- Concern grows about role of Iranian-backed Shiite militias in battle for Fallujah
- State Department report: Iran remains “foremost state sponsor of terrorism”
- Israeli startup is sowing the seeds of plant protein for a hungry world
There is increasing concern among both Iraqis and regional experts that Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias will enflame sectarian tensions in the fight for the city of Fallujah. These Shiite militias, The Washington Post reported Friday, “have a reputation for brutal reprisals against Sunnis suspected of being loyal to the Islamic State and human rights groups have accused them of torture, forced disappearances and executions.” While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to limit their role in the fighting, Michael Pregent, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, said, “Abadi is powerless to stop the IRGC-backed Shiite militias.” One of the militias, the Badr Organization, which was formed in Iran, is busy firing artillery shells into the city. BBC News reported that their “radio chatter…was in Farsi [as was] the radio…at the CTF [Counter Terrorism Force] Operations Command center,” referring to an elite unit of the Iraqi army. Ali Khedery, who was the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq, said, “It will not surprise me if the city is leveled and a lot of people are killed at the hands of the Iraqi security forces and militias.” Majid al-Juraisi, a tribal leader from Fallujah, said that these militias “are sectarian just like Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS] is sectarian. We reject their involvement in this campaign – completely.”
The Shiite militias operate under the name Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs) and are commanded by Jamal Jaafar alp-Ibrahimi, whose nom de guerre is Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.The Wall Street Journal referred to him as the “right-hand-man” of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force. Militia leaders and Iraqi officials told the Journal that Suleimani “draws up plans for military operations that Mr. Ibrahimi carries out in Iraq, and approves arms and ammunition deliveries from Iran to PMF factions.” Muhandis wasdesignated as a terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2009 for his acts of violence against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and thereby “threatening the peace and stability of Iraq.” Muhandis played a role in the bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983 and in the attempted assassination of the Kuwaiti emir in 1985. During the Iraq War, he was responsible for smuggling weapons from Iran that killed hundreds of American soldiers.
Shiite militias operating in Iraq have been photographed posing with severed heads and torturing their victims. Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shiite militias at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has said that these groups “pioneered putting power drills through people’s heads, had reportedly carried out extensive ethnic cleansing operations, ran/run secret prisons, and even posed as homosexuals online to lure Iraqi gays in and murder them.” Khedery wrote in Foreign Policy last year that these Shiite militias “represent a clear and present danger to Syria, Iraq, the broader Middle East, and thus to fundamental American interests,” and are used by Iran to “advance its ambitions for regional hegemony.”
The report noted that Iran provides “a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to groups around the world.”
Iran continued to be deeply involved in the conflict in Syria, working closely with the Asad regime to counter the Syrian opposition, and also in Iraq where Iran continued to provide support to militia groups, including Foreign Terrorist Organization Kata’ib Hizballah. In addition, it was implicated for its support to violent Shia opposition group attacks in Bahrain. Iran was joined in these efforts by Hizballah, which continued to operate globally, as demonstrated by the disruption of Hizballah activities in Peru in 2014 and Cyprus in 2015.
Justin Siberell, the State Department’s acting counterterrorism coordinator, told reportersthat the State Department was “concerned about a wide range of Iranian activities to destabilize the region.”
The report specifically identified Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) as the country’s “primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.” IRGC-QF commander Qassem Soleimani is under a United Nations travel ban, but has been reported to have violated the ban by traveling to Syria and Iraq to direct military operations there, as well as to Russia.
Secretary of State John Kerry admitted in an interview in January that some of the billions of dollars that are to be freed up after the lifting of nuclear sanctions on Iran “will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists.” (via TheTower.org)