A Shi'ite cleric wearing military uniform with Hezbollah members..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah will send 800 men to fight alongside Iraqi forces against Islamic State for the control of Mosul, the London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper reported Sunday.
According to sources, following the battle over Tikrit, Tehran turned to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with a joint Iraqi-Iranian request to support the fight against Islamic State in Mosul with trained fighters. An unnamed source told al-Jadeed that Nasrallah agreed to send about 800 men from elite units to participate in the anticipated battle.
The source cited the similarity between the topography of southern Lebanon and the mountainous terrain of Mosul as an advantage in the integration of Hezbollah forces into the fighting, saying the Lebanese men are already familiar and experienced fighters in both open areas and narrow streets.
The fighters will enter Iraq equipped with light gear and arms.
Once there, Iran will equip the men with heavy weapons.
The source told al-Jadeed that unless there are any developments on the Israel-Lebanon border, the fighters will deploy within two to three weeks. The men are expected to be stationed in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra, where they will work to draft plans for the attack on Mosul.
Iran has already began operating an operations center in Samarra led by Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force.
According to the report, Iran’s interest in advocating for the integration of Hezbollah in Iraq’s fight against Islamic State lies in its desire to deter US forces from engaging in ground activity for the liberation of Mosul. Iran, according to the source, is trying to lead a battle against Islamic State without the integration of US-led coalition forces, and plans to independently lead preemptive air strikes on Islamic State targets, similar to those traditionally conducted