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Pentagon Report: Iraq’s Security Forces Overrun by Iranian-Backed Militants

For first time, DOD discloses that Iran controls large portions of Iraqi security forces

Volunteers from the Shia Badr Brigade
Volunteers from the Shia Badr Brigade / Getty Images
• February 14, 2022 5:00 am

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Iraq’s security forces are overrun by Iranian-backed militants, the Pentagon disclosed for the first time publicly in a report indicating Tehran’s anti-American militias have long been cashing in on U.S. taxpayer funds.

"Iran and Iran-aligned militias continue to have strong ties to some elements of Iraq’s traditional security forces," the Pentagon’s inspector general informed Congress in a new report on U.S. military operations in the region. Iraq’s federal police and emergency response division, both overseen by Iraq’s Interior Ministry (MOI), as well as the Iraqi Army’s fifth and eighth divisions "are the units thought to have the greatest Iranian influence." However, "officers sympathetic to Iranian or militia interests are scattered throughout the security services."

The report marks the first unclassified admission that Iran controls and directs large swaths of Iraq’s security infrastructure, according to current and former U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon. Though Iran’s influence has been an open secret for decades, the Pentagon continued to provide funding to Iraq’s MOI, which is siphoned to the country’s Badr Corps, an Iran-created fighting force that was absorbed into Iraq’s security infrastructure after the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003.

The high-ranking presence of the Badr Corps in Iraq’s security forces has long been a source of concern for Iran hawks in Congress. But the Pentagon’s first public acknowledgment of their power is renewing calls for the Biden administration to cut off funds to Iraq’s MOI and designate the Badr Corps as a terrorist group due to its ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

"The DoD’s Inspector General report proves what we’ve known for too long—Iraq’s federal police and MOI have been infiltrated by Iranian-backed militias," Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Free Beacon. "President Trump’s [National Security Council] warned of this exact scenario and made efforts to cut off funding. With this report in hand, it’s time Congress finally take action to defund any U.S. support going to Iraq’s MOI and federal police forces. Our U.S. taxpayer dollars have no place in the hands of the Iranian regime."

While the Trump administration privately raised concerns about the Badr Corps and Iran’s growing presence in Iraq’s security forces, it was not able to cut funding due to objections from the Pentagon, according to sources familiar with the matter. Despite their ties to Iran, the Badr Corps and other Iranian militia groups in Iraq are seen as central to the battle against ISIS, a rival terrorist faction.

"It was always surprising that DOD justified paying the MOI given their control by Badr Corps and the IRGC," one former Trump administration official who handled Iran and Iraq policy told the Free Beacon. The official requested anonymity in order to openly discuss the sensitive topic.

With the Biden administration in the final stages of inking a new nuclear accord with Iran, it is unlikely the United States will cut funding to the MOI and Badr Corps.

"Given the concessions this administration has made at the negotiating table in Vienna, I don’t expect them to do what is right. Enough is enough—the American people deserve a competent foreign policy. They don’t deserve their tax dollars going towards the IRGC" Rep. Pat Fallon (R., Texas), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon. "This report proves that this administration and congressional Democrats are complacent in the funding of Iran’s terrorism within the Iraqi government."

Matthew Zais, a former senior Trump administration official, acknowledged on Twitter last week that the Trump administration "tried to stop" the Defense Department from giving cash to Iraq’s MOI. These efforts were followed with a bid by the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest GOP caucus in Congress, to stop American funds from reaching Iranian-backed militants in Iraq. In its 2021 budget proposal, the RSC called for defunding Iraq’s MOI due to Iranian infiltration of its ranks.

While this effort failed, RSC members say the Pentagon report confirms their worst fears about the MOI and Badr Corps.

"The latest report by the Department of Defense inspector general confirms that Iran and Iran-aligned militias continue to have strong ties to some elements of Iraq’s traditional security forces," Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), head of the RSC’s national security task force and a Foreign Affairs Committee member, told the Free Beacon. "The Biden administration should re-evaluate funding to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior as long as it includes Iranian-backed militias, such as the Badr Corps, which were responsible for the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad."

Published under: Iraq, Pentagon