report from Baghdad on the growing influence of Iran-led Shia militias in Iraq. The report is based on interviews with majors actors within the militia community. Some of the main findings:
- As Baghdad struggles to fight ISIL, many Shia Iraqis now look to Iran as their main ally. The Shias trust the powerful Iran-backed militias that have taken charge since army deserted en masse last June.
- Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of Badr Organization, arguably the most powerful Shia paramilitary group in the country, considers Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei not just as the Iranian head of state, but the leader of the “Islamic nation.” Amiri says, “Khamenei would place the interests of the Iraqi people above all else.”
- Hashid Shabbi, or Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC), is a secretive entity under nominal government control that serves as an umbrella organization for several dozens militia factions in the country.
- PMC is run by Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, better known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a former Badr commander, and the right-hand man of Gen. Qasem Soleimeni, commander of the Quds Force. Muhandis is praised as militia fighters as “the commander of all troops.”
- Soleimani, Amiri and Muhandis are seen as the leaders of the militia.
- Iranian military advisers in Iraq have helped with everything from tactics to providing paramilitary groups with drones and signal capabilities, including electronic surveillance and radio communication. Iran has dispatched artillery units to Iraq to fight ISIL. The Iranian troops are the ones who launch rockets and artillery.
File photo: Iran's Quds Force Commander general Qasem Soleimani (r.) with Badr proganization leader Hadi al-Amiri, celebrating victory in a battle against ISIL by Iran-led Shia militias. November 2014 (Twitter/eaworldview)