US concerned over Shiite militia joining Iraqi army
WASHINGTONThe Iraqi government’s effort to integrate a Shiite militia, the al-Hashd al-Shaabi, into the country’s security forces is concerning as it might increase Iran’s influence with Baghdad, a U.S. general said on Nov. 30.
“It will increase obviously Shia - potentially Iranian - influence over the government of Iraq and we have to be concerned about it,” the head of Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, said during a panel discussion at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative Washington-based think tank, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The Iraqi Parliament passed a law last weekend that formally recognized the controversial Iran-backed al-Hashd al-Shaabi as an “independent military entity” operating within the Iraqi army.
Votel said he believes that the nuclear deal inked between world powers and Iran last year did not prompt change in “Tehran’s sponsoring of terror groups and fueling of sectarian conflicts.”
“[The nuclear deal] is implemented appropriately but it addresses only one of our concerns,” he said of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, adding that since the deal Iran has sponsored more than 100,000 Shiite militias in conflicts, including in Yemen and Iraq.
“I would probably say there is a little bit of uptick,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi special forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants on the eastern side of Mosul have retaken 19 neighborhoods from the extremist group since the battle for the city began last month, Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the special forces told The Associated Press on Nov. 30.
Fadhil said his men were now about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Tigris river, which slices the city in half. He said the 19 neighborhoods constituted less than 30 percent of the part of the city east of the Tigris.