Shiite groups in Iraq have issued a statement vowing to fight any American troops on the ground following the announcement of a new deployment of special operations forces to fight the Islamic State in the war-torn nation.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that the United States would create a special operations force in Iraq, tasked with carrying out raids and intelligence-gathering missions against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.
Although the administration still claims President Obama’s “no boots on the ground” promise is intact, Carter’s plan seemed like a natural escalation from increased U.S. special forces activity, especially the combat role they took against ISIS in the raid on a prison in late October.
Carter’s announcement was not taken well by Shiite militia groups in Iraq. Although these militias have seen significant action against ISIS, they did not welcome the possibility of American assistance. Instead, they immediately vowed to attack the American troops.
“We will chase and fight any American force deployed in Iraq. Any such American force will become a primary target for our group. We fought them before and we are ready to resume fighting,” said one militia leader, as quoted by Reuters.
Reuters reported similar comments from other Iran-backed Shiite militia groups, which expressed their “distrust of American forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and the subsequent occupation.”
That is not very sporting of these militia groups, as U.S. officials were singing their praises just a few weeks ago, after the eviction of ISIS from the town of Baiji.
“The U.S. commends progress by Iraqi Security Forces and popular mobilization forces against ISIL terrorists in Baiji,” said presidential envoy Brett McGurk via Twitter on October 21. “We’re proud of our partnership with Iraqi forces in this battle, including 130 precision airstrikes since August, and training key ISF units. These units performed heroically over months of fighting, and we now look forward to strengthening our partnership in coming offensives.”
The Long War Journal noted that many of these militia groups, praised by the Obama administration, were previously designated terrorist organizations with long and bloody records of murdering American soldiers.
The administration was desperate to curry favor with these groups, giving the Shiite militias—and their Iranian sponsors—a clean slate because their assistance was needed with ISIS. The reward for those efforts is a bloodcurdling threat to abandon the fight against the Islamic State and turn against American forces the minute their boots hit the ground.
Perhaps President Obama should have a talk with his respected partners-in-peace in Tehran, and see if they could put in a good word for the U.S. with their proxies in Iraq.