The schizophrenic empire
Last week the US military spokesman for the war on ISIS was full of praise for Iraqi militias, detailing their support role in the battle of Mosul, and their independent push towards the Syrian border:
I know that the Hashd Al-Shaabi, or, as we call them, the Popular Mobilization Forces -- they have, under the direction of the government of Iraq, been largely successful in their -- in their initial isolation phases of Mosul, to prevent fighters -- ISIS fighters getting into or coming out of Mosul -- between Mosul and Tal Afar.
They have since been able to conduct offensive operations around Tal Afar. In the last week alone, they have been able to take more than 600 square kilometers of area back from ISIS, largely around Tal Afar, all the way out to the Syrian border.
The PMF and Hashd Al-Shaabi -- they are under the direction of the government of Iraq, and they've been largely successful in those types of -- the responsibilities that have been given to them.
That is rather curious since the very same militias operate in Syria where they are derided and threatened by the US:
The U.S. military said on Thursday it had bolstered its "combat power" in southern Syria, warning that it viewed Iran-backed fighters in the area as a threat to nearby coalition troops fighting Islamic State.
"We have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat that is presented by the pro-regime forces," said the spokesman, U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, referring to Iran-backed forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Truth is that in Iraq the US fights on the side of Iran-backed Iraqi militias but then in Syria—where these militias are fighting the same fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda and its battlefield allies—the US instead backs a wide assortment of Saudi-sponsored groups many of them fiercely sectarian Sunnis.
This very moment the Pentagon is threatening some of the very same militias it works with in Iraq, with being bombed should they cross an arbitrary line in southern Syria, close to the Syrian-Iraqi border at al-Tanf.
The Iraqi PMU militias sprung into existence in mid-2014 when the regular Iraqi army fled and let ISIS capture wide swathes of Iraq without a real fight.
Many of the militias have received Iranian arms, training and leadership and are in communication with Iranian military strategists which often time help coordinate their actions.
The militias are part of Iraq's official armed forces and their fighters receive some –but not all– government benefits enjoyed by regular soldiers.