US forces detained a senior Iranian Qods Force officer as he attempted to flee Baghdad, according to a statement from the military.
The officer, who was not named, was captured today as he was attempting to leave Iraq. Security guards at Baghdad International Airport detained the Iranian agent as Coalition forces were in "pursuit."
The Qods Force officer is suspected of being involved "in facilitating Iranian weapons shipments into Iraq," according the Multinational Forces Iraq press release. US forces found "an unspecified amount of the illegal drug Cocaine" in his possession.
Qods Force uses an unnamed construction company to shield its activities, the US military said. "The suspect works for an organization within the IRGC-QF [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force] involved in the construction and repair of religious sites in Iraq," the statement said. "Intelligence assessments indicate that the IRGC-QF uses this organization as a cover to smuggle weapons in legitimate shipments of building materials."
Iraqi and US forces have killed one Qods Force operative and captured 10 since mid-October.
Background on Iran's backing of the Shia terror groups
Flash Presentation on the Ramazan Corps and the Iranian Ratlines into Iraq. Click the map to view. A Flash Player is required to view, click to download.
Qods Force has supported various Shia militias and terror groups inside Iraq, including the Mahdi Army, helping to build them along the same lines as Lebanese Hezbollah. Iran denies the charges, but captive Shia terrorists admit to being recruited by Iranian agents and then transported into Iran for training.
Iran established the Ramazan Corps immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime to direct operations inside Iraq. The US military says Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah have helped establish, fund, train, and arm, and have provided operational support for Shia terror groups such as the Hezbollah Brigades and the League of the Righteous. The US military refers to these groups as well as the Iranian-backed elements of the Mahdi Army as the "Special Groups." These groups train in camps inside Iran.
US and Iraqi forces have captured several high-level Qods Force officers inside Iraq since late 2006. Among those captured are Mahmud Farhadi, one of the three Iranian regional commanders in the Ramazan Corps; Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative; Qais Qazali, the leader of the Qazali Network; and Azhar al Dulaimi, one of Qazali's senior tactical commanders. The US has imposed sanctions on Major General Ahmad Foruzandeh, the former Qods Force commander, and Abdul Reza Shahlai, a deputy commander in Iran's Qods Force, for backing Shia terror groups inside Iraq.
US military officers believe Iran is ramping up its operations inside Iraq after its surrogates suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Iraqi military during the spring and summer of 2008. Iraqi troops went on the offensive against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed terror groups in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq. More than 2,000 Mahdi Army members were killed and thousands more were wounded. The operation forced Muqtada al Sadr to agree to a cease-fire and disband the Mahdi Army.