WASHINGTON, D.C. — The participation of Iran-allied Shiite militias in the U.S-backed operation to retake Fallujah from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is a testament to the Islamic Republic’s growing and troubling influence in Iraq, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) told Breitbart News.
The Montana Republican, who served as commander of U.S. special forces in Fallujah back in 2004, accused the Obama administration of fueling Iran’s expanding control, adding, “He has placated Iran at almost every juncture to where now Iran, with our resources, has much greater influence in Iraq and continues to expand.”
In March, an Iran-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, considered one of the deadliest, threatened to “deal” with some U.S. Marines deployed to northern Iraq.
“We made some mistakes in Iraq, which set the stage for all the problems in the country: We supported a pro-Shiite centralized Iraqi government that disenfranchised Sunnis and the Kurds up north, and we left early and created a vacuum,” declared Zinke, former commander of the storied Navy SEAL Team Six.
“In Fallujah, the problem set before us is the Shiite militia movement, which is backed by Iran and its military leadership, and the U.S. just standing by watching the Iraqi centralized government rely more and more and more on Iran,” he continued. “As the U.S. expends forces against ISIS, if ISIS is removed and it’s simply backfilled by Iran or an Iranian-influenced military, then to me that’s not making much improvement. In fact, we are expending resources only to promote greater Iranian influence in Iraq.”
Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also indicated that the rules of engagement imposed by the Obama administration have prevented the U.S. from getting to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“We know where Baghdadi is, or have a good idea where he is, and we won’t go after him because of our rules of engagement,” he declared. “We continue to withdraw and not engage and our enemies know our rules of engagement probably better than we do. So, they know where they’re safe and where they’re not and their movements are adjusted accordingly.”
Iraqi troops, backed by the U.S. and Iran, have already entered Fallujah in an effort to root ISIS out of one of its last strongholds in Iraq.
The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has accused ISIS of using “several hundred” innocent families as human shields, calling the situation a “human catastrophe.” An estimated 50,000 civilians are reportedly trapped in Fallujah, as Iraqi forces engage ISIS in bloody battles.
“Iraqi forces repelled a fierce counterattack by Islamic State militants inside Fallujah on Tuesday, as government troops continued a slow advance to recapture the key city,” reports USA Today.
Zinke, who served in the U.S. military for 23 years, said he is not surprised that Iran is benefiting from the Obama administration’s military operations against ISIS in Iraq.
“One should not find that shocking considering that this administration has done nothing as Iran has launched ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles]. This administration thinks it’s a good idea to buy Iranian heavy water that was produced in violation of the [nuclear] agreement and even [Secretary of State John] Kerry is promoting Iran,” he pointed out.
Citing a former high-ranking U.S. official who spoke to lawmakers on condition of anonymity, Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Iran continues to support terrorists or carry out plans to obtain atomic weapons, despite the nuclear agreement the Islamic Republic reached last summer with five U.S.-led world powers.
He expressed concerned that Shiite militias may take control of territory cleared of ISIS by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces.
“If it’s not backfilled by a Sunni force as we push ISIS out — there’s a security force that you put in place — if that security force is pro-Iran, then the consequence will simply be ground ceded to Iran… ground that has a lot of American blood on it,” proclaimed Zinke. “I was in Fallujah in 2004.”
Zinke said he doubts the U.S. military under President Barack Obama will take any action to stem Iran’s growing influence in Iraq.
Citing estimates from the Iraqi government and Shiite militias, the Associated Press (AP) reported in March that “the more than 50 Shiite militias in Iraq,” many of them backed by Iran, “have between 60,000 and 140,000 fighters… They are backed by tanks and weapons, and have their own intelligence agency, operations rooms and court of law.”
Rep. Zinke recently appeared on Breitbart News Daily on SiriusFM. To listen to the interview, click below: