Iran’s ties to ISIL are closer, more complicated than U.S. officials believe
ISIL militiamen in Iraq / AP
June 23, 2014 1:05 pm
Iran long provided shelter and protection to the founder and former commander of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the predecessor to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), which rose to power due in large part to Tehran’s support, according to multiple intelligence reports and outside experts.
AQI leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was given protection by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGS) and was provided with resources to rebuild the infrastructure that has enabled ISIL to take over much of Western Iraq, according to these reports.
Iran’s relationship with AQI founder al-Zarqawi has been well documented by U.S. intelligence and complicates the narrative pushed by Obama administration officials in the wake of ISIL’s violent overthrow of several Iraqi cities.
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State Department officials have argued in recent weeks that Iran and the United States have a “shared interest” due to Tehran’s ethnic ties to the Shiite-led Iraqi government. Tehran, they say, is ideologically opposed to ISIL because it is a Sunni extremist group once affiliated with al Qaeda.
However, Iran has a long and complicated history of partnering with al Qaeda, particularly in Iraq, and helping to rebuild the terror infrastructure that would eventually allow ISIL to gain strength.
“Depictions of Iran as a source of stability are therefore erroneous and short-sighted, as are assertions that increased Iranian involvement in Iraq will serve American and Iraqi interests,” the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) warned in a recent press statement.
Iran over the weekend warned the United States to stay out of Iraq.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei lashed out at American involvement in Iraq on Sunday and senior Iranian military commanders have begun warning the United States against getting involved.
Iran’s support for al Qaeda in Iraq began in the months following the 9/11 terror attacks.
When the United States began Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, al Qaeda leaders including Osama bin laden took shelter in lawless areas of Pakistan. However, many other senior leaders, including al-Zarqawi, made their way to Iran, which provided the terrorists protection.
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