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US warns: Weak gov't control over militias could push Iraq into civil war

Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on October 26, 2019.
Members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on 26 October 2019 [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images]

A number of senior US military officials have warned that rogue militias in Iraq could push the country into another civil war unless the government gained firmer control over them, Defense One reported.

The site quoted the commander of the US-led mission in Iraq and Syria, Lieutenant General Paul Calvert, as saying that he believes there are two major threats to Iraq "one is the PMF [Popular Mobilisation Forces] and two is the economy".

"Both left unattended are going to erode all the gains that have been made, in my mind," he added.

General Calvert and other officials stressed that the larger problem facing Iraq is the government's "very little" control over the militia groups, adding that while some of the major militia groups have some shared objectives; like removing the US forces from Iraq, they are also divided over the issue of Iranian influence in the country.

"It's clear to me and people that I've talked to [in Iraqi government], there's a significant amount of concern in terms of the possibilities of an internal Shia civil war between those that are aligned to Iran [and] those that are Shia nationalist," Calvert said.

Calvert stressed there is no doubt that Iran is seeking to "turn Iraq into a proxy state of Iran".

"There's a two-pronged approach…by trying to dominate through influence into the political blocs that are aligned to Iran, and then through the proxy forces," he said in reference to the militia groups that receive support and direction from Tehran.

READ: Saudi, Iraq discuss 'security coordination'

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