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Iran is building a force in Iraq that Baghdad can't control

Published by Business Insider on Wed, 08 Jul 2015

A central part of the US strategy to defeat ISIS is to reignite a fraction on the 100,000 strong Sunni awakening that played a major role in the US surge strategy against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the Iraq War.But Baghdad and Tehran remain opposed to arming Sunnis while igniting their own Shia awakening ' one Baghdad may have no control over.The only non-American force that proved capable of defeating AQI after the 2007 surge of US forces was a Sunni one, and it now sits on the sidelines amid distrust of Baghdad and Washington.The 100,000 strong Sunni Awakening and Sons of Iraq security initiatives were key to decimating AQI and protecting Sunni neighborhoods from Shia militia reprisal attacks during the height of the Iraq War.This force was so effective that then-Prime Minister Maliki considered it a threat to Shia control of Baghdad. The Shia strongman eventually dismantled, disarmed, and targeted its leaders leaving it vulnerable to reprisal attacks by AQI and Shia militias.And now ISIS ' the latest and strongest iteration of AQI ' and Shia militias are threatening Sunni tribesmen.In 2007, Maliki sought assurances from the US that it was not building a coup force as the Sunni Sons of Iraq grew to 100,000 strong.I was in the meeting when Maliki's Deputy Director of the Office of the Commander and Chief (OCINC) Dr. Bassima al-Jaidri's jaw dropped. Dr. Bassima then shot daggers at the U.S. general as she said, 'Who gave you permission to build a 100k strong Sunni army of insurgents''This Sunni force was funded and armed by the U.S., and Maliki was convinced this force could some day turn its weapons on Baghdad at the behest of the U.S. He consequently set out to end the paid militia in 2007 and succeeded in 2011.Maliki was subsequently key to creating a Shia awakening with Iranian-backed militias in the lead. After all, it was Maliki who announced the creation of the People's Mobilization Units (PMUs)or Hash'd al-Sha'abi in Arabic to fight ISIS.Not so long ago the Iraqi government feared a 100,000 man force that didn't answer to the prime minister ' now one exists that certainly does not answer to the prime minister. Current Prime Minister HaiderAbadi should be asking the same question of Iran that Maliki asked the U.S. in 2007: Are you building a coup force'Iran is now funding and providing arms to 100,000 Shia who are joiningIranian-backed Shia militias under the umbrella of Population Mobilization Units (PMUs).These men do not answer to Abadi ' they answer to Hadi al-Ameri, leader of the Iranian-backed Badr Corps. And he answers to Qassem Soleimani, Commander of the IRGC Qods Force.Al-Ameri commands the PMUs and credits Tehran and Soleimani for preventing Baghdad from falling to ISIS. He openly criticizes PM Abadi and pledges loyalty to Soleimani.And then there is the Iranian spy and leader of Kataib Hizbollah ' a U.S. designated terrorist group ' Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. He is a top PMU leader and a Soleimani's lieutenant. Muhandisis regularly pictured at the table with Prime Minister Abadi, Hadi al-Ameri, and on the battlefield with Soleimani. He recently traveled with Abadi.Both the Obama Administration and the Abadi government have done their best to sell Iraq's PMUs as legitimate forces that answer to the Prime Minister ' even though they do not.When an organization is led by leaders from the Iranian-backed militias of the Badr Corps, Kataib Hizbollah, and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, there is no question the organization is a militia on steroids in the service of Tehran.These "Sons of Iran" have designs on growing Iran's influence to the detriment of Iraq. In fact, they were mobilized to protect Iran's interests in Iraq under the guise of fighting ISIS ' they are fighting Sunnis in areas vital to Iran.They will not retake Mosul or Ramadi, they are designed to negate Sunni threats to areas Tehran sees as strategic - Mosul and Ramadi are not.This is a willing and capable fighting force when Shia strategic areas are threatened - the problem is this force sees Baghdad as the prize, Sunnis as the threat, and ISIS as a great cover to get all you can while you can.The Iran-backed force is not being built to only fight Sunnis and clear out core strategic areas ' Tehran wants to create a parallel structure with which to dominate the political scene, making every politician dependent on/fearful of the Iranians and this tool of theirs.The effort to dismantle the Sunni Sons of Iraq began the day it was created. And now the Shia Sons of Iran are being built up by design.Michael P. Pregent is a former intelligence officer and military advisor on the Iraqi Security Forces and the Sons of Iraq. He is now an adjunct at theNational Defense University.SEE ALSO:A former US intelligence officer in Iraq explains why Obama's revamped ISIS strategy is doomed to failJoin the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: Turkey's Latest Plan To Drain $3 Million A Day From ISIS Is Working
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