The Islamic Republic of Iran’s new top general has promised that his forces will invade Iraq if Islamic State or other Sunni forces endanger important religious shrines.
Maj. Gen. Mohammed Bagheri made his ominous promise just one day after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini appointed him to general staff chief June 28.
“Baghdad, the sacred shrines, and the burial places of the pure Imams in Iraq are all the Islamic Republic’s red lines,” said Bagheri during his speech, “if these are endangered, the Islamic Republic will enter action directly and will annihilate the wicked with diligent and strong defense.”
Bagheri reassured Iran’s allies abroad that he would make certain that they will continue to receive the Islamic Republic’s support “in any way possible.” He noted that his forces will also continue to provide “necessary training to confront any threats”
Bagheri’s “allies” most likely refers to the Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) operating in Iraq. Iran has actively supported, advised and armed these militia groups for some time, entrenching itself in the Iraqi military network at all levels.
Though the PMUs are technically under the umbrella of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), there is evidence that Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) advisers have a significant influence over their regular operations.
While Iran denies any official military presence in Iraq and Syria, the IRGC Quds Force, Iran’s special forces unit responsible for foreign operations, is known to operate in both Syria and Iraq. Iran has called on “volunteers” to join the fight against the Islamic State in an effort to protect fellow Shia Muslims since the terrorist group’s rise in 2014.
While Iran’s forces have been ready and willing to put boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS, the Obama Administration has been quite the opposite. Despite the fact that there are around 3,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, the administration regularly makes sure to note they are not there in a combat role, despite coming under enemy fire on several occasions.
Iran has often pointed to the U.S. extraction from Iraq in 2011 as an excuse to solidify its control over the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, has been quoted as once saying “we’re not like the Americans. We don’t abandon our friends.”
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