"Axis Of Resistance" — How The Iran-Sponsored Militias Could Widen The War Against Israel
For decades now, the Islamic Republic of Iran has created, armed and trained paramilitary groups in several Middle Eastern states, all of which are believed to stand at the ready to strike Israel and Western targets at Tehran's command.
The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, and Israel's response, have so far provoked more than 3,000 deaths and displaced a half million people in Gaza. Iran's regime was quick to praise the initial terror attack by Hamas, and has warned Israel of dire consequences if it persists in bombarding Gaza.
After a trip to Lebanon by Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdullahian, some European security agencies have in turn warned their governments of the possibility of military or terror attacks on Western targets by elements backed by the Islamic Republic and its regional 'task force,' the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Western and Israeli embassies worldwide are on alert against the threat of terror attacks and already aware of Iran's tentacular reach and suspected connivence with a range of violent groups, 'sleeper' cells or lone attackers striking out at a public venue.
For four decades, the regime born of Iran's 1979 revolution has formed and financed a number of militant groups on or near Israel's borders, the biggest of which is the Lebanese-based Hezbollah, a veritable army of thugs that weighs heavily on Beirut's institutions, and sometimes even acts as a coordinator of Iran's regional militias.
Hezbollah, the prime proxy
The militia was formed in 1982 in the offices of Aliakbar Mohtashamipur, the Islamic Republic's ambassador in Damascus. The aim then was to form a network of Lebanese Shia Muslims loyal to the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and its disruptive agenda.
With the appointment in 1992 of Hasan Nasrallah as its boss, Hezbollah became Iran's premier proxy outfit, and is estimated since to have received an annual $700 million in Iranian public support. That is just an 'official' figure that is complemented by other funds the group earns from various, suspected criminal activities, racketeering, informal forex trading and the like.
Hezbollah knew of Hamas's plans to attack weeks in advance
Like all the other criminal gangs in this regional posse, it boasts a listing, not in Forbes magazine but the U.S. and EU terror Most Wanted, with the biggest cache of arms, high-tech weaponry and matériel among the militias, including anti-aircraft systems, rocket launchers and drones.
Hezbollah knew of Hamas's plans to attack weeks in advance, and has pinned down a portion of Israel's army on the Israeli-Lebanese frontier by moving troops there and firing into Israel.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad
In Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas, formed in 1987, and the Islamic Jihad (1981 or later) are just two of the groups receiving Iranian arms and money. Earlier this year Hamas's political director, Ismail Haniyeh, visited Tehran where he would have largely discussed plans for the October attack and won Tehran's full backing. The head of the Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhala, accompanied him on the trip, which some suspect was in fact arranged by Tehran to discuss the attack it had planned itself.
In addition to arms, Hamas is thought to receive about $100 million a year from Iran. It runs offices in Tehran, Qatar, Turkey and Lebanon, while its leaders have been living in Doha for some years now. European intelligence sources believe its arsenal of advanced equipment includes anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank rockets and drones.
While Hamas emerged independently, Islamic Jihad is certainly a creature of the Quds force. That is the group Israel has blamed for accidentally blowing up a Gaza hospital, with horrific consequences. Its offices, not coincidentally, are in southern Lebanon in Hezbollah-controlled territory. Iran has also given it a range of high-tech weaponry designed to defend itself against an army.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks Thursday at a Pro-Palestine rally in Tehran to show their solidarity with Gaza people after the Gaza hospital strike.
Iranian Presidency via ZUMA
We also have the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist group led by Nayef Hawatmeh. While it preceded the Iranian revolution and was leftist (and thus secular) in nature, it had no qualms about joining the Iranian regime's Shia brand of revolutionary politics and was, curiously, one of the very few Arab organizations to denounce the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein for invading Iran in 1980. It has offices in Damascus and the West Bank, and its fighters or fedayeen, are generally armed with light weaponry. Two other terror groups operating in the West Bank are the Lion's Den, which began working in 2022 and is considered the Hamas subsidiary there, and the Movement or Battalions of Palestinian Mujahedin, led by Asad Abu Sharia. They are believed to be armed by Hezbollah, perhaps through Jordan.
One of the oldest militant groups that has ties with the Islamic Republic today, is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It too was founded as a communist guerrilla group in 1967 with the aim of freeing Palestinian lands through guerrilla warfare. Its offices are in Damascus, as are those of its splinter group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Front-General Command, which previously had ties to the Hussein regime in Iraq.
The Popular Resistance Committees are separately an amalgam of groups from the West Bank and Gaza, emerging in 2000 and including former members of Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian party, and of the Al-Aqsa Brigades. The latter is active in Gaza, working with light weaponry, mortars and short-range rockets.
Revolutionary Guard inside Syria
Inside Syria, Iran can count on an indeterminate number of its own Revolutionary Guards, sent there to back the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Asad against rebels, Pakistani and Afghan mercenaries in its pay, and the Abdul Qadir al-Husseini Brigade. The latter has light weaponry, anti-aircraft missiles and short-range rockets and recently claimed to have fired on Israel from around the Golan Heights.
Do the Americans want a "taste of hell in this life?"
In Iraq, the Islamic Republic mobilized its mercenaries on October 18, with drone strikes on a U.S. base. Here various Shia militias, notably the Hezbollah Brigades (Kataib Hizbullah), have denounced the United States for its alleged complicity in the deaths of innocent Gazans, and taken the opportunity to urge it to leave Iraq. One Kataib leader, Ahmad al-Hamidawi, has told the Americans to leave unless, he said, they want a "taste of hell in this life." The group's founder (Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis) was among those killed in the January 2020 U.S. drone strike that assassinated the head of the Iranian Quds force, General Qasim Suleimani.
The Iraqi group closest to Tehran may be the Badr Army or Badr Corps, which has also threatened the United States for backing Israel. The Army, bringing together dozens of Shia groups, is Iran's power broker in Iraq, rather like Hezbollah in Lebanon. The group began in the 1980s as the armed wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shia group that opposed Saddam Hussein's regime with Iranian support.
Today, it has access to heavy weaponry including tanks and armored vehicles. Another big gang is the Asaib ahl al-haq (League of the Just), whose leader keeps saying he takes his orders from Iran's supreme leader, and which has expanded its activities into Syria. It too is believed to have access to heavy weaponry, and has received arms from Tehran.
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