Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Iranian group becoming America’s enemy in Iraq

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Iran’s special warfare group is beginning to rival al Qaeda as America’s most deadly enemy in Iraq, organizing insurgent cells and inflicting casualties on U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians.

One analyst estimates that more than 300 members of al Quds Force, the terrorist arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, are operating in southern Iraq. The Revolutionary Guards answer directly to Tehran’s ruling mullahs.

The intelligence about al Quds comes from an Iranian resistance group, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney told The Examiner.

“They have penetrated into the Tehran system,” McInerney said of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK). “Everything they have put out has always check out.” He said that despite new U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad, Quds operations inside Iraq are increasing, not decreasing.

an area south of Baghdad, told reporters on Sunday he believes 50 Quds operatives alone are operating in his sector.

While al Qaeda’s main weapon is the vehicle-borne suicide bomber targeted at civilians, Quds Force specializes in building huge roadside bombs (explosively formed projectiles) primarily designed to kill American troops.

“The damage to U.S. forces right now is greater from Quds than from al Qaeda,” McInerney said.

The Shiite-dominated Tehran government is seen by Sunni Muslim Persian Gulf countries as a threat to their stability. Quds is helping Iraq’s Sunni Muslim insurgents because of their common enemy: the U.S.

McInerney said Iran’s strategic plan is to force an exit of U.S. troops and to promote Tehran-style Islamic governance in the south.

While the U.S. command in Baghdad talks up the Iranian threat, retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former Army War College commander, said Iran has been meddling in Iraqi affairs for two millennia.

“The real question now is what kind of military effect is that having on the course of the campaign,” he said. “The answer is not much. Iran’s most skilled terror group, al Quds, is having some effect, sure. But for an insurgency this size, Quds trainers inside Iraq is not a game changer.”

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