Qassem Soleimani (Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Iran’s Militias in Iraq are a Threat to Stability

Al-Mada, Iraq, June 21

Last week, the US special envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, presented to members of Congress his report on the increasing role of popular mobilization militias operating in Iraq. These groups, which take orders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and General Qassem Soleimani, have been able to impose their presence in Iraq’s political scene and compete with the state’s regular armed forces and official security services. Hook spoke about the importance of ensuring that US weapons are only distributed to official state entities and not to these militias, while blocking Iran’s path to consolidate its influence in Iraq. This report and Hook’s special hearing are very telling in that they signal that Iraq is among the top concerns of American policymakers these days. In many ways, the Americans understand that the future of Iran’s involvement in the region will be settled in Iraq. In the past few years, and specifically since the December 2011 withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, the militias operating in Iraq promoted sectarian strife and undermined any attempt to reconstruct Iraqi civil society. Then, following the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, Tehran began increasing its support of Iraqi militias, with the hope of gaining more leverage against other countries in the region. But the Iranian regime did not take into account the greater geopolitical changes in the region, and ignored the adverse reaction of the people in the Middle East — including in Iraq — to its expansionist ideology. Tehran thus suffered immense losses and paid a heavy price for its clientlist politics. Unfortunately, many political figures in Iraq continue to be bribed by Iran. They point to terrorism and describe it as a problem stemming from “neighboring countries” without naming the Iranian regime specfically. The Iraqi popular militias, although supported by a law of the Iraqi parliament and subject to the powers of the prime minister, turned into an existential threat at the hands of Iran. The only way to protect Iraq is to dissolve these militias and bring an end to Iran’s influence over Baghdad’s politics. – Hamid Al-Kilani (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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