A conglomerate of different forces are involved in the battle aimed at retaking the Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq. A variety of Iraqi security forces, Peshmerga fighters from the Kurdistan region, Sunni Arab tribal fighters and the notorious Iran-backed Shiite militia groups, known for launching horrendous massacres against the country’s minorities. American special forces are also involved parallel to the Iraqis, playing an advisory role as Washington claims.
The real attention, however, must be focused on Shiite foot-soldiers dispatched to Mosul under orders issued by Iran, as the mullahs’ regime continues to provide much of their financial support. Iranian soldiers are also amongst these extremist groups. Iran is attempting to expand its military influence into northern Iraq by involving such entities in the fight for Mosul.
Iran is thinking long term and its growing reach bears the potential to further destabilize the region and compromise the flow of oil outside of Iraq. If Iran gains a foothold in northern Iraq, rest assured the central government in Baghdad will come under further pressure to continue disputing with the Kurdistan regional government over Kirkuk’s rich oil reserves.
Iran also has its eyes set on regional archrival Saudi Arabia. As Riyadh is pumping oil in record numbers of 10½ million barrels a day, Iran is seeking to combine its 3.65 million bpd to Iraq’s 4.45 million in order to have a major say against the kingdom. We must not forget how Tehran is also creating havoc for Riyadh by supporting the Shiite Houthis in Yemen and plunging the country on the kingdom’s southern border into complete chaos and civil war.
The oil fields in Iraq are scattered mainly in the south, near the port city of Basra, along with others located in the north. As a result, Iran has been pinpointing its recent measures in these very regions.
Iran-backed militias have since 2003 gradually increased their influence, further insinuating their ranks and files into those of the Iraqis. Iran has also sought an ongoing economic status, parallel to its military role, in the southern regions of Iraq, according to reports. This is particularly concerning in Basra where most of Iraq’s outgoing oil flows through.
The fight against Daesh has provided Iran the opportunity to extend its claws into areas traditionally belonging to the Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Back in March the U.S. State Department mocked the notion Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) was exerting its influence on Shiite militia groups in Iraq involved in the anti-Daesh assault in northern Iraq. This is yet another sign of the Obama Administration appeasing Tehran’s mullahs, aiming to safeguard their cherished and yet highly controversial nuclear agreement.
However, it cannot be denied that Iran has increased its influence in Iraq ever since. This is especially true through the establishment of the Popular Mobilization Front (PMF), the collection of Shiite militias carrying out their attacks under orders dictated by IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
With Iran-backed forces continuing to spread their presence in northern Iraq, Tehran will continuously seek to expand its influence over the central policy of the Iraqi government in this flashpoint corner of the globe.
Iran is thinking long term, seeking the ability to influence Iraq’s highly lucrative oil policy. The incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Party must right the wrongs of the current administration’s 8 years of flat-out wrong policies.