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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 18, 2003

Iranian-backed forces cross into Iraq

This article seems to indicate that Iran wants to be involved, a player, in what takes place when America attacks Iraq, but it is clearly also a complicating factor for the U.S.
Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition forces have crossed into northern Iraq from Iran with the aim of securing the frontier in the event of war, according to senior Iranian officials.

The forces, numbering up to 5,000 troops, with some heavy equipment, are nominally under the command of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, a prominent Iraqi Shia Muslim opposition leader who has been based in Iran since 1980 and lives in Tehran.

A US State Department official said he was aware of reports that part of Ayatollah Hakim's Badr brigade had crossed into northern Iraq but declined further comment. Analysts close to the administration of President George W. Bush said the US was concerned about the intentions of this new element in an increasingly complicated patchwork of forces in northern Iraq.

Turkey has long had a limited military presence in northern Iraq, and US special forces began moving into the region several months ago. The Badr brigade has been trained and equipped by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and could be regarded as a proxy force of the Iranian government.

Iranian officials insist that force's role in the north is defensive but its presence will exacerbate the concerns of the US and especially the Arab world that military intervention in Iraq will lead to a permanent disintegration of the country. Through inserting a proxy force, Iran is underlining that it cannot be ignored in future discussions over Iraq's make-up. [more]