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In Iraq, US ally with former Iran-backed enemies – INTERNATIONAL



Iraqi Interior Minister Qassim al-Araji has a disturbing history with the US. As a former commander of a militia backed by Iran, his loyalties are in question. But when he met with US Ambassador Douglas J. Silliman last year, he had a startling message: he and other former Shiites wanted the Americans to stay. Iraq needs its help, he said, to stabilize the country and combat the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

The request represented a monumental change for some of the most influential Shiite leaders in Iraq and offered an opportunity for the US to take its elusive security objectives in the region, albeit with some unlikely partners

taking a chance ]

But the developing alliance means the US military is taking a risk: training, exchanging intelligence and planning missions with former members of Iranian-backed militia who once fought and killed Americans

Several former militia commanders are closed high-ranking political positions. Now, it is expected that a coalition of them will be among the biggest winners in Saturday's parliamentary elections, which will give them an even more important role in the new government and possibly determine the future of the US presence in Iraq.

The US has intensified military operations and anti-terrorist missions in remote corners of the world, but in Iraq, it's about a different direction. Here, the US is reducing its troop presence and playing that common interests with former opponents will help prevent a resurgence of the IS group. The bet seemed to pay off with the announcement this week that a joint Iraqi-US intelligence service has captured five leading IS leaders. And with Donald Trump pursuing a confrontational approach to Iran, the US military hopes to use its evolving Iraqi partnerships to pull Shiite factions out of Iran's orbit.

After regular IS forces collapsed in 201

4, a coalition of Iranian-funded Shiite militias took up positions against the extremists. The militias never worked directly with the US, but a joint command helped coordinate their efforts to defeat IS forces.

Now some of the most influential militia leaders are working directly with the Americans, pushing for a continued military presence in the US. For some of these former militants, the demonstration of superior equipment and capabilities of the United States gained a new foothold in combat. Others say they have ideological reckoning, a realization that years of sectarianism and interference by Iraq's neighbors would have made their nation susceptible to invasion.

& # 39; Iraq needs the USA & # 39;

"We've all made mistakes In the past, Americans, like us, have," said Hadi al-Ameri, the leader of the Badr organization, the largest of the Shiite militias fighting against the IS and the leader of the electoral alliance of former militiamen, known as Fatah. "Now we need their help, we can not turn our country into a playground for other powers and their agendas."

The vote on Saturday could decide whether the US military will remain in Iraq. Most polls show that the current leaders are the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Washington's closest ally in Iraq, and Mr Ameri, on whose electoral list is Minister of the Interior Araji. If one of them heads the new government, the military partnership is likely to continue. NJ Times


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