Iran Grows New Loyalist Iraqi Militias

Iran has hand picked hundreds of trusted fighters from among the cadres of its most powerful Iraqi militias, forming smaller, elite and fiercely loyal factions in a shift away from relying on large groups with which it once exerted influence, reported Reuters in an exclusive report.

The new covert groups were trained last year in drone warfare, surveillance and online propaganda and answer directly to officers in Iran’s Quds Force, the arm of its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) that controls its allied militia abroad.

They have been responsible for a series of increasingly sophisticated attacks against the United States and its allies, according to accounts by Iraqi security officials, militia commanders and Western diplomatic and military sources.

After Soleimani’s death, and with protesters turning against groups publicly linked to Iran, officials in Tehran became suspicious of some of the militia they had promoted and grew less supportive, according to the militia commanders.

“They (Iran) believed leaks from one of the groups helped cause Soleimani’s death, and they saw divisions over personal interests and power among them,” said one.

Another said: “Meetings and communications between us and the Iranians have reduced. We no longer have regular meetings and they’ve stopped inviting us to Iran.”

The Iraqi security officials, a government official and the three Iraqi militias commanders all said the Quds Force began splitting trusted operatives away from the main factions within months after Soleimani’s death.

The shift from supporting mass movements to relying on smaller, more tightly controlled cadres reflects a strategy Iran has pursued before: at the height of the US occupation of Iraq in 2005-2007, Tehran created cells that proved particularly effective at deploying sophisticated bombs to pierce US armor.

Read the complete article at: Asharq Al-Awsat
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