Iraq Report: Special Groups Regenerate

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Jared Young

WASHINGTON DC-With Iranian-backed militia groups making headlines in Iraq once again this week, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) today released its latest Iraq Report on these "Special Groups." This latest Iraq Report, the eleventh in the series, was written by ISW Research Manager Marisa Cochrane and issued in conjunction with The Weekly Standard. The report, Special Groups Regenerate, explains the persistent Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs. The full report can be viewed at

"As we have seen just this week, Coalition Forces arrested nine members of the Iranian-backed terror group ‘The League of the Righteous’ in Baghdad and Muthanna," Cochrane said."This attempt to reconstitute Iranian-backed militia networks must be addressed head-on by Coalition and Iraqi forces. These arrests are only the first steps in preventing the violent campaign planned by Special Groups."

Cochrane also pointed to last week's arrest of Ali al-Lami as another important development.  Ali al-Lami, a senior official in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, was arrested by Coalition Forces while returning to Baghdad from Lebanon.  He is suspected of having ties to Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias and plotting a spectacular June bombing that killed 10 people, including four Americans.

In Special Groups Regenerate, Cochrane explains how Iranian-backed Special Groups have prepared to return to Iraq to conduct a series of assassinations against Iraqi officials and launch spectacular attacks against U.S. targets. The report traces the way in which Special Groups have reconstituted in the past and adapted their tactics, using “train the trainer” programs inside Iraq to develop new capabilities.

Cochrane further documents how the Special Groups prepared for an offensive against U.S. Forces and the Iraqi Government this spring, and how the Basra offensive disrupted their planned offensive. She traces the flight of Special Groups leaders and fighters to Iran after their defeat in these operations, and she explains how they have used the summer in Iran to regroup, reorganize, and learn from their failures.

Following reconsolidation and retraining in Iran, it is highly likely that Special Groups will return to Iraq and rebuild their networks, adopting new tactics to escalate violence accordingly. U.S. Forces and their Iraqi counterparts have a limited window to prepare for this eventual return and to mitigate the dangers that accompany it.

To read the entire report, visit:

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