Reuters reported on Tuesday about the significant Iranian role in arming, training, and commanding Shiite militias in Iraq. A secret branch of the Iraqi government known as the Popular Mobilization Committee (“Hashid Shaabi” in Arabic) serves as an umbrella group for Shiite paramilitary organizations; it is run by Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, who U.S. officials have accused of bombing the American and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983. He is reportedly the deputy of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, in Iraq. Suleimani is a U.S.-designated terrorist and the Quds Force is a designated terrorist organization. A commander of the Badr Corps, a Shiite militia accused of severe human rights violations, was quoted saying that Suleimani “participates in the operation command center from the start of the battle to the end and the last thing (he) does is visit the battle’s wounded in the hospital.” Iran has supplied everything from tactical support to drones, electronic surveillance and radio communications to the Iraqi militias. There are billboards in Baghdad depicting IRGC Gen. Hamid Taghavi, who was killed in northern Iraq last December.
Reporter Eli Lake has asserted in Bloomberg View that “On the front lines of Iraq’s war against Islamic State, it’s increasingly difficult to tell where the Iraqi army ends and the Iranian-supported Shiite militias begin.” A recent essay in Foreign Policy by Ali Khedery, former special assistant and adviser to five American ambassadors in Iraq, highlights the human rights abuses committed by Iraqi Army soldiers and Shiite militias. He criticizes what he views as American support for Shiite militias in the fight against ISIS. Khedery expresses concern that the infiltration of the Iranian-backed militias is “eclipsing Iraqi institutions, and sowing the seeds of conflict for decades to come.” In an essay in The Daily Beast appearing in early February, Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent wrote about Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq, which “has resulted in a wave of sectarian bloodletting and dispossession…usually at the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups…” The Iraqi Minister of the Interior is a member of the aforementioned Badr Corps. Shiite militias were responsible for a significant amount of American casualties during the Iraq War.