Iran creates Iraqi Hezbollah
By Rowan Scarborough
The U.S command launched a new military offensive in southern Iraq this week to blunt an escalating destabilization campaign by Iran, a top adviser to Gen. David Petraeus told Insight.
Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, who just completed a 12-day tour of Iraq and conferred with Gen. Petraeus, the top commander, disclosed that Iran has organized two battalions of Iraqis in Basra modeled after the Hezbollah terrorist army in Lebanon.
Gen. Keane said the objectives of the Hezbollah-like battalions are to stir up violence, destabilize local governments in the south and spread the influence of the hard-line Shia Islamic rulers in Tehran. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah is a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and to establishing Islamic rule in Beirut.
Military sources said the U.S. command in Baghdad has been planning a southern offensive for weeks, to be carried out primarily by Iraqi forces with the help of U.S. advisers, air power, intelligence and logistics. But the increasing influence of Iran and ramped up violence by Shia militias forced the offensive to begin now.
"Given the worsening situation in the South, clearly the command is now putting a priority on it and that is why you see the Iraqis moving into Basra to gain control of the security situation," Gen. Keane told Insight. "It is a strategy designed to suppress the Shia militias and the extremists that are in the area that are causing destabilization in the area, and thuggery and criminality. Clearly, the militias' intent is to malign the upcoming Iraqi elections this fall and the Iraqis do not want that to happen."
Iran's establishment of Hezbollah-like units in Basra is an escalation of its determination to bring southern Iraq under its control. Previously, it has trained Iraqis in Iran on terrorist tactics and provided them with powerful road-side bombs to kill American service members.
Recently, Keane said, Tehran has begun bringing Shia Iraq Sheiks and tribal leaders into Iran on propaganda tours to show them the supposed superiority of Iranian society.
1) Iran creates Iraqi Hezbollah