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Iran Using Hit Squads to Silence Critics of its Meddling in Iraq

Iran Using Hit Squads to Silence Critics of its Meddling in Iraq

Saturday, 1 December, 2018 - 06:30
Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Qassem Suleimani
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Tehran is using teams of hit squads in Iraq to silence critics of Iranian attempts to meddle in Iraq’s new cabinet, British security officials told The Daily Telegraph.

The hit squads are said to have been deployed on the orders of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, with the aim of intimidating Iraqi opponents of Iranian meddling in Iraqi politics, the daily reported.

The hit squads were deployed after Iraqi general election in May, when Iranian attempts to establish a controlling influence over the new Iraqi government were stymied by the failure of Tehran-backed candidates to win sufficient votes, it said.

During the election campaign Iran backed former Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose close association with Tehran was a major factor in his removal from office, said The Telegraph.

The Iranians also hedged their bets by supporting another pro-Iran candidate, Hadi al-Amiri, although neither candidate mustered enough votes to form a government, it added.

According to the newspaper, the most high-profile victim to date of the Iranian hit squads was Adel Shaker El-Tamimi - a close ally of former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi - who was assassinated by the Quds force in September.

A Shiite and joint Canadian-Iraqi national, Tamimi, 46, was involved in attempts in Baghdad to heal the schism between the country's Shiite and Sunni communities, and also worked as a low-key envoy to restore Iraq’s relations with neighboring Arab states.

Security sources told The Telegraph that the Iranian assassins have also targeted opponents across Iraq’s political spectrum.

Other victims of Iran's hit squads include Shawki al-Haddad, a close ally of Muqtada Al-Sadr, the report said.

Haddad was murdered in July after accusing the Iranians of election fraud. Meanwhile Rady al-Tai, an adviser to religious authority Ali Al-Sistani was the subject of a failed assassination attempt in August after he called for the reduction of Iranian influence in the new government.

"Iran in intensifying its campaign of intimidation against the Iraqi government by using assassination squads to silence critics of Tehran," a senior British security official told The Daily Telegraph.

"This is a blatant attempt to thwart efforts by the new Iraqi government to end Iran's meddling in Iraq."

Apart from sending hit squads to Iraq, security officials say the Quds Force is also seeking to consolidate its military position in the country.

Using established Shiite militias such as Kataib Hezbollah, the Iranians are smuggling weapons into Iraq for use against US and other Western targets, they say.

In September the militia was accused of launching two attacks against US targets - the US Embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in Basra.

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