Shahu alqurra Daghi
New Iraq Centre Advisor
After the abrupt visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 7th and his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdulmahdi to discuss the US worries about the Iraqi Sovereignty due to the increasing Iranian activities, the US warnings pace remarkably went higher. For example, the US issued warnings to its citizens on May 12 and then ordered the US non-emergency employees whether in the US embassy in Baghdad or the consulate in Erbil to leave Iraq on May 15th. According to the embassy warnings, anti-US sectarian militias may threat the US citizens and western companies in Iraq.
This escalation synchronized with the intensification of the US sanctions against Iran. Iran tried to use its proxies in the region to strike the US interests or the interests of its allies in the region to prove its power and to send political message underlining it’s capability to ignite the region anytime for the sake of its interests and national security. For example, sabotage of four ships in alFujairah Port on May 13th where the Revolutionary Guard were accused of facilitating the operation. Tehran was also deemed to be behind targeting Saudi premises by Houthi militias using explosive drones on May 14th.
It is well known that Iran considers Iraq a backyard by virtue of its power deployment there . This deployment embodied in the armed militias and factions related to Iran financially and ideologically. They include Hezbollah, Asaeb Ahlu Alhaq and Alnojabaa movement and they are all willing to defend Iran and fight the US in case of any threat. Actually, these groups has a history of terroristic attacks and previously classified as terroristic and added to the terrorism list by the US due to its activities and relation with the Revolutionary Guard.
In this regards, US senator Marco Robeo commented on May 8th that “battalions of Hezbollah and Asaeb Ahlu Alhaq are well prepared and exercised Shia militias. They’re led by the Revolutionary Guard and if they attack our premises or our employees in Iraq, it can’t be considered different to the regular or normal direct attack.”
It seems that the US realizes how grievous are Iran’s proxies in the region, so it classified one of the Iranian arms dubbed as Alnojabaa as a foreign terroristic organization in March, one month before classifying the Revolutionary Guard as terroristic. In this respect, Iran representative in Brussels Brayan Huk “Iran’s era of denying responsibility for attacks has ended, it is illogical that Tehran trains and prepare its proxies and then expect a blind eye.”
On the other hand, the US worries about its interests in the region were reinforced by the continuing threats from Iran-backed militias that are pledging to target the US forces and bases in case any conflict breaks out in the region. In this context, close sources to Iran-backed militias and factions in Iraq said that they had put number of scenarios to strike the US interests in the region and that they just await the orders from the Revolutionary Guard. One of these sources is the Lebanese News Paper affiliated with Hezbollah who uncovered the Iraqi militias’ intentions to carry out three scenarios:
Firstly, Bombarding the US blocks such as embassies, training centres and bases with missiles. Hezbollah battalion has actually threatened the US forces to be targeted by its militias in case the US tries to use Iraq as a base to strike its neighbours and it actually bombarded the US Ain alAssad base in 2018 as a reaction to the death of dozens from its militias were killed in a US air raid.
Secondly, putting ambushes in the way of the US convoys in different Iraqi governorates, specifically in the Northern and western (unexpected) governorate.
Thirdly, kidnapping some of the US citizens in case the confrontation between both sides escalated especially in the southern governorates (such as Basra) where there are big numbers of US citizens.
The fourth scenario is the most grievous as it included the usage of ballistic missiles by the Iraqi militias against the US allies in the Middle East. Last year, Reuters news agency cited Iraqi, Iranian and western sources affirmed that Iran provided its proxy Shia militias in Iraq with ballistic missiles and that it was working in developing its mechanism to make more missiles in Iraq. This was in a bid to face the expected attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to have an indirect a way to strike its enemies in the region.
According to Reuters information, the missiles were the type of Zelzal 110 and Zulfiqar whose ranges of 200 km to 700 km. This means that it will enable them to target Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Tel Aviv in Israel.
Actually, Tehran prefers striking Washington’s allies in the region through its proxies as we have seen in the attacks against Saudi Arabia and Emirates. Such kind of attacks can be repeated in Iraq as Tehran tends to direct its arms rather than its army in order not to give the US an excuse to attack Tehran and its interests in the region and to evade the responsibility for these operations.
Several sources also affirmed that Qassem Suleimani, general in the Revolutionary Guard is currently in Iraq holding meetings with the leaders of the Shia factions and militias. These meetings were to make sure of its preparedness to face any US attack and to defend the Iranian interests.