Iran is undermining US strategy in Iraq by taking over the country’s ongoing battle with Islamic State terrorists, the Washington Post newspaper has warned.
The Iranian regime’s meddling is interfering with the US aim of bolstering the central government, rebuilding the Iraqi army and promoting reconciliation with the country’s embittered Sunni minority, the paper said.
The paper wrote: “With an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 armed men, the militias are rapidly eclipsing the depleted and demoralized Iraqi army, whose fighting strength has dwindled to about 48,000 troops since the government forces were routed in the northern city of Mosul last summer, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
“A recent offensive against Islamic State militants in the province of Diyala led by the Badr Organization further reinforced the militias’ standing as the dominant military force across a swath of territory stretching from southern Iraq to Kirkuk in the north.
“As they assume a greater role, the militias are sometimes resorting to tactics that risk further alienating Sunnis and sharpening the sectarian dimensions of the fight. They are also entrenching Iran’s already substantial hold over Iraq in ways that may prove difficult to reverse.”
These militia, who are backed and often funded by Iran, openly proclaim allegiance to Tehran and many of the groups such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kitaeb Hezbollah are veterans of the fight to eject American troops in the years before their 2011 departure, the Washington Post said.
The Washington Post added: “But the militias’ chain of command runs through their own leaders, and in many instances directly to Iran. The man appointed to coordinate their activities is Iraq’s deputy national security adviser, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the nom de guerre of an Iraqi sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for his role as a top Iraqi commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. He was convicted in absentia by Kuwait for his part in bombings at the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983.
The paper said: “On a tour of the recently liberated villages, the danger that the militias’ role might only serve to enhance sectarianism was apparent. In one village, al-Askari, every home had been burned, a tactic Sunni politicians allege is intended to cleanse whole areas of Sunnis and prevent them from returning home.”