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U.S. Crisis with Iraq Over Iranian Threat

chouchou
chouchou
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Join date : 2012-12-20

U.S. Crisis with Iraq Over Iranian Threat Empty U.S. Crisis with Iraq Over Iranian Threat

Post by chouchou on Thu 01 Oct 2020, 3:33 am

Tensions between the United States and Iran created a political crisis in Baghdad in September after months of attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities by Iraqi militias armed, trained and aided by Tehran. The militias targeted U.S. bases, supply convoys and diplomatic facilities almost [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] in September. “We have had more indirect fire attacks around and against our bases the first half of this year than we did the first half of last year,” General Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] NBC News on September 10. The escalation follows the U.S. assassination in January of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Qods Force, and Abu Mahdi Muhandis, chief of Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah militia and the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF is an umbrella for some 60 militias that operate in separate brigades.

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The crisis reached a peak on September 20 when Washington [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Baghdad that it would soon [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] its fortified embassy in Baghdad unless Iraq stopped the militia attacks and brought the diverse PMF factions under state [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] . Secretary of State Pompeo’s warning, given in separate phone [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] with President Barham Salih and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi, was reportedly a [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] to Iraqi officials. “We hope the American administration will reconsider it,” Ahmed Mulla Talal, a spokesman for Kadhimi [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] on September 27.

“There are outlaw groups that try to shake this relationship, and closing the embassy would send a negative message to them.”

Some U.S. media [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] that the militias were plotting a direct attack on U.S. diplomats. More than 3,000 troops are deployed in Iraq; the U.S. Embassy, which has hundreds of diplomats and employees, is one of the biggest in the world.

Pompeo’s ultimatum came just four weeks after Prime Minister Kadhimi’s first visit to Washington signaled improved relations. The U.S.-Iraq relationship “is better than ever before,” President Donald Trump [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] during his Oval Office meeting with Kadhimi on August 20.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi with President Donald Trump at the White House
Kadhimi later acknowledged that U.S. officials were worried about Iraq’s militias. The new government, formed in May, had started to confront the broader “militarization” of Iraqi society, Kadhimi told journalists after seeing Trump. “Any weapons outside government control will not be tolerated.” But Iraqi security forces also need to be strengthened to contain the array of militias—Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish and Christian—that have proliferated since the 2003 U.S. invasion toppled President Saddam Hussein. “I have a paper sword. I need to turn it into a wooden sword, then eventually a metal sword,” he said. “I cannot afford to go to a confrontation while my tools are insufficient.”

Iran has emerged as the most influential foreign player in Iraq – politically, militarily and economically – since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Predominantly Shiite Iran took advantage of deep cultural and religious ties with Iraq’s Shiite majority – and a 900-mile border – to spread its influence. Since 2003, successive Iraqi governments have been caught in the middle of the U.S.-Iran rivalry. “It is a bitter fact that sometimes both countries were deciding who will be the next prime minister” in Iraq, Foreign Minister Hussein [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] on August 21. “The conflict between Washington and Tehran reflects itself inside Iraq... But we need both of you. One of them is our neighbor and a big power in the region. And the other one is our ally and a big power in the world.”
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] Kataib Hezbollah fighters carrying a poster of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Iran also fostered the creation of dozens of predominantly Shiite militias that became pivotal in countering ISIS in 2014 and later in menacing U.S. troops. On December 27, 2019, Kataib Hezbollah [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]  rockets at the K1 military base near Kirkuk, which housed U.S. military service members and Iraqi personnel. The attack killed a U.S. civilian contractor and wounded four U.S. service members and two Iraqis. The death of the contractor led to an escalation in U.S.-Iran tensions resulting in the U.S. killing of Soleimani and Muhandis. Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops. 
 
 
From January to September 2020, Iraqi militias carried out more than 120 [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , according to Michael Knights at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. They included:

  • 66 attacks on truck convoys carrying supplies for U.S. diplomatic facilities or U.S.-led coalition forces
  • 57 rocket and drone attacks on other U.S. targets, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

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Source: Knights, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

The attacks have been “steady harassment” but do not pose a serious threat to U.S. military forces, according to Knights. But the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was highly vulnerable to attack or hostage-taking in the run-up to the U.S. election, a “high-threat period,” he said. Kataib Hezbollah supporters [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] the U.S. Embassy in December 2019, one of the incidents that triggered the assassination of Soleimani and started the ongoing cycle.

Iraq reacted with major diplomatic and military initiatives. On September 24, Falih al Fayadh, the chairman of the PMF and a former Iraqi national security adviser, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] attacks carried out in the name of the group. Attacks on diplomatic missions “undermine the state and its authority,” the Fatah Alliance, a parliamentary block of pro-Iran parties, said in a [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] . Fayadh also [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] two leaders of separate PMF factions—Sayyed Hamed al Jazaeri of Saraya al Khorasani (the 18th PMF Brigade) and Waad Qaddo of Shabak in the Nineveh Plains (the 30th PMF Brigade).

