Reuters exposes Iranian role in commanding Shiite militias in Iraq and increasing sectarian strife


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.


When a visiting New York mental-health counseling student asked residents of Gaza border communities why they stay despite the constant threat of missile attack, they answered in one word: Home. “It struck me that they said ‘This is my home and I don’t want to leave.’ After 9/11, we saw the same thing; many people didn’t want to leave Manhattan — this place that potentially could be a target — because it’s home and they love it,” says Gillian Hammond, a second-year graduate student at SUNY-New Paltz University’s Institute for Disaster Mental Health. Hammond and six classmates accompanied the institute’s director, Prof. James Halpern, on a 10-day January trip arranged through Ben-Gurion University (BGU) to learn about psychological first aid in Israel’s South and how Israeli coping strategies might be helpful in their work in the United States. She tells ISRAEL21c that although Americans tend to experience disaster (such as a hurricane or school shooting) as an isolated event, whereas Gaza-area Israelis live with an undercurrent of constant stress, she noted some significant similarities. “One of the biggest commonalities we’ve been talking about is the importance of people’s homes,” Hammond says. “We saw that a strong community gets people through and provides comfort and support  since everyone is going through the same thing.” Halpern, who has consulted for the United Nations on assisting victims of terror, agrees that “a strong sense of social support mitigates trauma and stress as much or more than anything else,” and this is what they observed in Sderot. (via Israel21c)


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