Israel launches two missiles at building south of Damascus – Syrian state television

IRBIL, IRAQI KURDISTAN: Iranian-backed Iraqi militias rejected the results of the October legislative elections in Iraq, in which their political wings did very poorly, and elements among them may well have been behind of the attack on Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi earlier this month.

But can anything be done on a practical level against the malignant threat of pro-Iranian Iraqi militias?

For years now, there have been widespread fears that the Iranian-backed elements of Hashd Al-Chaabi (or Popular Mobilization Forces) have amassed enough fighters and weapons to outshine the Iraqi security forces and constitute a Hezbollah-type threat to the Iraqi government and state.

This could lead to the “lebanization” of Iraq – a situation in which a powerful, well-armed Iranian proxy, borrowing from Hezbollah’s playbook, forcibly imposes his will on the country at Tehran’s behest.

How likely is such an outcome in today’s Iraq, where powerful elements armed with rejection challenge the outcome of an election monitored by the UN and even hailed by the Security Council?

“The militias pose a serious threat, but the Iraqi government and security forces are stronger, unlike Lebanon and Hezbollah,” David Pollock, Bernstein Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News.


Why Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah is unlikely to voluntarily disarm. Click here to read.

Even so, attacking the militias could prove difficult, even if they are not more powerful militarily than the state. Therefore, Baghdad might need foreign support. But who could help?

The United States has retained a small troop presence in Iraq as part of the multinational coalition it has led against Daesh.

However, under an agreement with the Iraqi government, these troops are only to serve as advisers and trainers for the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces from the end of this year.

NATO is embarking on a more active mission in Iraq, but it will also be a combat-free training mission to help Iraqi forces fight Daesh and prevent its resurgence.

“The main responsibility lies within Iraq, not with foreign aid. But the friendly powers support Iraq, and the American forces will maintain this mission, just with a new title, after this year, ”Pollock said.

“Arab governments should also contribute more to Iraq’s economy and public life, to counteract Iranian interference through its militias. The trend is in fact positive over the past two years, and the election results largely reinforce it. “

Al-Kadhimi made substantial diplomatic efforts to foster closer ties between Iraq and other Arab countries during his short period in power. He established improved ties with Egypt and Jordan, resulting in a state visit to Iraq by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi over the summer, the first such trip by an Egyptian leader in Iraq in 30 years.

The general consensus is that closer economic and political ties with these Arab countries, as well as with Arab Gulf countries, could, over time, help reduce Tehran’s authoritarian influence over Iraqi affairs.

Joel Wing, author of the website Musings on Iraq, believes that comparisons between Lebanon and Iraq are premature.

A protester lifts a national flag while burning tires amid clashes between Iraqi anti-government protesters and supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr. (AFP / photo file)

“In Iraq, every group wants to be part of the state so that they can exploit the oil money,” he told Arab News.

Certainly, the Iraqi Shiite militias are not a singular monolith eager to auction Iran in the country. The influential Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr, for example, has often opposed Iran’s influence in the country and called for the dismantling and disarmament of militias outside of state control.

His alliance was victorious in the elections and won many more seats in parliament than the political blocs backed by Iran.

Wing pointed out that Sadrists and Iran-backed factions have clashed in the past.

“The Sadrists and the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq fought a long battle for control of southern Iraq during the American occupation,” he said.

“Operation Charge of Knights (Battle of Basra) of 2008 was Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s attempt to defeat his rival Muqtada Al-Sadr. So you already have a precedent for the clashing Shiite parties.

Wing also noted that militias have been rampant in Iraq for nearly 20 years. “The militias have had the power to do much of what they want since 2003. This is because they were part and were supported by the government. It doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon, ”he told Arab News.

Iraqi Shiite members of the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (League of the Righteous) group gather in the southern city of Basra. (AFP / File Photo)

Nonetheless, Wing believes that foreign support from the Baghdad government and security forces remains important to Iraq’s future.

“The role the West can play is to continue to support the Iraqi government and the security forces,” he said.

“It’s not a perfect formula because there are all kinds of issues with the two, but taking a step back would give pro-Iranian forces even more influence in the country.”

Emily Hawthorne, Stratfor’s senior analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at RANE, told Arab News that there appears to be no sign that the Iraqi militias “are putting aside their aggressive tactics despite pressure from the government “.

“But the continued violence will force them to tolerate a wider popular backlash against their actions, which will negatively impact their electoral popularity,” she said.



* Hashd Al-Chaabi

* Asaib Ahl Al-Haq

* Kataib Hezbollah

* Kataib Sayyid Al-Shuhada


* Fatah Alliance (conquest)

* Al-Sadiqoun

Like Wing and Pollock, Hawthorne doubts Iraq is about to become another Lebanon.

“The Lebanese and Iraqi governments are struggling to exercise full control over state authority,” she said.

“But a big difference between Iraq and Lebanon is that the Iraqi federal armed forces are more cohesive, well armed and well trained compared to the range of non-state militias operating in the country. While in Lebanon, Hezbollah is heavily armed and could challenge the Lebanese federal forces if it wanted to.

Hawthorne does not rule out the possibility of an intra-Shia civil war in Iraq, but says it is “even more likely to unfold in the political realm than in terms of violent conflict on the streets.”

She believes that while Iraq is to take the lead in any initiative to combat the militias, foreign aid remains a very important factor.

“It is true that Baghdad will be mostly alone in its struggle with the Iranian-backed militias for control,” Hawthorne told Arab News.

“But the international support the Iraqi government has, and which the militias lack, helps Baghdad maintain the financial and military aid that will help the federal government stay on top.”

Previous Sudanese medics say 2 more protesters die from gunshot wounds
Next Lebanese central bank governor says corruption accusations are false | World news