Iran is heavily involved in the fighting in Iraq. Tehran is largely behind Baghdad’s defense strategy providing weapons, equipment, planning, air power, and hundreds of advisers. This has cost it not only money, but also lives. At the end of December a brigadier general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) was killed in Salahaddin, marking at least the fifth loss for Tehran in Iraq.
Gen Taqavi (left) advising Iraqi forces from Iranian video (via The Arkenstone)
On December 28, 2014 the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) acknowledged the death of one of its generals in Iraq. It announced that Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi died in Salahaddin. UPI reported an Islamic State sniper killed him, while the IRGC said he died in Samarra protecting the Hasan al-Askari shrine there. Taqavi was in the country as an adviser and trainer to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and militias. According to Twitter he actually passed away in Balad, which is roughly 25 miles to the south of Samarra. That area is the focus of an on going security operation to secure supply and communication routes between central Salahaddin and Baghdad. The IRGC claim that he died in Samarra follows Tehran’s propaganda campaign that it is defending the sacred sites in Iraq from Sunni extremists, much like its line in Syria is about protecting the Sayid Zainab shrine outside Damascus.
Ali Reza Moshajari of the IRGC might have been the first Iranian killed during the current fighting in Iraq in June 2014 (Hizballah Cavalcade)
Funeral for IRGC-QF pilot Col Mourjani in Iran, July 2014 (AFP)
Taqavi was the fifth reported IRGC member killed in Iraq this year. On June 16 IRGC member Ali Reza Moshajari reportedly passed away in an accident in Karbala. That might have been a cover story as his friends claimed he was the first Iranian martyr in Iraq. That same month, IRGC Colonel Kamal Shirkhani died in a mortar attack in Samarra. According to Reuters, one other IRGC member died in Iraq in the middle of June. Finally, on July 4, a funeral was held for Colonel Shojaat Almdari Mourjani who was a pilot in the IRGC air force who also died in Salahaddin. He was likely serving as a forward air controller for Iranian air strikes. Many more Iranians have likely died in Iraq as well. For instance, Bas News reported in September that 30 Iranian soldiers were killed in fighting alongside the peshmerga to retake Jalawla and Sadiya in Diyala that month. When Mosul fell Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran would come to the aid of Iraq. That led to a security agreement with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki whereby Iran would provide military material, training, and air assets. The Quds Force took the lead in that effort with anywhere from 150 to 1,500 advisers entering Iraq in the middle of June. Today that latter number might have more than doubled. They were led by IRGC-QF commander General Qasim Suleimani who immediately went to Baghdad to help coordinating and plan security policy. In December Prime Minister Haider Abadi acknowledged the presence of Iranian advisers in Iraq. With this large commitment it was inevitable that the Quds Force would suffer casualties in Iraq.
The passing of General Taqavi was not the first and will not be the last loss Iran suffers in Iraq. The war is going to be a long one, and Tehran is committed to the fight. It not only wants to prevent the spread of the Islamic State, but sees its presence along the Iranian border as a threat to itself. It also believes this as a perfect opportunity to expand its influence within the Iraqi state by becoming its main patron. It has therefore become the leading military power in the country not only providing equipment but drawing up most of Baghdad’s strategy as well. This involves deploying hundreds if not thousands of IRGC-QF personnel along the frontlines, placing themselves in harms way, which was how Taqavi and the others have died.
Associated Press, “Iranian commanders on front line of Iraq’s fight,” 7/17/14
Bas News, “Iran Continues to Play Large Role in Fighting Alongside Peshmerga,” 9/4/14
Dehghanpisheh, Babak, “Iran’s elite Guards fighting in Iraq to push back Islamic State,” Reuters, 8/3/14
Fassihi, Farnaz, “Iran Deploys Forces to Fight al Qaeda-Inspired Militants in Iraq,” Wall Street Journal, 6/12/14
Al Forat, “Iran considers security of Iraq as part of its security,” 12/27/14
Gordon, Michael and Schmitt, Eric, “Iran Secretly Sending Drones and Supplies Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say,” New York Times, 6/25/14
Hathalyoum, “A source in the Defense: 3 thousand elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards fighting in Iraq,” 11/18/14
Islam Memo, “Additional 1,500 Iranian troops to fight Daash in Iraq,” 9/22/14
Nadimi, Farzin, “Iran’s Expanding Military Role in Iraq,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 9/8/14
Naharanet Newsdesk, “Iranian Pilot Killed Fighting in Iraq,” 7/5/14
Press TV, “Iran general killed during battle against ISIL in Iraq,” 12/28/14
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iran IRGC’s First ‘Martyr Versus ISIL?’” 6/16/14
Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Iran advisers boost anti-ISIL battles in Iraq,” Al Jazeera, 12/14/14
Shariyan, “Haji Hamid martyred,” 12/28/14
Tomlinson, Hugh, “Iran’s special forces rush in to help floundering ally,” Times of London, 6/11/14
UPI, “Iranian general killed by Islamic State sniper in Samarra, Iraq,” 12/28/14