Sunday, October 20, 2019 | ePaper

Iraq's stability on the line as US, Iran tensions soar

  • Print


A billboard depicting Shiite spiritual leaders and volunteer fighters from the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces who were killed in Iraq fighting Islamic State militants, is displayed in Basra, Iraq.

AP, Baghdad :
As the United States and Israel escalate their push to contain Iranian influence in the Middle East, countries in Tehran's orbit are feeling the heat.
Pro-Iranian militias across Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are being targeted, both with economic sanctions and precision airstrikes hitting their bases and infrastructure. This is putting the governments that host them in the crosshairs of an escalating confrontation and raising the prospect of open conflict.
Nowhere is that being felt more than in Iraq. It is wedged between Saudi Arabia to the south and Iran to the east and hosts thousands of U.S. troops on its soil. At the same time, powerful Shiite paramilitary forces linked to Iran pose a growing challenge to the authority of the central government.
As the pressure mounts, divisions within Iraq's pro-Iranian factions have burst into the open, threatening to collapse a fragile government coalition and end a rare reprieve from the violence that has plagued the country for years.
"Regional challenges facing Iraq will make it even more difficult for Adel Abdel-Mahdi to bring the (militias) under control," said Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, referring to Iraq's prime minister.
The divisions among Iran's Shiite allies in Iraq have been spurred by a spate of airstrikes blamed on Israel that have hit weapons depots and bases belonging to the Iran-backed militias, known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF.
There have been at least nine strikes since July both inside Iraq and across the border in Syria, sparking outrage among PMF leaders. They blame Israel and by extension its U.S. ally, which maintains more than 5,000 troops in Iraq.
Israel has not confirmed its involvement in the attacks, and U.S. officials have said Israel was behind at least one strike inside Iraq.
The attacks have fueled calls for a U.S. troop withdrawal by hard-line anti-American groups in the country that have strong ties to Iran.
"The Americans are hostage here ... If war breaks out, they will all be hostages of the resistance factions," said Abu Alaa al-Walae, secretary general of the Sayyed al-Shuhada Brigades, one of the prominent militia factions with strong ties to Iran. He spoke in a televised interview this week.

More News For this Category

Some worries about nuclear weapons at Turkey base

Some worries about nuclear weapons at Turkey base

AP, Washington  :Frayed U.S. relations with Turkey over its incursion in Syria raise a sensitive question rarely discussed in public: Should the United States remove the nuclear bombs it has

Violence escalates in Barcelona after 500,000 separatists rally

Violence escalates in Barcelona after 500,000 separatists rally

AFP, Barcelona :Violent clashes escalated in Barcelona late Friday, as radical Catalan separatists hurled rocks and fireworks at police, who responded with teargas and rubber bullets, turning the city centre

Last Soviet leader Gorbachev urges Russia, US to hold nuclear talks

Last Soviet leader Gorbachev urges Russia, US to hold nuclear talks

Reuters, Moscow :Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, warned on Friday that the world was drifting into a dangerous era of militarised politics and appealed to Moscow and Washington to

Chile President declares state of emergency after violent protests

Chile President declares state of emergency after violent protests

AFP, Santiago :Chile's president declared a state of emergency in Santiago Friday night and gave the military responsibility for security after a day of violent protests over increases in the

Lebanon paralysed by nationwide protests over proposed taxes

Lebanon paralysed by nationwide protests over proposed taxes

AP, Beirut :Nationwide protests paralyzed Lebanon on Friday as demonstrators blocked major roads in a second day of rallies against the government's management of a severe economic crisis and proposed

News In Brief

High-profile cases turn spotlight on domestic violence in RussiaAFP, MoscowNatalia Tunikova's partner pushed her towards the open balcony in their high-rise Moscow flat, before punching her to the floor. Fearing

Fighting in Kurdish-held Syrian town despite cease-fire

Fighting in Kurdish-held Syrian town despite cease-fire

AP, Ceylanpinar :Fighting continued Friday morning in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went

Pompeo seeks to reassure Israel amid Syria turmoil

Pompeo seeks to reassure Israel amid Syria turmoil

AP, Jerusalem :Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israel's prime minister on Friday to reaffirm the countries' close ties at a time when many in Israel fear the

Venezuela wins seat on UN rights body despite opposition

Venezuela wins seat on UN rights body despite opposition

AP, United Nations :Venezuela won a contested election for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday despite a campaign by over 50 organizations and many countries

China wanted executive fired for supporting Hong Kong protests: NBA chief

China wanted executive fired for supporting Hong Kong protests: NBA chief

AFP, Washington :China demanded that a Houston Rockets executive be sacked for supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said.Rockets general manager Daryl Morey ignited