Iran tells Middle East militias: prepare for proxy war

Martin Chulov — The Guardian May 16, 2019

Iran’s most prominent military leader has recently met Iraqi militias in Baghdad and told them to “prepare for proxy war”, the Guardian has learned.

Qassem Suleimani (right) on the front line in the fight against ISIS near Amerli, Iraq, 2014. Click to enlarge

Two senior intelligence sources said that Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran’s powerful Quds force, summoned the militias under Tehran’s influence three weeks ago, amid a heightened state of tension in the region. The move to mobilise Iran’s regional allies is understood to have triggered fears in the US that Washington’s interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat. The UK raised its threat levels for British troops in Iraq on Thursday.

While Suleimani has met regularly with leaders of Iraq’s myriad Shia groups over the past five years, the nature and tone of this gathering was different. “It wasn’t quite a call to arms, but it wasn’t far off,” one source said.

The meeting has led to a frenzy of diplomatic activity between US, British and Iraqi officials who are trying to banish the spectre of clashes between Tehran and Washington and who now fear that Iraq could become an arena for conflict.

The gathering partly informed a US decision to evacuate non-essential diplomatic staff from the US embassy in Baghdad and Erbil and to raise the threat status at US bases in Iraq. It also coincided with a perceived separate risk to US interests and those of its allies in the Persian Gulf and led to a heightened threat that more than a decade of proxy conflicts may spill over into a direct clash between Washington and Tehran.

Leaders of all the militia groups that fall under the umbrella of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) were in attendance at the meeting called by Suleimani, the intelligence sources claimed. One senior figure who learned about the meeting had since met with western officials to express concerns.

As the head of the elite Quds force, Suleimani plays a significant role in the militias’ strategic directions and major operations. Over the past 15 years, he has been Iran’s most influential powerbroker in Iraq and Syria, leading Tehran’s efforts to consolidate its presence in both countries and trying to reshape the region in its favour.

The US has become increasingly vocal about the activities of Iranian proxies in the Middle East. Donald Trump this month named Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a western-designated terrorist group financed by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, as partly responsible for a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.

On Sunday, four ships – two of them Saudi oil tankers – were reportedly sabotaged off the UAE coast. The following day, drones launched by Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen attacked two Saudi pipelines. Saudi state media on Thursday called for “surgical strikes” against Iranian targets in response and its senior officials have told Washington that they expect it to act in its interests.

Adding to concerns is a belief that a convoy of Iranian-supplied missiles was last week successfully transported across Iraq’s Anbar province into Syria, where it was transferred safely to Damascus, regional diplomats told the Guardian. The transfer managed to evade US and Israeli intelligence, despite the latter’s interdiction of dozens of alleged missile deliveries in the past three years that have been flown into various Syrian airbases via an airbridge.

Fears of an Iranian-run land corridor emerging from the fight against the Islamic State, in which Shia militia groups played a prominent role, have been central to concerns that postwar Iraq and Syria could be subverted by regional manoeuvrings.

That Iran could emerge emboldened from the Isis fight has dominated recent discussions among Donald Trump’s uber-hawks, the national security adviser, John Bolton, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, both of whom are central to an escalating US sanctions programme and Washington’s abandonment of an international nuclear deal signed by Tehran and the former US president Barack Obama.

The Trump administration has remained wary of the Iraqi militias. Although they jointly led the fight against Isis, such groups were integrated into the Iraqi state structure, and have drawn increasing comparisons with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. While they include some Sunni, Christian and Yazidi units, they are dominated by Shia groups, the most powerful of whom enjoy the direct patronage of Iran.

The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, appeared to align the UK on Thursday with US claims that Tehran’s threat posture had changed. “We share the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran,” he said on Twitter. “As always we work closely with the USA.”

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2 responses to “Iran tells Middle East militias: prepare for proxy war”

  1. Isis and all terror groups are CIA Mossad, my son was out there
    but here in the UK, English people are now a minority, and if the UK contributes to a war on iran etc huge numbers of those pushed out from the middle east will take it out
    on government targets
    many politicians are already seeing how foolish this was to import in all those pushed out by israel

  2. Forget the corporate media and the journalists. They are all FOS. If you want to know what is going on with Iran and the Middle East then talk to someone from there and you will quickly learn that everyone has an agenda, but then there is Israel which is more ambitious than any of the others. With respect to Iran, just ask what interest group or nation besides China is pushing the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative). Follow the money and follow the development and you will see the hundreds of billions from the Western bankster cabal together with China pushing and financing the development which they envision will control most of future world trade.

    And where does Iran stand on the BRI? It stands right in the way. Afghanistan next door is already virtually a vassal state with the Taliban on side and Pakistan is even more so under wraps. Yet, the independent Iranian government, which will deal with China, blocks further control of the Western bankster cabal. Iran control of both its resources and its huge land mass stands in the way of bankster control of the BRI direction and completion. With the present Iranian government in place, it is doubtful that a greater Israel will become some kind of materialist mecca acting as a hub to connect trade routes from Africa and the RBI to Europe. Oil and gas is only one interest but the BRI makes Iran even more of a target despite the fact that only last February the government of Iran expressed its cooperation with China regrading the RBI extending from neighboring Afghanistan and through Iran.

    The Rothschild cabal which virtually owns and controls Israel, the Zionist movement, and huge swaths of all Western finances, will not allow Iran run by their sworn enemies to be a nexis in oil, gas or trade routes, or to prosper in some way making their own interests secondary. Hence, their intention for Iran is either regime change or war. Why not? NATO has the weapons and they have control of NATO through their control of Western finances, the media, and the legislatures. Will the next huge false flag engineered by the Mossad and the CIA occur in the US like 9/11, or will it be in Israel?

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