IRANIAN-BACKED MILITIAS THREATEN US FORCES IN IRAQ
Iran’s Press TV boasted on Saturday that “Hashd al-Shaabi stop US military patrol in Iraq’s Mosul.” The Hashd – also called the Popular Mobilization Units – are a group of militias that have grown in the last several years in response to the ISIS attack on Iraq in 2014. Some of the militias, such as Badr, have deep roots in Iraq, with leaders who fought alongside the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war.
Others, such as Qais Khazali’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq, were once considered terrorist gangs that targeted US troops and Sunnis in Iraq, after the US invasion of 2003. Khazali was once held at Camp Cropper, a holding facility run by the US Army. In December 2017, he went to Lebanon, from where he threatened Israel. The PMU in Iraq increasingly play a similar role to Hezbollah in Lebanon, supporting armed militias and members in parliament. The Fatah Alliance, led by Badr’s Hadi al-Amiri, came in second in Iraq’s May 2018 elections.
US forces in Iraq, deployed as part of the coalition’s anti-ISIS war, have not worked with the PMU during the war. This has presented a complex challenge because, ostensibly, the US is allied with the PMU in the anti-ISIS effort, even as the US administration of Donald Trump has ended the Iran deal and sought to confront and sanction Tehran.
IN THE LAST two years, the militias have increasingly threatened the US. In January 2018, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba often called for US forces to leave Iraq and issued threats against the US. In June 2018, Kata’ib Hezbollah also threatened to attack US forces after an air strike hit its fighters in Syria. In September 2017, they had already said they were ready to fight the US. In an interview published last week, Khazali said the US should leave Iraq.
These tensions have now boiled over in Mosul. US soldiers on patrol near the once-swank Nineveh International Hotel, found a street blocked by PMU vehicles. PMU members held their rifles pointed skyward looked at the Americans while a helicopter circled in the background and landed at an Iraqi base nearby. The Americans share the base with the Iraqis, according to locals. It was only the first or second patrol by US forces in this particular area, sources told the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis (MECRA), which published reports of the confrontation. Kurdistan24 reported that the US forces had air support during their patrol.
Read More: The Jerusalem Post
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