Militias in Iraq provide security, wield political power and could tear the country apart

Militias in Iraq provide security, wield political power and could tear the country apart

BAGHDAD, IRAQ – Rogue militia groups threaten to plunge Iraq into civil war, senior US military officials warn in increasingly harsh language.

“I think there are currently two major threats to the Iraqi country: one is PMF” – the military abbreviation for militias – “and the other is the economy,” said Lt. Gen. Paul Calvert, the commander of the United States. – mission led in Iraq and Syria. “The two left unattended will erode any gains that have been made, in my mind.”

Iraq’s ever-evolving militia networks have frustrated US and Iraqi policymakers in several jurisdictions. In Washington, the problem often boils down to a single case of Iranian aggression because some of the militia groups take the occasional support and direction from Tehran. But the reality is far away more complex, say senior military officials and analysts in the region.

The bigger problem is that the Iraqi government has “very little” control over the militias, Calvert and others said. And while some of the major militia groups have common goals – such as the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq – they are also divided on the issue of Iranian influence in Iraq.

“It’s clear to me and to the people I spoke to [in Iraqi government], there is great concern about the possibilities of an internal Shiite civil war between those aligned with Iran [and] those who are Shiite nationalists, ”Calvert said…

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