Petraeus: Iran joined jihadists in Basra battles

Petraeus: Iran joined jihadists in Basra battles

“Military and intelligence sources believe Iranians were operating at a tactical command level with the Shi’ite militias fighting Iraqi security forces; some were directing operations on the ground, they think.”

“Iran joined militias in battle for Basra,” by Sarah Baxter and Marie Colvin for The Sunday Times:

IRANIAN forces were involved in the recent battle for Basra, General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, is expected to tell Congress this week.

Military and intelligence sources believe Iranians were operating at a tactical command level with the Shi’ite militias fighting Iraqi security forces; some were directing operations on the ground, they think. […]

Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi’ite cleric, has called for 1m people to march on Baghdad on Wednesday – the fifth anniversary of the fall of the capital – when Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, will be briefing Congress.

A senior Iraqi official who met Petraeus last week said, “It will be difficult to show that the situation is improving.” Another Iraqi source described the US general as “furious” that al-Maliki moved against the militias into Basra without consultation and had to rely on US forces to bail him out.

Abu Ahmed, a senior military commander with the Awakening, the Sunni tribal movement cooperating with US forces, said progress was largely the result of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army ceasefire.

“When the Mahdi Army decides to resume its activities, neither the American troops nor the Iraqi government will be able to stop it,” he said.

Iranian meddling only complicates that situation. And, lacking the political will to defang and disarm al-Sadr’s militia has so far set the stage for a campaign of half-measures, which has only made al-Sadr appear stronger. We’ll see if that situation changes in the coming days.

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