There is a bill in Congress, the Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017 that would declare the Iraqi Shia militias Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Harakat al-Nujaba terrorist organizations.
That’s all good and well, except for the fact the two outfits are salaried by the Iraqi government and officially part of Iraq’s armed forces subordinate to the country’s Ministry of the Interior.
In 2014 he US-built Iraqi army melted away against the onslaught of ISIS flooding in from eastern Syria. In its place rose up numerous Iraqi grassroots militias, which succeeded in holding back the ISIS tide and played a large role in all subsequent Iraqi offensives to defeat ISIS.
Eventually the militias also won patronage by the government, whose Interior Ministry first started out paying pensions to widows of slain fighters, and eventually also the salaries of active fighters. Though free to set their own leaders and flags, and in charge of their recruitment, the Iraqi militias now have an official status, much like the country’s army and police.
The two militias in the US Congress’ crosshairs are especially pro-Iranian, but they’re hardly outside the Iraqi mainstream or its armed forces. In fact, as far as the US is considered pretty much all Iraqi Shia which form the majority of the country’s population are too pro-Iranian for comfort.
The pair is also very active fighting in Syria on the government side against the formerly US-backed Sunni Salafist rebels, and has threatened to join Hezbollah in the possible fight for Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Should the “Terrorist Sanctions Act” pass the vote in Congress this will be the first time US declares an existing part of Iraqi armed forces a “terrorist organization”.
Actually another Iraqi Interior Ministry militia (Kata’ib Hezbollah) have already been declared “proxy Iranian terrorists”, but in their case they were put on the US’ terrorist list before they became part of Iraqi armed forces.
The fun part of this is that US still claims it won the Iraq war of 2003-2011. Thus in the American narrative the US won the war…only for the Iraqi armed forces to become a bunch of anti-American, Iranian proxy terrorists a few years later. Something doesn’t quite fit here does it?
The part that doesn’t fit is the US winning the Iraq war. Actually the US withdrew from Iraq before it was forced to fight a full on Shia uprising, and left the country in the hands of Iran-friendly currents which certainly was not the plan in 2003.
The irony is that during its occupation of Iraq when it was suppressing a Sunni uprising (partly funded from Saudi Arabia), its de facto closest allies on the ground among the Shia were the most pro-Iranian factions which it now deems “terrorists”.
The US Congress would now like to pretend it is targeting people who were in the front lines of the fight against US presence in 2003-2011. Actually in that war, the pro-Iranian Badr and Dawa militias were America’s cobelligerents against the Sunnis, and the more nationalist-minded Sadrist Shias, and recipients of enormous amounts of money, weapons and training.
Whether it wants to admit it or not, the US is now taking aim at its former clients, who just happened to be no more pro-American than the guys it hunted in their own country for a decade during the bloody occupation.