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Iraq government unable to control Iran-backed militias in security forces - Pentagon report

Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, Iraq on 3 November 2020 [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency]
Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, Iraq on 3 November 2020 [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

The Pentagon has called out the Iraqi government's inability to hold the Iran-backed Shia militias accountable, stating that they are scattered throughout Iraqi security forces.

In the Pentagon's latest quarterly report which was declassified last week, the office of the Pentagon Inspector General highlighted an increasing number of attacks by pro-Iran militias against US interests in Iraq and Syria during the last three months of 2021.

According to the report, those increased attacks were primarily due to two main reasons: the "strong ties" that the militias and Iran enjoy with "some elements of Iraq's traditional security forces", as well as the government's weakness in confronting the militant elements to restrain them.

Despite the attempted assassination of Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, in November, the report stated, "The Iraqi government's ability to assert control over the Popular Mobilisation Committee (PMC) or hold its affiliated militias accountable remained tenuous".

Expanding on the deep ties between Iraq's security forces and the Iran-backed militias, the Pentagon specified the Badr Corps, the military arm of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq,  which has former officers being integrated into Iraq's ministries of interior and defence. In those positions, they are able to retain their ranks and are "often experiencing rapid promotions due to their political ties".

READ: It is time for the Iran-backed axis militias to be treated exactly like Daesh

The report also specified the country's Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, as well as the Iraqi Army's 5th and 8th Divisions as "the units thought to have the greatest Iranian influence," resulting in pro-Iran officers and figures being "scattered throughout the security services".

Despite their influence reaching such heights, the report assessed that "most ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] units remained committed to the Iraqi government and continued to follow orders from the Prime Minister in his role as commander-in-chief".

Overall, the 142-page report confirmed that the US had completed the transition of its role in Iraq from a combat mission to an advisory and assisting one. it stated, though, that it has not been able to scale down its role in Syria yet, as Iran-backed militias and groups continue to pose an increasing security threat to American forces there.

As the militias have grown stronger and more influential in Iraqi politics over the years, the US has consistently warned Baghdad to limit their overreach, especially in regards to their threats and attacks against American military and diplomatic presence in Iraq.

There has been little progress by Al-Kadhimi's government so far, however. Last month, Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr ‚Äď whose bloc emerged as the winner in Iraq's parliamentary elections last year ‚Äď guaranteed that there would be "no place for militias" in the country's new government.

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