trying to choke.
It is important that Iran involves the IRGC QF in Iraq and finish this ISIL march towards Shia/Kurdish areas immediately, but Iran should also look for cooperating with regional and global powers to stop ISIL and that point should not be forgotten or Iran will be alone fighting a major terrorist army with good financial support from certain Arab countries.

Anonymous said...

Regular Artesh Battalion and the Sepah is structured on the same lines is around 800-1000 men mostly broken into 200 men self-sustaining companies. The Qods Force has a strong intelligence component in a company. The deployment in Iraq and Syria is very limited and mostly confined to advisory role and Intel-Recon. However, the whole situation will change if these ISIL Wahhabi animals either attack Iranian territory or Karbala or Nejaf. Even Sistani along with the major clerics in Qom have alluded to massive Iranian intervention if needed. From a military point of view, the Iraqis with Iranian support and US supplied airpower would easily reverse the situation. It is a strong indictment of the corrupt Maliki government and the massive failure of US intelligence. The CIA and other US agencies still have over 3,000 personnel and "contractors" in Iraq. Once again shows the ineptitude of US. Iran had been on the ball and warning of such an eventuality since the Syrian terror campaign unleashed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Contrary to all the hyperbole, Iraq is not about to fall or Baghdad will ever see these ISIL cannibals. Just remember Iraq has over 70% Shia population and they are not about to immigrate any time soon.

Anonymous said...

I watched a recent interview with an Iraqi ex army soldier whom deserted.

And he said "our two top generals came and changed into civilian clothes and got into civilian cars and left as the whole contingent watched we did the same thing"

He further said "the Iraqi officers are not the same as their former American officers whom picked up guns and fought along side the regular iraqi army during engagements. He said he once was fighting insurgents right next to an American colonel whom kept on directing and rallying the Iraqis to keep on fighting."

Nader Uskowi said...

How is Israel is loser here? Muslims killing each other? And how's the Saudis loser here? Maliki's government all but an old caricature of itself and his armies disintegrating?

Nader Uskowi said...

BTW, did the Quds Force operators and its intelligence officers who were operating in Iraq for the past ten years predicted this conflict? Weren't they supposed to be the master of the country after U.S. withdrawal? Didn't the ISIL militants started their drive from Syria this week? Weren't' the Quds Force and the IRGC ground forces operating in large numbers in Syria at the time? How did they miss this one? Where were Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militias that Iran has spent so much to organize and deploy to Syria and Iraq? How did they miss this?

I suggest that this is a colossal failure of Quds Force/IRGC/Ministry of Intelligence and their Shia militias to predict and prevent the march by ISIL militants from the Syrian border toward Baghdad.

And the Iranians and their allies now need U.S. military help to fight few thousand-strong ragtag army of ISIL? You are kidding, no?

I do agree with your assessment of U.S. intelligence failure in seeing this coming. And the total failure of U.S. (and Iranian) trained Iraqi security forces to stop these militants. Instead the Iraqis shed their uniforms, from general officers to soldiers, and flee the "battlefield" even before any fighting started! This is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Iran and US cooperation will not happen soon. 1st) Iran doesn't need US help on airstrikes against ISIL. 2nd) US is hesitant to fight and defeat ISIL as it has still not decided what position to take against Saudi backed group. They want to use ISIL as a leverage against Shia dominance in Iraq and will demand very much in return.

Anonymous said...

Correct. Let's keep perceptive here. The reality is the US trained Iraqi "army" like the (ARVN in Vietnam) was is a corrupt phantom army of non-existing divisions and the officer corps was hand picked by CIA vetting and not on merit or professional capabilities. It is also a severe indictment of the low quality of US military "training" from Iraq, Afghanistan to Pakistan. The same scenario will definitely be repeated in Afghanistan when the US flees later this year or next. Compare this to the magnificent cohesion and leadership of the Syrian Arab Army trained by Iran and Russians, that not only held firm but defeated the Wahhabi terrorists in every battle. There is not a single instance even of a platoon sized desertion from the Syrian Arab Army while whole Iraqi divisions just melted away and even handed their heavy weaponry and tanks to the ISIL terrorists.

The other fact is that the collapse of the Iraqi army is mostly due to the political failure of the corrupt Maliki government that has alienated the Sunni tribes of Al-Anbar and Salaheddin provinces where Saddam's Baathists still have strong support.

Going back the Jange Tahmili experience, the Iraqi army even when supplied with the best US, USSR and European weaponry and training was not over awing phenomenon. They fared very poorly in every encounter with highly motivated Iranian troops still smarting from the US arms embargo and revolutionary chaos. By 1982, with the liberation of Khorramshahr and most Iranian territory, Iraq had technically been defeated. So in short, Iraqi army is incompetent to the core and not as cohesive as the Syrian Arab Army, perhaps the best of the Arabs, bar Hezbollah.

The ISIL terrorists are barely 10,000 max and will not be able to hold cities or urban areas. The Shias with Iranian help have just started mobilizing and will soon turn the tables. One has to keep in mind that the Moqtada al Sadr's Mehdi Army and Iranian trained Badr brigades made the US with all its power cry uncle, so handling a few thousands Wahhabi illiterate cannibals in Toyota pick-up trucks is not a very daunting task for their the Iraqi militias or the IRGC for sure. This is a storm in a tea-cup, but a strategic bonanza for Iran as any future survival of Iraq will depend upon Iranian support. It also strengthens the Shia clerics, particularity Moqtada al Sadr. ISIL will be defeated for sure, perhaps in matter of days.

Nader Uskowi said...

Where were the Badr Brigades and Iraqi Shia militias, organized, trained and financed by Iran during the advance of these few thousand ISIL militants from the Syrian border to the outskirts of Baghdad? Where were the Quds Force operatives and intelligence officers to warn and lead those groups to stop these ISIL men? If they could do this in matter of days, they why didn't they do it by now?

Anonymous said...

Best of my knowledge it was the inept and blusterous US that invaded Iraq on false WMD pretext and spent $7 TRILLION on the lost war and had 200,000 troops there for a decade and over 5,000 CIA, NSA, DIA and FBI agents. Infact, it was the US that "arrested" ten Iranian IRGC officers at Mosul in 2004. So let's not get too hyperbolic here. This is a US failure as usual and Iran is now being forced to fix it.

Anonymous said...

Iran like the US put its faith in Maliki and the US "trained" 500,000 Iraqi army armed with Abrams M1 and the best of US technology. Iranian presence in Iraq was very limited and IRGC had been warning of this eventuality and that is the reason Iran got involved in Syria. The US had the "intelligence" monopoly in Iraq and had 3,000 CIA operatives in the Green Zone and at the Balad airbase. This is exactly like the CIA failure in Vietnam in 1975 when they failed to detect one million NVA and Vietcong gathering in the hills around the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Nader Uskowi said...

Fox News reported Friday night that U.S. officials believe that Iranian forces are already involved in fighting in Iraq. If the report is accurate, it does confirm the Wall Street Journal and CNN's earlier reports that Iran has indeed deployed ground forces in Iraq to check ISIL advances. Fox did not say where the Iranian troops have been deployed to. CNN reported that 500 Quds Force troops were fighting alongside the Iraqi Army in Diyala.

Anonymous said... --- The Young Turks on the Iraqi civil war.

B.M.A said...

How the hell did CNN get to count the Iranian troops one by one to give a such a precise figure !!!!.

Nader Uskowi said...

CNN attributed the report to a "senior Iraqi intelligence official" in Baghdad.