Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Forces Pressure Baghdad to "Expel" U.S. Forces from Mosul

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Mar 31, 2017
Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Forces Pressure Baghdad to "Expel" U.S. Forces from Mosul

A spokesman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) has called on the United States and its allies to withdraw their forces from Mosul. “The international coalition has not assisted Iraq other than killing civilians and helping terrorists,” Ali al-Husseini said in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency, an Iranian outlet affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.). “The coalition has also had a role in supporting Daesh [Islamic State]. In addition to providing military and logistical aid to this terrorist group, it has also played a role in helping its members to escape,” he further alleged. He claimed that the militia forces, with the help of the Iraqi security forces, are able to finish the battle of Mosul. “The Iraqi Popular Mobilization urges the Baghdad government to expel the international coalition from the Mosul battle and oppose Pentagon’s deployment of more American soldiers to Iraq,” he concluded.

Comment: With the Islamic State’s collapse in Mosul looming, Iran-supported Iraqi militia groups have turned their attention to Iraqi rivals and the U.S. military advisers assisting the Iraqi security forces in Mosul and across the country. In the past one month, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) and its Iraqi proxies have dialed up a vicious propaganda campaign against the U.S. mission in Iraq – accusing American troops of aiding terrorists. The killing of scores of civilians in Mosul in a U.S.-led coalition air strike in Mosul earlier this month has provided another opportunity for Iran-backed forces in Iraq to spread anti-American propaganda in Iraq.

The latest escalation in propaganda raises the fear that the Iranian proxies are likely to redirect their focus on undermining the U.S. interests in Iraq once the Islamic State – the common enemy – is ousted from Mosul. Tehran may also be sending a veiled threat to the Trump administration that its proxies will retaliate against U.S. military and civilian personnel in Iraq if Washington pushes back against Iran’s regional agenda.

The PMF consists of militia units largely from Shiite but also other Iraqi ethnic and religious groups. While some PMF units are Iraqi nationalists and follow Iraq’s top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, many prominent groups within PMF have close ties with Qassem Suleimani, the head of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force. Despite PMF’s diversity, however, it is the Iran-backed militia units within the PMF that are playing the most prominent role in western Mosul.