Iraq's Pro-Iranian Shiite Militias Lead the War Against the Islamic State

(Washington Post) Liz Sly - Shiite militias backed by Iran are increasingly taking the lead in Iraq's fight against the Islamic State, threatening to undermine U.S. strategies intended to bolster the central government, rebuild the Iraqi army and promote reconciliation with the country's embittered Sunni minority. With an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 armed men, the militias are rapidly eclipsing the depleted and demoralized Iraqi army, whose fighting strength has dwindled to about 48,000 troops. The militias are entrenching Iran's already substantial hold over Iraq in ways that may prove difficult to reverse. Backed and in some instances armed and funded by Iran, the militias openly proclaim allegiance to Tehran. Giant billboards advertising the militias' prowess and featuring portraits of Iran's late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have appeared in central Baghdad. There is a real risk the U.S. will defeat the Islamic State but lose Iraq to Iran in the process, said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The Shiite militias don't want the Americans there and they never did." The militias' chain of command runs in many instances directly to Iran. The man appointed to coordinate their activities is Iraq's deputy national security adviser, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for his role as a top Iraqi commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

2015-02-17 00:00:00

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