The US Military Is Still Working with Iranian Guards Officers in Iraq

Just under a month into the Trump presidency, the contradictions between his foreign policy objectives and reality were nowhere more startling than in Iraq and Syria. And that was even before the forced resignation of Mike Flynn as National Security Adviser on Monday, Feb. 12.
Brett H. McGurk, who was Special Presidential Envoy to Barack Obama for the Global Coalition, has survived the directive issued for his removal by Flynn and Defense Secretary James Mattis, and continues to toe the previous administration’s line on US-Iranian collaboration in Iraq as well as Syria.
As a result, President Donald Trump and his team are seen to have failed to get a grip on the situation on the ground in the Middle East’s main battle arenas. And worse, Trump threatened to brand the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and al Qods a terrorist organization at a time that American generals and colonels were sharing command quarters with officers of those organizations, especially in Iraq.
Together, they continued to plan operations, pore over maps and discuss equipment and tactics as though nothing had changed in Washington and Obama’s pro-Iran policy was still in place.
Iranian commanders on the spot, led by their top officer, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Al Qods chief, may have had a quiet laugh over this mix-up.
It is especially glaring in the Tal Afar operation which was launched last November
Iranian-backed Iraqi military units, under the aegis of the Popular Mobilization forces (PUM), are fighting to encircle the town and push towards the Syrian border in order cut off the Islamic State’s supply routes from its Iraqi headquarters in Mosul to its forces in Syria.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that McGurk and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of US forces in Iraq and Syria, are still running that operation.
There are no Iraqi government forces in the Tal Afar arena.
The US-Iranian entanglement runs deep. Around 15,000 PUM militiamen out of an estimated 120,000-strong force are furthermore engaged in the offensive to capture western Mosul.
McGurk and Townsend must carefully avoid direct formal contact with Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the Hezballah Brigades chief and Deputy Commander of PUM, whom the US Treasury designated a terrorist.
But Muhandis also happens to be Gen. Soleimani’s most senior adviser. And so he can’t be avoided in the course of US-Iranian military operations in the field.
This entanglement is the fruit of the Obama administration’s decision to “gift” Tehran with the prize of al Afar by attaching American officers to all the Iranian and pro-Iranian forces command centers. They have the authority to approve or veto all military operations and authorize US air or artillery support – which they still do.
So far, the Americans have not allowed PUM to go into Tal Afar, only encircle it.
But Tehran’s object as relayed to Gen. Soleimani is to seize control of the Iraqi-Syria border in order to consolidate the most important link in Tehran’s cherished overland bridge to Syria and the Mediterranean via Iraq. Obama instructed US officers and the US air force to help Tehran achieve this prime strategic goal.
Our sources also reveal that, in line with this policy, American officers in Iraq are also collaborating with another pro-Iranian militia, the Badr Organization, previously known as the Badr Brigades, an Iraqi Shiite political party headed by Hadi Al-Amiri
McGurk and Townsend have been maintaining close ties with Al-Amiri and view him as a leading pro-Iranian light well worth US investment.
The tangled situation in Iraq is fast reaching the point where a decision by the Trump administration to pull the US officers, who are working closely with Tehran’s two Iraqi Shiite armed surrogates and the Al Qods general, would risk bringing the entire US military, intelligence and political edifice erected by the Obama administration crashing down.

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