A council of tribal leaders in Iraq’s Nineveh Province warned yesterday that Iran is expanding its influence in Mosul under the pretext of supporting the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) against the Islamic State in the region. The council further cautioned that Iran’s increasing role in the region could exacerbate sectarian tension and called on the U.S.-led coalition for assistance. A statement issued by the council stressed that it “rejects the Iranian expansion” in the west of Nineveh Province. “The expansion of the Popular Mobilization Militias is spreading over large areas of western Mosul under the guise of fighting the [Islamic] state," the statement noted, adding that the expansion of Iranian-supported forces is a “breach of an agreement” reached between Baghdad government, the Kurdish Regional Government and the international coalition prior to the start of the Mosul battle.
The statement concluded by cautioning that what is happening in western Mosul “serves no one but the Iranian plan to open a road route from areas in western Mosul to the Syrian border and in cooperation with the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party].”
Comment: With more than 90 percent of western Mosul liberated from the Islamic State, Iraqi political and armed factions as well as their regional backers are already engaged in a heightening struggle for control and dominance in the strategic region. The prominent role of Iran-backed militia and groups in western Mosul has long caused a great deal of concern among some Iraqi Sunnis as well as Sunni regional states – particularly Turkey. They fear that the Iran-backed sectarian groups may engage in revenge killing and rights abuses against Sunni residents of the region once the Islamic State is defeated entirely.