The government of Iraq appears to be playing a double game with the United States and Iran over the influence of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias in the country.
Almost three years after a law was passed making Hash al-Shaabi integral part of the Iraqi security forces Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a decree ordering the Iranian-backed organization to integrate fully into the Iraqi military and abandon previous affiliations.
Mahdi issued an ultimatum which said the offices of Hasd al-Shaabi affiliated militias had to be closed down before July 31 while the militias also must end their practice of erasing checkpoints in areas where they want to increase their influence.
Militias failing to comply with the order will be considered illegal organizations while Mahdi gave them the option to transform into political parties after abandoning their weapons.
At first sight the move appeared to be the result of American pressure to curb the Iranian influence in Iraq. However, if we take a close look at what is actually going on in Iraqi Iranian relations we will see that the decree benefits Iran and that Iraq is playing a double game.
The US Administration of President Donald J. Trump started to pressure Iraq over curbing the activities of Hashd al-Shaabi after a series of attacks on US-related targets in Iraq by militias affiliated with the umbrella organization.
The State Department, furthermore, concluded that it was the Iranian proxy in Iraq and not the Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia in Yemen which was behind a recent drone attack on Saudi Arabia.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported the State Department “said it had evidence that drones used in the attack originated from southern Iraq, an area filled with pro-Iran Shia jihadist groups (Hashd al-Shaabi) that fight under the command of the Islamic (Iranian) Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”
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