The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) commands military forces called Badr Corps. This started as a brigade and developed into a division and then into a corps. The Badr Corps consist of thousands of former Iraqi officers and soldiers who defected from the Iraqi army, Iraqi refugees, and Iraqis who fled the country and join SCIRI. The Badr Brigades were originally recruited, trained, and equipped by Iranís hardline force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC], during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, in which Badr guerrillas conducted forays from Iran into southern Iraq to attack Saddam regime targets.
The Badr Corps' main military goal was to crush Iran's nemesis, the Mujahedeen Khalq Organisation (MKO), a guerrilla group of Iranians who fell out with Tehran in the early days of the 1979 revolution and allied themselves with Baghdad.
In September 2003 Leaders of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (SCIRI) confirmed that the group's armed force, the Badr Corps, remained active despite a US demand that the militia disband.
The Islamic leadership in Iraq followed civil methods in its religious, cultural and political movement in Iraq after the 1920 revolution against the British occupation. However after the second Ba'ath coup in 1968 the Islamic movement as whole faced all kind of repression in the late 1960's and 1970's. Thousands of religious scholars and Islamic activists have been arrested and tortured. Hundreds of them have been killed while being torture or executed.
The Ba'ath regime started its reign with a brutal confrontation with the religious leadership of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Muhsin Al Hakim who was put under house arrest. His son Sayed Mahdi Al Hakim was accused of being a traitor and fled the country and was assassinated later in Sudan in 1988. In 1974 five religious leaders were executed. In 1977 there was a popular uprising when the regime prevented the people from visiting the Shrine of Imam Husain in the holy city of Karbala. Sayed Mohamad Baqir al-Hakim, the leader of SCIRI and the son of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Muhsin Al Hakim, was arrested, tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment without a trial. In 1980 Ayatollah Mohamad Baqir Al Sadr, who became the religious leader after the death of Sayed Muhsin Al Hakim, was executed with his sister Amina Al Sadr. Saddam's regime issued a decree to execute all the members of the Islamic Movement.
The Islamic leadership decided to defend itself by force. Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Al Hakim fled Iraq as his life was in danger. He settled in Iran among the largest Iraqi community outside Iraq. He started to mobilise Iraqis who were deported to Iran by Saddam's regime, Iraqi officers and soldiers who defected from Iraq during Iraq- Iran war as well as Islamic movement members who fled Iraq.
The strategy of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Al Hakim the leader of SCIRI was as follows:
- To establish popular secret resistance cells inside Iraq.
- To mobilise Iraqis outside Iraq and to train them on using arms.
- To establish an armed force to fight Saddam's regime.
Ayatollah Al Hakim started this force consisting of thousands of fighters recomited from Iraqi refugees in Iran, Iraqi migrants and Iraqi military officers as well as soldiers from Iraqi army who defected during Iran- Iraq war. A new wave of fighters arrived in Iran after the popular uprising of March 1991 which was crushed by Saddam's regime.
Ayatollah Al Hakim's brother, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, was leader of the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, headquartered in Iran before the war.
The Badr corps consisted of Infantry, Armored, Artillery, Anti aircraft and commandos units. The training courses were supervised by Iraqi military officers and commanders who defected from Iraqi army.
The Badr forces strategy is as follows:
- To build military bases in some safe areas such as the Marshes in southern Iraq and Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.
- To establish secret resistance cells all over Iraq.
- To keep mobilising and training camps outside Iraq in the neighboring countries which allow such activities.
During the popular uprising of March 1991 the secret cells and elements which was connected to Badr corps took part actively in launching and spreading the uprising from the south to other parts of Iraq.
It is widely believed that on the eve of the invasion of Iraq the Badr Corps controlled around 10,000-15,000 fighters, 3,000 of whom were professionally trained (many of these being Iraqi Army defectors and former prisoners of war). However, the core of the Badr fighting forces was composed of about 1,500 ideologically committed combatants who had spent nearly two decades working alongside the IRGC.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim led the transformation of the well-disciplined, well-funded, and Iranian-origin Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its associated militia, the Badr Corps, into Iraqi political parties. This process led to a partnership with the United States and other entities to build the new Iraqi state. Before 2003, SCIRI and Badr fought the Ba'th regime from Iran, often through violence and subterfuge.
On 16 September 2003 US officials in Iraq said they want all independent militias to be dissolved, but they have backed off from setting a deadline for the groups to disband. One particular concern is the Badr Brigades. Clerics in Najaf were allowed unlicensed bodyguards for a few days after the 29 August 2009 blast that killed Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, but that exception ended in October.
Between 2003 and 2005, Abd al-Aziz encouraged SCIRI to participate in writing the Iraqi Constitution and Badr to fold itself into the New Iraqi Army. In contrast, Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi initiated an open revolt against Coalition Forces and the Iraqi government. Most Badr militiamen folded into the ISF, particularly the National Police and other police commando units.
Violence erupted 24 August 2005 when supporters of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr clashed with Shi'ite opponents as the cleric's backers attempted to reopen their Najaf office. Some reports identify the other militia as the Badr Brigades. Fighting was also reported among the two groups in Baghdad.
In 2007, SCIRI removed the word "revolutionary" from its name to signify its acceptance of Iraq's new order. Badr Corps -- no longer wishing to emphasize its militancy -- largely integrated itself into the Iraqi security forces through Coalition Provincial Authority Order 91, and became a political party, the Badr Organization. ISCI switched its official religious object of emulation from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali al-Khamenei to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most popular cleric among Iraqi Shia.
Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, Congressional Research Service, testified in September 2007 that "ISCI controls a militia of an estimated 20,000 called the Badr Brigades, now renamed the Badr Organization. The Badr forces, thanks to the 2005-2006 tenure of ISCI senior official Bayan Jabr as Interior Minister, have essentially, by all accounts, taken over the Ministry of Interior and much of the police administrative apparatus. Badr loyalists dominate the 26,000 member National Police, which the congressionally-mandated "Jones Commission" on the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) said in September 2007 needs to be completely disbanded and reorganized because of its sectarianism." Despite attempts to alter his image, Hakim never shed criticism that he was influenced by (or a pawn of) Tehran, a liability among Iraq's Sunnis and an increasingly nationalistic Shia electorate. His death in Iran in 2009 reinforced this image. Hakim rarely criticized Tehran's Iraq policy and would brush aside inquires about Iranian lethal aid to militants in Iraq.
Today, the Badr Brigades is one of the militias blamed for carrying out sectarian attacks against Sunni Arabs. Through ISCI and Badr, Iran had fingers in Iraq's ministries and security forces.
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