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.
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