As the Iraq conflict continues, Iran continues to do whatever it takes to achieve its objectives in the region. The increasing numbers of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and their military activities in Iraq reveal the horrendous scale of the Iranian regime’s meddling. The recent death of IRGC commander, Hamid Taqavi, in the Iraqi city of Samarra as well as the presence of the terrorist Quds force commander  Qasem Soleimani among others, are distressing signs of Tehran’s interference.

A source close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran, recently quoted by The Washington Post, confirmed that since last June "Iran has sent more than 1,000 military advisers as well as elite units to Iraq and has conducted airstrikes and spent more than $1 billion on military aid". Similarly, in its latest statement, the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) announced that the number of IRGC forces in Iraq now stands at 7,000. 

It would be naïve to assume that Tehran’s aim in despatching forces to Iraq is simply to confront the Islamic State (ISIS). On the contrary, the Ayatollahs’ scheme, now more than ever, is to expand their dominion and influence in Iraq, a policy which the Iranian regime has been pursuing since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. At the funeral of Hamid Taqavi last December, General Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme Security Council of Iran and a close associate of President Hassan Rouhani stressed that “These days, sick gossipers foster this question asking what relation is there between Samarra (an Iraqi city) and Hamid Taqavi and what is our business in Iraq and Syria? The answer is obvious; if people like Taqavi don’t shed their blood in Samarra, we have to shed blood in Sistan, Azerbaijan, Shiraz and Esfahan (Iranian cities)… Taqavi and his like give this blood today because before we spill our blood in Tehran, we need to defend [fight] in Samarra and give blood there.”

In recent days the terrorist Quds Force and its linked militias have staged an unprecedented genocidal campaign against the Sunni population in various Iraqi provinces. They attempt to annihilate the Sunnis and force others to migrate in order to establish Tehran’s absolute control in Iraq. The bloodshed caused by Quds Force operatives and paramilitaries is even worse than the atrocities caused by ISIS and has increased in recent months leading to the displacement of thousands of Sunni civilians.

As part of this policy of ethnic cleansing in eastern, central and southern Iraq, militias backed by Tehran assassinated four Sunni clerics on 2nd January this year in Basra Province. The assassination of these clerics has been met with deafening silence by the US-led coalition against ISIS and hence clarifies how the genocidal campaign and sectarian purge has now been effectively extended to southern Iraq as well. 

As long as Iranian backed militias such as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Badr are authorised to operate in Iraq with impunity, human rights violations will continue to rise and the flames of sectarian war will be fanned. The commanders of these militias together with their Iranian masters such as Qasem Soleimani and Ayatollah Khamenei are the culprits of these and a large number of similar crimes in Iraq. 

The Obama administration and the European Union must end their silence and inaction regarding these crimes and should adopt concrete steps to help the new Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in evicting the Iranian regime from Iraq. Failure to do so will turn the Middle East will into a quagmire of sectarian war with no end in sight.