03 July 2007
Iran Training Iraqi Insurgent Groups, General Says
Quds Force provides training, funds and arms
Washington -- An elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard with ties to Hezbollah is training, funding and arming insurgents in Iraq to attack coalition and Iraqi forces and conduct other missions, says a senior U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Iraq.
The Quds Force, which conducts international operations for the Iranian Guard, "played key roles in the planning and execution of bombings, kidnappings, extortion, sectarian murders, illegal arms trafficking and other attacks against the Iraqi people, the police, the Iraqi army and coalition forces," Army Brigadier General Kevin Bergner said in a July 2 briefing.
Bergner, speaking via teleconference, said that senior agents working for Hezbollah, a Lebanese-based terrorist organization, began training, equipping and forming Iraqi insurgent groups in 2004 under direction from Quds with the full knowledge of the senior leadership in Iran. Hezbollah instructors trained approximately 20 to 60 Iraqis at a time in three training centers in Iran, sending them back to Iraq to form insurgent cells, he said.
"Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner said. "It shows how Iranian operatives are using Lebanese surrogates to create Hezbollah-like capabilities.
"And it paints a picture of the level of effort in funding and arming extremist groups in Iraq."
The Iraqi insurgents, formed into special groups, were assembled over the past three years to operate largely in a cellular structure that provides maximum independence and security for operations, he said.
Quds supplies the insurgents, who operate throughout Iraq, with machine guns, shoulder-fired rockets, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators, Bergner said. Quds provides up to $3 million per month to fund insurgent operations.
One group leader, Azhar Dulaymi, who was killed by coalition forces May 19, led the January 20 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq, that killed five U.S. soldiers, Bergner said.
Dulaymi worked with Ali Musa Daqduq and Qayis Khazali, both of whom were captured by U.S. forces in 2007 in Iraq, Bergner said. Daqduq joined Hezbollah in 1983 and served in numerous leadership positions, including providing security for Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyad Hassan Nasrullah.
"In 2005, [Daqduq] was directed by senior Lebanese Hezbollah leadership to go to Iran and work with the Quds Force to train Iraqi extremists," Bergner said. Daqduq and Khazali were captured March 20 with false papers, detailed documents discussing tactics and methods for attacking coalition and Iraqi forces and convoys, and instructions on how to use small arms and machine guns.
Bergner said Khazali had been in charge of the Iraqi insurgent groups throughout Iraq since June 2006. Khazali, an Iraqi, was tasked with developing the insurgent groups into a force similar to Hezbollah.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in Washington said July 2 that these reports are another "data point in what is a troubling picture of Iranian negative involvement in Iraq."
"We have found that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has essentially subcontracted out to some elements of Hezbollah, using them as a pass-through for material, technology and other material assistance. … It is of deep concern to us," McCormack said.
McCormack said that no matter what Iran may think of the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, they are serving as a stabilizing influence in Iraq and they are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government.
"We would urge the Iranian government to reconsider its current course of action," he said.
The Quds Force is part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that is responsible for extraterritorial operations, including terrorist operations and training Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. It was created during the Iran-Iraq War as a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Lebanese Shiite clerics inspired by the Islamic revolutionary ideology of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. Its original goal was to create an Islamic republic in Lebanon. It has been an active sponsor of anti-Western terrorism and has conducted terrorist operations throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, working for third parties.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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