Lebanon News

Hezbollah closely eyeing Iraq

File - Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem.(The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

A diplomatic source told The Daily Star that Tehran would not allow the formation of a Sunni ministate in Iraq’s Anbar province backed by Turkey or one of the Gulf states, and has issued an ultimatum to the U.S. that the extremist group ISIS must be eradicated by the end of the year or Iran will take charge of the phenomenon.

At the same time, Hezbollah is closely following the political, security and field developments in Iraq, and is conducting intensive meetings involving the military leadership in the party with military officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut – the results of which are relayed to Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of the IRGC.

Hezbollah may have a limited presence of military advisers in Iraq, informed sources told The Daily Star – limited because it cannot abandon the Syrian battlefield amid the continuing rise in the role of fundamentalist groups.

A group of military experts from Hezbollah and the IRGC traveled recently to Iraq to follow the security situation on the ground there, as well as to consult with representatives from the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on ways to limit the power of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, The Daily Star has learned.

The sources revealed that a meeting was held between military leaders in Hezbollah and Sheikh Naim Qassem, the party’s deputy secretary-general, in which Qassem said that Iran is aware that despite its support for the Iraqi regime’s forces and the revitalization of Iraqi militias, it cannot contain the problem on its own, and will therefore need to cooperate with the U.S., Russia, Turkey and the Kurds.

Qassem said that if the situation remains as it is, then Iraq will face the danger of being divided according to a U.S.-Israeli plan that was put in place before the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Hezbollah’s concerns remain focused on Syria, where the ongoing war has revealed several military deficiencies in the Syrian Army, which has long boasted of its resilience, though it appears that it does not enjoy high levels of skill, requiring military aid from Hezbollah and Iran.

Sources revealed that a delegation from the Quds Force arrived in the Lebanese town of Nabi Sheet two weeks ago including military trainers led by an Iranian colonel with the name Abdul-Rahim Sh., who is residing at the IRGC center there. Those trainers began, in cooperation with Hezbollah elements, training a group of officers and elements from the Syrian army in the hills around the town of Jinta-Shahra near the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The training focused on the art of guerrilla warfare and setting up ambushes, after a military study commissioned in Iran that revealed the Syrian army’s weakness in conducting street warfare.

Another course is being conducted for officers from the army’s Signals Corps at Hezbollah’s offices in the Radouf neighborhood in the southern suburbs, under the supervision of a Hezbollah expert named Ahmad K., along with Iranian communications experts after the Syrian army received a shipment of encrypted and wireless communication devices from Iran.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 10, 2014, on page 3.




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