The commander of Iran’s Basij paramilitary force has accused the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad of being the “Islamic State command center,” saying the United States wants to bring IS to Iran’s borders in order to pressure Tehran.
Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi’s comments, reported by Iran’s Fars News (close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC), echoed accusations by Iran’s supreme leader and other Iranian military and political leaders that IS is a creation of the United States and the West.
Naghdi also said that Iraq has its own “Iraqi Basij” volunteer paramilitary fighters.
Iran’s Basij paramilitary volunteer force operates under the auspices of the IRGC and has several branches.
The Basij commander claimed that Iranian Basij paramilitary volunteers would “like to go” to Iraq but said this was not necessary because Iraqi Basij volunteers were already there and had no need of Iranian help.
Naghdi alluded to Tehran’s official position that Iran is not sending ground troops to fight in Syria or Iraq, claiming that while there was no need for an Iranian military presence in Iraq, Iran had provided training.
The Basij commander’s remarks are reminiscent of comments he made back in 2012 when he said that Syrian militia loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were very similar to Iran’s Basij volunteer paramilitaries. In that 2012 interview to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Naghdi said that the similarity between the Syrian paramilitaries and the Basij had led to accusations that Iran was sending ground troops to Syria.
However, presumably as a show of how loyal and committed Iranian Basij volunteers are to the the cause of “resistance” against the West, Naghi claimed that “millions” of Iranian Basij members are prepared to be dispatched to Syria and to Gaza.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk