It’s been a little over a year since Fallujah and Ramadi fell to ISIS and almost seven months since US troops returned to Iraq. Back in September I wrote a series describing how we got where we’re at and how things would continue to deteriorate as we send more troops to push the problem past Inauguration Day 2017. Sadly, my predictions continue to be accurate.
The latest news is that a senior Shiite Iraqi militiaman, while speaking about Gen. Ghasem Soleimani commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force advisory role, described the last time he met Soleimani. He was on the outskirts of Baghdad speaking Farsi with an Iranian Quds force soldier manning a US-provided Iranian Army M1 tank. That is as disturbing as the rest of the news coming out of Iraq.
For all our efforts in Iraq, Iran’s influence continues to grow. This is due to Iran’s very public and prominent military support which includes front line fighters, battalions’ worth or Revolutionary Guards and nearly $10 billion dollars of military aid to Iraq. Jamal Jaafar, former Shiite militia leader, confirmed that Iranian planes fly in daily delivering military supplies.
Over a month before the first US airstrike, Iranian pilots flying returned Iraqi SU25 Frogfoot close air support aircraft (the Russian version of the A10) were conducting airstrikes against ISIS. When we started sending troops to assess the situation in the Kurdish region, Iran had already committed thousands of troops, attack helicopters and event tanks.
After the Iraqi Army melted away, Shiite militias recruited wildly. Influenced and led by Iran, they along with Iran’s substantial support, are credited with stopping ISIS by most Iraqis. The Badr militia’s leader Hadi al-Amiri credited Iran from preventing a “government-in-exile” because of Iran’s swift support. These militias have since become part of Iraq’s defense infrastructure further solidifying Iran’s hold on Iraq. Even Khaled al-Obeidi, Iraq’s Sunni defense minister, credited Iran’s assistance a “strategic necessity” for Iraq.
So even as our support has gone from a couple hundred troops, to less than a thousand to the present goal of a 3000-man force that’s surprisingly overwhelmingly conventional , Iran is getting the credit for saving the Iraqi regime. Billboards in Baghdad commemorating dead Iraqis include the faces of Iranian mullahs and Iran’s leaders have consistently minimized the importance, effectiveness and motivation of US support. To the average Iraqi, US efforts seem primarily aimed at helping the Kurds.
Ali Khedery, who served as special assistant to five American ambassadors to Iraq, a senior adviser to three commanders of U.S. Central Command and the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq has warned that Iranian influence will be “strategically catastrophic”. Khedery, who resigned to protest the U.S. failure to stop Iranian influence in Iraq a year before the drawdown said, “It further consolidates Iran’s grip over the Levant and Iraq.” That prediction is even more credible considering a report Iran manufactures its missiles in Syria and a nuclear program is being pursued. That’s a nice move if one is trying to hide nuclear development from negotiations in Vienna.
So to summarize the bad news, we have Iranian Revolutionary Guards operating the US’s main battle tank. Iranian controlled Shiite militia incorporated into Iraq’s defense ministry. Iran being looked upon as primarily responsible for Iraq’s success in stopping ISIS and the vision of where Iraq may go as Iranian influence in Syria is so strong that it builds its missiles there.
Well there’s some good news for Iraq. ISIS is now reported recruiting in Afghanistan. Maybe it will distract ISIS from its ongoing success in Iraq and Syria. Sadly, ISIS expanding beyond Syria and Iraq was something I predicted long ago.