We are reminded this week of the West’s ongoing conflict with Iran by the European Union having passed a series of sanctions last Tuesday, weak though they are, in response to terrorist plotting on European soil by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOI).
Terrorist plotting by the Iranian MOI is nothing new, in my experience. From March 2006 to July 2007 I was a member of a Tactical Human Intelligence Team attached to an American combat arms battalion in Iraq. This battalion was responsible for securing a battlespace of 40 square kilometers in Babil Province, through which one of the main pilgrimage routes from Shia Iran to the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf would pass.
The Iranians were not accepting of the fact that an American flag was flying, or that regular US combat patrols were being conducted, in an area that was so important to their religious practice. While unable to combat US forces directly, Iran was able to act through Iraqi Shia proxy forces in the form of the Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM), a Shia militia loyal to the cleric Muqtada al Sadr. At the time, JAM was highly sectarian and hostile to US Forces, with a strong historical narrative of martyrdom and revenge.
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JAM “special groups,” the elite of the JAM soldiery, were trained, funded, and supplied by the Iranian MOI. JAM was regularly supplied with brand new mortar systems, rockets and most importantly the deadly explosively formed projectile (EFP) improvised explosive devices, remotely armed and detonated by passive infrared sensors. Upon detonation, EFP’s formed a molten copper projectile that would cut through any armored vehicle, causing havoc to the vehicle and any personnel traveling in one.
There were a number of factors which ended up being extremely important in enabling JAM terrorists to act with impunity against American forces and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
In Babil Province, Iraq in 2006-2007, the provincial governor was a puppet installed by the Badr Corp, a highly organized political and paramilitary group organized in, and controlled by, Iran. The Badr Corp had conducted a very sectarian, alarmist and corrupt campaign in Babil Province which resulted in the election of their candidate.
Although at times in competition with each other, the Badr Corp provincial governor provided political cover to JAM activities, installed his own administrative staff into Joint Coalition Forces/ISF mission planning activities, and degraded the ability of provincial ISF to act against JAM.
The position of the US State DPT was that since the provincial governor was an elected official, he and his administrative staff had political legitimacy and immunity. In addition, JAM had a political wing called the Sadrist Current, which at the time had about 30 elected seats in the Iraqi parliament. This was important, because a key Member of Parliament (MoP) in Babil Province was a member of the Sadrist Current.
This Sadrist Current MoP had JAM special groups members as part of her entourage, which mean that my unit was fighting terrorist JAM members who had official Government of Iraq Ministry of the Interior ID cards (equivalent to having law enforcement credentials in the US), were able to carry weapons through ISF checkpoint, and had “get out of jail free” privileges should they be detained and turned over to Iraqi authorities. Again, the position of the US State DPT was that this MoP had “political immunity” because of her political position.
It was in consideration of all of the above, that it was determined that this American combat arms battalion would need a specialized asset to enable it to effectively fight this shadow war with Iran in the form of my Tactical Human Intelligence Team.
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As my team was formed and made its way to the small American forward operating base in Babil Province, little did we comprehend how important our capabilities would end up being to the “success” of this battalion. Our ability to conduct aggressive Counterintelligence and Force Protection Source Operations, Intelligence Reconnaissance missions, Intelligence Liaison, Analysis, and battlefield interrogations would be tested and refined in this hostile operating environment.
We soon became the products of harsh necessity.
As 2019 begins, America’s shadow war with Iran continues. Iran continues to plan terrorist acts throughout Southwest Asia and even Europe itself, quite often through the use of proxies strategic partners – Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Houthi’s in Yemen. Iran is also not above incorporating criminal elements into it’s plans.
Since my fight with Jaysh al Mahdi in 2006-2007, it has evolved into an Iraqi Nationalist movement, their alliance with the Iranians back then perhaps one of convenience. Under an umbrella organization of several militias loosely aligned together called the Hashd, JAM played a role in the defeat of Al Queda in Iraq. But one thing is certain in SW Asia. Political survival is often a winner-takes-all game, and alliances change due to strategic calculation.
Originally posted at Deangelisandassociates.com