Iran said to have developed Shi’ite proxy force in Iraq for deployment elsewhere

The Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces has some 80,000 fighters. /AFP

 

Iran has in place thousands of loyal Shi’ite militiamen in Iraq that could be used as a permanent force in the region, deploying to hot spots in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, analysts say.

There are some 80,000 fighters under Iran’s direction in the Hizbullah Brigades, Badr Organization and other groups that fall under the Iraq-approved umbrella group known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Continue reading

The Shia Power Brokers of the New Iraq

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Iraqi security forces backed by allied Shiite Popular Mobilization forces and Sunni tribal fighters prepare to attack Islamic State positions at Khalidiya Island in Anbar province, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. (RWA FAISAL/AP)

 

 

As the embattled country wages war on ISIS in the north, its future may be decided by clerics in the south.

KARBALA, Iraq—The inner sanctum of the Imam Hussein Shrine shines day and night, illuminated by jeweled chandeliers. Their light is reflected in the mirrored domes of the roof, and gleams across the gold-framed marble walls. At the center of the shrine, a stream of pilgrims presses against the gilded grating that surrounds the sarcophagus of Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad. In 680 AD, Imam Hussein was killed in the Battle of Karbala fighting the forces of the Umayyad caliph, his death cementing Sunni political dominance across the Islamic world. The battle was the point of no return in the schism between Sunni and Shia Islam, becoming the basis for the Shiites’ distinct rituals and identity, at the center of which is Hussein’s sacrifice.

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US officials: Up to 100,000 Iran-backed fighters now in Iraq

As many as 100,000 Iranian-backed Shiite militia are now fighting on the ground in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials — raising concerns that should the Islamic State be defeated, it may only be replaced by another anti-American force that fuels further sectarian violence in the region.

The ranks have swelled inside a network of Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Since the rise of Sunni-dominated ISIS fighters inside Iraq more than two years ago, the Shiite forces have grown to 100,000 fighters, Col. Chris Garver, a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, confirmed in an email to Fox News. The fighters are mostly Iraqis. Continue reading