A gauge of Iran's hand in Iraq
New US charges that it is working with Hizbullah in Iraq.
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In a statement, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said that "unfortunately, the US statesmen are in the habit of repeating false and ridiculous claims without presenting any documents."Skip to next paragraph
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Some say collusion between Iran and Hizbullah in Iraq is in keeping with networks Iran has built in Iraq since 2003 – partly, Iranian analysts often say, to give it leverage against US forces in case of a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. "I don't think it's that surprising that you have Hizbullah people operating in Iraq – what is surprising is how few have actually been caught," says Mahan Abedin, of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism in London.
"Intelligence penetration [in Iraq], aiding insurgent groups, and making life difficult for the Americans and Brits…. [T]he Qods Force is very much involved in Iraq – I think that is beyond dispute," says Mr. Abedin. "The Americans are not saying anything that we don't know, but where they are getting it wrong is in the details.
In Iraq, "the most important thing [the Qods] force has done is transfer a set of skills to a select number of groups and individuals," he adds. "I don't think the Qods Force is directly involved in any anti-British or anti-American attacks, because the reaction would be very harsh. If [the US] really had evidence that Iranians had killed 200-odd of their soldiers, as they claimed in January, they … would be hitting back."
There are many sources for enhanced roadside bombs. Some of the explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) copy previous Hizbullah ones, though Abedin notes that Saddam Hussein sent a military intelligence team to Lebanon in 1995 to learn about Hizbullah's use of the bombs. US and British forces routinely find EFP workshops in central and southern Iraq.
Hizbullah sees some of Iraq's insurgents as part of a Shiite-led "Axis of Resistance" that includes Iran, Syria, and Palestinian groups like Hamas.
Hizbullah did offer assistance to Iraqi insurgents early on, but were told they were not needed, says Timur Goksel, a Beirut-based security analyst. "They have tried to stay away from the Iraq war as an organization, although some Hizbullah individuals have traveled there on their own," he says.
Among them appears to be Daqduq who, if that is his real name and he is a Hizbullah veteran as the US claims, may hold an important guerrilla pedigree.
A Hizbullah fighter called Abdel-Karim Daqduq was killed battling the Israelis in south Lebanon in 1999. A Hizbullah squad that assassinated a commander of an Israeli proxy militia in 2000 was named "Ibrahim Daqduq," after a dead Hizbullah fighter of note.
The family comes from the Hizbullah bastion of Ait al-Shaab, a south Lebanon village hard hit by the war last summer – and from where another Daqduq was briefly abducted by the Israelis during the conflict.
But Hizbullah has another link to Iraq that reaches back three decades, when much of the leadership had religious training in Najaf. "The ties that bind Hizbullah with the Iraqi Shiite community are deep, longstanding, and brotherly," adds Ranstorp. "There is a natural line running through Beirut, and Baghdad and Najaf, to Tehran."
Still, some argue, the stepped up US accusations may be only tactical move. "The Americans know full well that the Iranians are not really their enemy in Iraq," says Abedin. "The Iranians may have hurt Americans or Britons here or there, they may have even been complicit in the killing of American soldiers."
"But if you look at the sheer range of enemies the US faces in Iraq, the Iranians pale in comparison," he says. "The smart elements in the US occupation machine in Iraq understand that if they are to extricate themselves successfully ... they need a lot of Iranian help."