Iranian Militias Are in Iraq to Stay

Last month, reports appeared in Arabic-language media that Israeli jets had attacked Shiite militia bases in Iraq. Whether or not these reports are accurate, Jerusalem has good reason to fear that Tehran will use its proxy forces to do in Iraq what it has done in Lebanon and is currently doing in Syria: that is, turn the country into a staging ground for attacks on the Jewish state. The Iraqi prime minister, meanwhile, issued a decree on July 1 that these Iran-backed militias must fully subordinate themselves to the country’s military or disband. But John Hannah doubts that much will change:

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi no doubt believes that the act of issuing the decree, and perhaps enforcing parts of it against less powerful [Iranian-sponsored militias], will buy him time and credit with the United States. . . . The Iraqi leader is also surely suggesting to Washington in private that defeating Iran’s powerful proxies will be a long-term process—one that requires patience, the avoidance of direct confrontation, and the slow but steady process of strengthening state institutions that will eventually smother and neutralize these militias through largely peaceful bureaucratic maneuvers.

Unfortunately, if history is any guide, it’s not at all clear that time has worked in favor of those seeking to oppose Iran’s entrenchment in weak Arab states using powerful Shiite militias. Lebanese Hizballah is of course the archetype. Despite ever-greater amounts of Western assistance to strengthen legitimate state institutions, in particular the Lebanese army, Hizballah’s primacy as Lebanon’s most dominant actor has only expanded—to the great peril of Israel, the Middle East, and U.S. interests. . . . It’s not at all clear what could prevent the full “Hizballah-ization” of Iraq at this point—but it’s unlikely to be the weak tea of Mahdi’s decree.

U.S. officials are facing an unpleasant reality. . . . The United States considers the Iraqi government to be an important security partner, providing its military with billions of dollars of support and advanced equipment. But that same partner has welcomed a group of Iran-backed militias—all sworn enemies of the United States, some designated terrorist groups, and most with American blood on their hands—into the Iraqi security forces as a largely independent, parallel army. The Iraqi government now generously funds those groups through the national budget.

This is not a sustainable U.S. policy toward Iraq—no matter how well-intentioned Mahdi or other Iraqi leaders may be.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy

Iran Violated the Nuclear Deal in Several Ways, Some of Which Are Irreversible

Nov. 15 2019

On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published its most recent report on the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, which lists numerous breaches. The report follows on Tehran’s recent announcement that it has begun enriching uranium up to 5 percent, ignoring the 3.67-percent cap to which it committed itself in 2015. Moreover, the IAEA confirmed Israel’s finding that Iran is storing uranium at a previously undisclosed site. David Albright and Andrea Stricker summarize and analyze these findings and others:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at FDD

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mossad