Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lebanon’s Hezbollah Acknowledges Its Presence In Iraq

Lebanese Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah recently acknowledged that his group was involved in the war in Iraq. This came as no surprise as Hezbollah advisers were said to be in Iraq soon after Mosul fell, and in July one of its commanders died in the country. Just like Hezbollah’s previous time in Iraq during the U.S. occupation it is working as an adjunct for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In a speech on February 16, 2015 Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah admitted that his organization was active in Iraq. He said that it only had a “limited presence” in the country, and called on others to join the fight not only in Iraq, but in Syria as well. Nasrallah was stating the obvious since Hezbollah’s presence in Iraq had been noted months beforehand.

After Mosul fell in June 2014, Nasrallah offered to protect the shrines in Iraq. By the next month there were reports that around 250 Hezbollah members were advising militias in Iraq in coordination with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). That might have increased to 500 since then. That was confirmed at the end of July when a Hezbollah commander Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haj was killed near Mosul. Haj was a veteran Hezbollah member who helped set off the July 2006 war with Israel. Since then there have been more reports of Hezbollah advisers active along the frontlines. In October for example, they were said to have helped in the operation to clear Babil’s Jurf al-Sakhr. When Iran came to aid Iraq in June it was inevitable that Hezbollah would enter the fray as well. Hezbollah is involved in most major Iranian operations such as Syria currently and Iraq in the past.

In 2003 the IRGC Quds Force asked for Hezbollah’s assistance in Iraq to oppose the U.S. occupation. Hezbollah deployed Unit 3800 to work with Iraqi militias. It provided advisers, brought Iraqis to Lebanon for training, and provided funding and weapons as well. It also worked hand in hand with the Quds Force on major operations such as the January 2007 Asaib Ahl Al-Haq raid upon the Joint Coordination Center in Karbala that killed five American soldiers. Afterward Unit 3800 commander Ali Musa Daqduq was arrested for his role in the attack. From 2003-2011 Hezbollah was brought in by Tehran to not only facilitate its anti-American operations, but to help with its Iraqi allies. The Iranians have a history of talking down to and mistreating Iraqis dating back to the Iran-Iraq War when it put together the Badr Brigade to oppose Saddam Hussein. Many Iraqi militiamen made similar complaints about Iranians when they went to Iran for training post-03. Hezbollah being Arabs were able to forge much better relations.

Hezbollah has consistently provided support for Iran in the Middle East and internationally so it was no surprise when it re-entered Iraq after the 2014 insurgent surge. It is currently playing the same role in Iraq that it is doing in Syria providing support for the IRGC and irregular forces. In fact, Hezbollah has worked with many of the same groups in both countries such as Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, the Khorasani Brigade, and Abu Fadhl Al-Abbas Brigade. Its relationship with the first couple groups goes back to the U.S. occupation as well. As long as Tehran is militarily involved in Iraq so will Hezbollah.


ABC/AP, “Hezbollah Commander who triggered the 2006 war Killed in Iraq,” 8/1/14

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Salama, Vivian, “Iran general said to mastermind Iraq ground war,” Associated Press, 11/5/14

Agence France Presse, “Hezbollah says it is fighting IS in Iraq,” 2/16/15

Associated Press, “Iranian commanders on front line of Iraq’s fight,” 7/17/14

Blanford, Nicholas, “Why Hezbollah is playing a smaller role in this Iraqi conflict,” Christian Science Monitor, 7/16/14

Dehghanpisheh, Babak, “Iran’s elite Guards fighting in Iraq to push back Islamic State,” Reuters, 8/3/14

Detmer, Jamie, “Hezbollah’s Widening War Spreads to Iraq,” Daily Beast, 8/1/14

Levitt, Matthew and Pollak, Nadav, “Hezbollah in Iraq: A Little Help Can Go a Long Way,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 6/25/14

Orleans, Alexander, “Echoes of Syria: Hezbollah reemerges in Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/1/14


Rowdy said...

Will this degrade the ability for a central government to assert its control and policies over the whole country?
Will it further increase sectarianism?
What is your analysis of soo many states having their own personnel on the ground in Iraq having on its stability? Help or hindrance?

Joel Wing said...

t wins no fans with some communities and increases stereotypes about Shiites being tools of Iran.

That being said in certain areas people are desperate for help against IS and have asked militias and all that comes with it to come in and help them so it's not such a cut and dry equation this time around.

The problem will be the day after of whether Baghdad will be able to assert control over all of these different groups and how much power they can retain within the state.