Kadhimi also dispatched Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to Iran to help deescalate tensions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Hussein that the presence of U.S. forces in the region was “detrimental to regional security and stability.” After two days of talks, Iraq’s foreign ministry [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Iraq and Iran agreed that all Iraqi factions and parties should cooperate with the Baghdad government “to face the crises on Iraq and the region, as conflicts on the Iraqi arena may negatively affect stability in the region.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he emphasized the “imperative of protection of diplomatic posts” in his meeting with Hussein.

“Iraq is keen on enforcing the rule of law, the state's monopoly on having weapons, protecting foreign missions, and diplomatic buildings,” Kadhimi [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] the foreign diplomatic corps in Baghdad on September 30. “Those who carry out attacks on foreign missions are seeking to destabilize Iraq and sabotage its regional and international relations.”

On September 10, McKenzie [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Iraq for doing a “pretty good job” of protecting U.S. forces. “They've been responsive when people have fired rockets at us. They've gone out there to try to find them.” The attacks had not been “particularly lethal,” he said. The Iraqi militias backed by Iran have not been using their “high-end weapon systems. For whatever reason, it may be by design, we don't know, they're just not that successful at hitting anyone. And that's a blessing.”

A second issue between Washington and Baghdad is Iraq’s dependence on Iranian energy. The United States has sanctioned all Iranian oil exports but has been forced to give Iraq short-term waivers because it has no convenient or affordable alternatives. During Kadhimi’s visit to Washington, Iraq’s oil and electricity ministers [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]  agreements with five U.S.
companies, including Chevron Corp and General Electric, to develop Iraq’s energy sector. The deals are worth $8 billion to the American companies. But they may take months or longer to fulfill. “Iraq currently has no choice but to import natural gas and electricity from Iran,” Kadhimi acknowledged on August 20. In late September, the United States extended a sanctions [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , but for 60 days instead of the 120 days granted in May.

The following are profiles of militias that have been the most aggressive against U.S. forces, according to Knights. All were part PMF, an umbrella group of some 60 old and new [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] formed in mid-2014 in response to ISIS’ capture of wide swaths of Iraqi territory.


  • Kataib Hezbollah, or the Brigades of the Party of God (PMF Brigade 45, 56 and 57) dates back to 2004, when the Shiite militias began [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]  on the U.S.-led coalition. Five small armed groups united to form Kataib Hezbollah in [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]  under the tutelage of Iran, which provided weapons, funding and military advice; some of its fighters trained in Iran. Its fighters were held responsible for [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]  on the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. After the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah dispatched fighters to defend the Assad regime in Syria at the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]  of Iran. Kataib Hezbollah joined the PMF 2014. It has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on U.S. forces.
     
  • Asaib Ahl al Haq, or League of the Righteous (PMF Brigade 41, 42 and 43, also known as the Khazali Network) was founded in Iraq in 2006. AAH was an [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]  of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. It was initially [url=http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/reports/Asaib Ahl al Haq and the Khazali Special Groups Network.pdf]equipped, funded and trained[/url] by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, with support from Lebanese Hezbollah, in Iranian camps. It became one of the largest and most prominent militias in the PMF.
     
  • Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba (HHN), or Movement of the Party of God’s Nobles (PMF Brigade 12) is an offshoot of AAH and KH. It is an Iraqi group that was originally formed in 2013 to support the Assad regime in Syria. In 2014, its mission expanded to fight ISIS. HHN leaders have publicly [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Iran’s support. 
     
  • Kataib Sayyad al Shuhada (KSS), or The Masters of the Martyrs Brigade (PMF Brigade 14) was established in May 2013 to fight alongside the Assad regime in Syria. Similar to HHN, KSS expanded its operations to Iraq after the rise of the Islamic State in 2014. KSS has been supported and [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] by the IRGC since its inception.
     
  • Kataib Jund al Imam (KJI), or The Imam's Soldiers' Brigades (PMF Brigade 6) was [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] during the uprising against Saddam Hussein’s government in southern Iraq in 1991. It is [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] with the pro-Iran “Islamic Movement in Iraq.” 
     
  • Saraya al Khorasan, or Khorosani Brigades (PMF Brigade 18) dates back to Iran-backed elements in the 1990s. It [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] deployments to Syria starting in 2013 and later jointed the fight against ISIS.
     
  • Saraya al Jihad, or the Jihad Brigades (PMF Brigade 17) was [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] in 2014 soon after ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. It is affiliated with the Jihad and Development Movement, a political party, and reportedly deployed to [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] to fight for the Assad regime.


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    Current date/time is Sun 25 Oct 2020, 2:22 am