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Monday, June 22, 2015

'CHANGE' - Iran's Forces and U.S. Share a Base in Iraq.

'CHANGE' - Iran's Forces and U.S. Share a Base in Iraq. (Bloomberg) HT: CarlinJerusalem.

The U.S. military and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are getting closer and closer in Iraq, even sharing a base, while Iran uses those militias to expand its influence in Iraq and fight alongside the Bashar al-Assad regime in neighboring Syria.

Two senior administration officials confirmed to us that U.S. soldiers and Shiite militia groups are both using the Taqqadum military base in Anbar, the same Iraqi base where President Obama is sending an additional 450 U.S. military personnel to help train the local forces fighting against the Islamic State. Some of the Iran-backed Shiite militias at the base have killed American soldiers in the past.

Some inside the Obama administration fear that sharing the base puts U.S. soldiers at risk. The U.S. intelligence community has reported back to Washington that representatives of some of the more extreme militias have been spying on U.S. operations at Taqqadum, one senior administration official told us. That could be calamitous if the fragile relationship between the U.S. military and the Shiite militias comes apart and Iran-backed forces decide to again target U.S. troops.

American critics of this growing cooperation between the U.S. military and the Iranian-backed militias call it a betrayal of the U.S. personnel who fought against the militias during the 10-year U.S. occupation of Iraq.

“It’s an insult to the families of the American soldiers that were wounded and killed in battles in which the Shia militias were the enemy,” Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain told us. “Now, providing arms to them and supporting them, it’s very hard for those families to understand.”

In an email, Omri Ceren of The Israel Project adds:
A parade of horribles. From a political perspective, the U.S. is sharing a base with Iran-backed Shiite militias that killed American troops, which will be toxic publicly and on the Hill. From a military perspective, the U.S. is allowing itself to be spied on by groups that could use that intelligence if they're unleashed on American troops by Iran, which may deter the Obama administration from pressuring Tehran. And from a diplomatic perspective, the scoop will confirm fears across the region that the U.S. is realigning with Iran – or that, at the very least, Washington is literally and figuratively providing fuel for Iran's expansionist campaign across the region:
The U.S. is not directly training Shiite units of what are known as the Popular Mobilization Forces... but the U.S. is flying close air support missions for those forces. The U.S. gives weapons directly only to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces, but the lines between them and the militias are blurry. U.S. weapons often fall into the hands of militias like Iraqi Hezbollah.

Sometimes the military cooperation is even more explicit. Commanders of some of the hardline militias sit in on U.S. military briefings on operations that were meant for the government-controlled Iraqi Security Forces, a senior administration official said... “There’s no real command and control from the central government,” one senior administration official said. “Even if these guys don’t attack us... Iran is ushering in a new Hezbollah era in Iraq, and we will have aided and abetted it.
 Read the full story here.

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