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IRGC Naval Force Commander Defends Foreign Militia's Presence in Iran

Iran -- The newly appointed IRGC's Navy Commander Alireza Tangsiri, undated.
Iran -- The newly appointed IRGC's Navy Commander Alireza Tangsiri, undated.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s naval force commander Alireza Tangsiri has defended the deployment of foreign militia in Iran’s flood-hit areas after two weeks of silence in the face of harsh criticism by members of Iranian Parliament (Majles )and Iranians on social media.

Tangsiri told IRGC's Fars news agency on Sunday April 21, "Eight Iraqi Hashd al Sha'bi vessels were sent to help us," with flood relief.

He further explained: "The commanders of Hashd al-Sha'bi have fought alongside IRGC troops during the war with Saddam Hussain's Iraq" in the 1980s. "They have had a major part in sorting out the problems caused by floods. Their vessels were efficient."

However, Tangsiri charged that those who are against Hashd al-Sha'bi's presence in Khouzestan are either ill-informed or they are linked to strangers."

The arrival of IRGC-trained foreign militias from Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan in Iran triggered a lot of criticism and anger in Iran as they were voiced on social media, and by political activists in flood-hit Lorestan and Khouzestan provinces.

The militia are mainly affiliated with the Iraqi Hashd al-Sha'bi and Al-Nojaba groups and the Afghan Fatemiyoun battalions.

Ali Sari, an MP for Ahvaz in Khouzestan told reporters that he was not able to comment on the presence of Iraqi militia and their military equipment in Iran as he was unaware about how they were allowed to enter Iran.

However, hardline daily newspaper Kayhan in Tehran reported that the Iraqi forces have arrived in Iran upon an invitation made by IRGC's Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.

Later, pictures were released on Iranian news agency websites showing Hashd al-Sha'bi Leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis sitting next to Soleimani in a Crisis Management Headquarters meeting in Khouzestan.

Iranian analyst Reza Haghighatnezhad, wrote about the body language of those present in the picture in a tweet, opining that in the absence of the Rouhani administration, Soleimani and the Iraqi commander are making the decisions.

Al-Muhandis is a major Iran-backed Iraqi commander. Previously, he became known to international press for his comments about his men's role in creating a Shiite passage to strengthen Tehran's influence from Iran to Lebanon.

While several members of Iranian Parliament criticized foreign militia's presence in Iran last week, on Sunday, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, an MP and a member of the Majles National Security and Foreign Relations Committee defended the Iraqi militia's presence saying, "We helped Iraq in the past. Now they are helping us."

​He added: "Iraq is our neighbour. We should be concerned about the presence of Americans, the French and the Europeans. The Iraqis are simply here to help."

This comes while there is still no report about the Iraqi government's approval of deployment of Hashd al-Sha'bi into Iran. There is also no report about an Iranian official permission to allow the entry of foreign militia into Iran. Based on the Iranian Constitutional Law, such a measure should be approved by the Majles or the Supreme National Security Council beforehand.

Abdolkarim Hassanzadeh, MP for Naqadeh, and Bahram Parsai, MP for Shiraz, have already noted the violation of Constitutional Law.

Meanwhile, Karoun Newspaper in Ahvaz wrote in a commentary that "Iraqi militia's presence in Khouzestan is questionable." A comment Iranian journalist Shahram Rafizadeh says the editors of Tehran's conservative press are not brave enough to make.

Also, in videos posted on social media, several local residents in Khouzestan protested to foreign militia's presence in their hometowns.

Earlier, chairman of Tehran's revolutionary court, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi had warned that "If we fail to help the revolution, Iraq's Hashd al-Sha'bi, Afghan Fatemiyoun and Pakistani Zaynabiyoun will do the job."