Iran-backed militias step up attacks; at least one American unit’s deployment extended
Transfer cases containing the U.S. soldiers’ remains sit inside a U.S. Air Force C-5 cargo plane upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del., early in June 2011. (Photo credit: Jose Luis Magana / AP)
The Associated Press and NBC News via MSNBC.com
June 30, 2011
BAGHDAD — Shiite militias backed by Iran have ramped up attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, making June the deadliest month in two years for American forces. The militiamen’s goal is to prevent the U.S. military from extending its presence in the country past the end of this year.
However, at least one unit of U.S. soldiers is being extended 30-days beyond its original Dec. 2 redeployment date, NBC News reported Thursday.
The 900 soldiers of the Headquarters Unit of the 25th Infantry Division are now slated to leave Baghdad Jan. 2, officials told NBC News. The unit, home-based in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, is responsible for overseeing the drawdown in Iraq.
Three militias attack US troops
Three separate militias have been involved in June attacks, particularly a small but deadly group known as the Hezbollah Brigades, believed to be funded and trained by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard and its special operations wing, the Quds Force.
The militia attacks — mainly in the Shiite heartland in southern Iraq — raise the prospect of increased violence against Americans if a residual U.S. force remains in the country past 2011, a possibility being considered by the Baghdad government to help maintain a still fragile security.
They also point to the persistent efforts by Shiite-majority Iran, the United States’ top regional rival, to influence Iraq after the Americans’ exit. …
In the latest American deaths, a senior U.S. official in Baghdad said Thursday that three U.S. troops were killed a day earlier when a huge rocket known as an IRAM struck a remote desert base just a few miles from the Iranian border.
Officials told NBC News that three American were killed and seven wounded in a rocket attack on Joint Operating Base Shocker, a U.S.-Iraq partnering base 75 miles east of Baghdad and only five miles from the Iran-Iraq border.
This was the second attack this month on a partnering base that resulted in numerous U.S. military deaths, officials told NBC News.
The Wednesday deaths brought the monthly U.S. military toll to 15, nearly all of them of them from attacks suspected to have been planned by planned by Shiite militias. That’s the highest number of military deaths in Iraq since June 2009, and the most combat-related deaths since June 2008. Since March 2003, 4,469 American troops have died in Iraq.
Hezbollah Brigade reliant on Iran
The IRAMs are a hallmark of Hezbollah Brigades, or Kataib Hezbollah, a militia that U.S. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, the military’s top spokesman in Iraq, said is almost exclusively reliant on Iran.
The Hezbollah Brigades, which has links to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, is solely focused on attacking U.S. troops and other American personnel and claimed responsibility for a June 6 rocket attack that killed five soldiers in Baghdad.
The force, estimated at about 1,000 fighters, receives unlimited funding from Iran, an Iraqi lawmaker familiar with militia operations said. …
The new spate of attacks on U.S. troops began in mid-March, after the Obama administration started hinting it would prefer to see some American troops remain in Iraq into 2012 to help preserve the nation’s shaky security and stave off Iranian influence. About 46,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and those are supposed to leave by Dec. 31 under the terms of a 2008 security agreement between Washington and Baghdad.
Al-Sadr linked to another brigade
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, surrounded by bodyguards, speaks at recent Friday prayers in Kufa, 100 miles south of Baghdad. Shiite militias backed by Iran have ramped up attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. (Photo credit: Alaa al-Marjani / AP)
Also involved in anti-U.S. attacks is the Promised Day Brigade, linked to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.
Al-Sadr holds considerable sway in Iraq’s government, and U.S. officials believe the Promised Day Brigade — which is five times the size of the Hezbollah Brigades — poses more of a threat to Iraq’s long-term stability than the other militias. Al-Sadr’s political party holds 39 seats in parliament, and it was with his support that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was able to keep his job for a second term after 2010 elections. …
The force gets hundreds of millions of dollars in financial assistance, including from Iran, a large number of sympathizers in Turkey and donations from around the Muslim world, a senior Mahdi Army commander said. It is also funded by the Sadrist political organization, to which every party lawmaker and minister donates about $5,000 a month.
Iran contributes far less to the Promised Day Brigade than it does to other militias, in part because al-Sadr has avoided allowing Tehran to wield as much control over the force, said the commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the force’s inner workings.
Though he lived in Iran for the last several years, officials and analysts say al-Sadr wants to keep Tehran at arm’s length for political reasons amid the Iraqi public’s strong nationalist feeling. Still, Iranian money and weapons continue to flow to al-Sadr because of their shared animosity against the U.S.
Splinter group targets Americans
The third Shiite militia targeting Americans in Iraq is Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or Band of the People of Righteousness, a splinter Sadrist group that now competes with the Promised Day Brigade for support.
It does not have al-Sadr’s backing, and an Iraqi close to the extremist group said it relies on Iran for support, including around $5 million in cash and weapons each month. Officials believe there are fewer than 1,000 Asaib Ahl al-Haq militiamen, and their leaders live in Iran.
The Iraqi intelligence official estimated about 3,000 Shiite militiamen — two-thirds of them Mahdi Army — were jailed by U.S. forces during the height of the war but later released by Iraq’s government because of a lack of evidence to hold them. Most of them have made their way back to the front lines, the official said, more fueled by anger at American troops than ever. …
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FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — June 30, 2010
One year ago today, I observed that Rep. Michele Bachmann’s paranoid “One-World” delusion had reared its head yet again. While lunacy has traditionally been associated with the phases of the moon, this particular figment of Bachmann’s paranoia seems to wax and wane on an annual cyle coinciding with the yearly G-20 summit.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — June 30, 2009
ACORN will be a paid partner with the Census Bureau and “they will be in charge of going door-to-door and collecting data from the American public.”
— Michele Bachmann, Wednesday, June 17, 2009.
Ruling: Pants on Fire! | Details
The Constitution only requires us to tell the Census Bureau “how many people are in our home.”
— Michele Bachmann, Wednesday, June 17, 2009.
Ruling: Pants on Fire! | Details
Two years ago today, on June 30, 2009, I reported that between January 2008 and June 2009, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann was 0 for 5 on the PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter. Her latest ratings at the time involved two “ridiculously false statements” regarding the 2010 Census.
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