Iranian proxies step up their role in Iraq

Phillip Smyth writes: On June 10, Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki publicly called for the establishment of popular militias in response to the latest jihadist offensives in Mosul and other areas. Yet well before this announcement, Iran’s proxies — including Kataib Hezbollah (KH) and Asaib Ahl al-Haqq (AAH) — had already redeployed some of their forces fighting in Syria back to Iraq. Extensive evidence shows that these proxy groups have been recruiting fighters for Iraq, and that such recruits are working closely with the Iraqi army and Internal Security Forces (ISF).

Iran’s proxies have been involved in extensive recruitment efforts for months, with KH stepping up its efforts in late April to rally fighters behind the “defense of Iraq.” One result was the establishment of a new group, Saraya al-Dafa al-Shabi (the Popular Defense Companies). In May, an official KH video announced that this force was fighting alongside the ISF. In addition, AAH and another Shiite militia group, the Badr Organization, have established numerous city-based “popular committees” since April.

As early as January, fighters from AAH and the Iranian-guided Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) announced that they had sent forces back to Iraq from Syria. Subsequently, AAH claimed that its fighters were involved in this year’s fighting in Fallujah. These redeployments and recruitment efforts also entailed major restructuring of organizations in Syria. [Continue reading…]

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