The Washington Post reports: Iranian military involvement has dramatically increased in Iraq over the past year as Tehran has delivered desperately needed aid to Baghdad in its fight against Islamic State militants, say U.S., Iraqi and Iranian sources. In the eyes of Obama administration officials, equally concerned about the rise of the brutal Islamist group, that’s an acceptable role — for now.
Yet as U.S. troops return to a limited mission in Iraq, American officials remain apprehensive about the potential for renewed friction with Iran, either directly or via Iranian-backed militias that once attacked U.S. personnel on a regular basis.
A senior Iranian cleric with close ties to Tehran’s leadership, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security matters, said that since the Islamic State’s capture of much of northern Iraq in June, Iran has sent more than 1,000 military advisers to Iraq, as well as elite units, and has conducted airstrikes and spent more than $1 billion on military aid.
“The areas that have been liberated from Daesh have been thanks to Iran’s advice, command, leaders and support,” the cleric said, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
At the same time, Iraq’s Shiite-led government is increasingly reliant on the powerful militias and a massive Shiite volunteer force, which together may now equal the size of Iraq’s security forces. [Continue reading…]
Long War Journal reports: An Islamic State sniper gunned down a general in Iran’s Qods Force who was advising Iraqi troops and Shiite militias in the battleground city of Samarra in central Iraq.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) announced that Brigadier General Hamid Taqavi was “martyred” while serving in Samara, close to the “shrine of Imam Hassan Askari” on Dec. 27, 2014, Jahan News, a hard-line Iranian media outlet reported. Taqavi was killed by an Islamic State “sniper,” ABNA noted.
Taqavi served as an “adviser to the [Iraqi] Army and the popular mobilization of the Iraqi people,” a reference to the Shiite militias that fight alongside the Iraqi military.