Iraq Turns to Iran, Not US, to Help Fight Against ISIS

(ANTIMEDIA) Iraq is set to launch a new — and perhaps final — offensive to retake the last major ISIS stronghold of Mosul without the assistance of Washington.

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Instead, Iraq is looking to one of their most strategic partners on the ground, the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), to win the battle against ISIS militants in Mosul. The PMF is a collection of Shiite volunteer militias which are, to a degree, supported and backed by Iran, and they were instrumental in liberating the town of Bashir in May of this year. The United States Air Force refused to provide air cover for the group during the battle of Bashir, reportedly due to the fact the Shiite militias have been documented carrying out revenge attacks against Iraq’s Sunni population. Further, prominent officials within the group are regarded by the United States as terrorists.

However, this appears to be a non-issue for the Iraqi regime and the Iraqi troops involved in fighting ISIS. The PMF is now officially affiliated with the Iraqi army, a decision made by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi over the summer. The group even enjoys funding from the Iraqi government, receiving $1 billion from the country’s federal budget (given that the U.S. government has provided Iraq with over $1.6 billion in aid, one could argue the U.S. is indirectly sponsoring their own worst nightmare).

The move signals a shift from Iraq’s previous dependence on the United States and its allies towards its strategic partners in the region. This shift has manifested itself in more ways than one, including the Iraqi government’s creation of a partnership with the Russian government to help combat ISIS. Further, Iraq has even directly told Turkey to withdraw their troops for the upcoming Mosul offensive as their presence “hampers” the Mosul liberation. This move directly demonstrates Iraq would rather rely on Iranian-backed troops than a NATO member.

As reported by Foreign Policy:

“‘We do not need America’s support,’ one fighter says. ‘The Hashd al-Shaabi has never been supported by the U.S. Since the beginning, there was direct support from Baghdad and Iran, and Iranian advisors are here. We tried [the Americans] for more than two years while ISIS was in Bashir, and they did nothing. They did not participate in any of the attacks that happened except for the last attack, when they covered the Peshmerga.’”

This shift in alliances should be of particular concern to Washington but should not come as any surprise. If the United States were serious about having an anti-Iranian, Iraqi-led government, then perhaps they should have left Saddam Hussein in power considering he spent eight years gassing Iranians to death. By overthrowing him, the U.S. played a dangerous game in leaving a vacuum Iran has been seeking to fill for over a decade. This unfolding of events has led a number of commentators to conclude the real winner of the Iraq war was not the United States, not al-Qaeda, and not the Iraqi people – it was the Iranian government.

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