U.S. Arming Syrian Rebels amid Looming Threat from Iran-Allied Militias

Shiite fighters
REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

The United States and its allies are expected to send more weapons to anti-Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad rebels to try to repel a new push to open a supply route between Iraq and Syria by Iran-allied Shiite militias fighting alongside local fighters.

According to human rights watchdog Amnesty International and news reports, citing the American armed forces, the U.S. military is arming both the anti-Assad Syrian rebels and pro-Assad Iran-allied Shiite militias in Iraq.

“[Syrian] Rebels said military aid has been boosted through two separate channels: a program backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), known as the MOC, and regional states including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and one run by the Pentagon,” reveals Reuters.

“This has coincided with a march toward the Syrian border by Shi’ite militias from Iraq,” namely the Badr Organization, which is part of the Iran-allied Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) currently fighting alongside U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, adds the news outlet.

Amnesty International and news reports have accused the U.S. military of arming the Baghdad-sanctioned PMU, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Hashd al-Shaabi, to fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

Meanwhile, the American armed forces are reportedly providing weapons to Syrian rebels fighting against the Iran-backed dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The article notes:

While in Iraq the United States has fought alongside Iranian-backed Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militias against Islamic State, in Syria Washington has lined up against Assad’s Iranian-backed government and wants to block a further expansion of Iranian influence, with its regional allies, points out Reuters.

“The stakes are high as Iran seeks to secure its influence from Tehran to Beirut in a ‘Shi’ite crescent’ of Iranian influence through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, where Sunni Arab states have lost out in power struggles with Iran,” it adds.

Reuters learned from the Badr militia, linked to the U.S.-backed PMU, that its advance to the Syrian border would benefit the Assad forces.

“The Americans will not be allowed to control the border,” Badr leader Hadi al-Amiri told al-Mayadeen TV.

Iran has deployed tens of thousands of Shiite troops to fight on behalf of Assad in Syria, including members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), terrorists from Hezbollah, as well as fighters from neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Syrian rebels say the United States and its allies are sending them more arms to try to fend off a new push into the southeast by Iran-backed militias aiming to open an overland supply route between Iraq and Syria,” reports Reuters.

In Iraq, Iran-allied PMU fighters are advancing towards the Syrian border, capturing territory along the way.

American law prohibits the U.S. military from providing assistance to Iraqi groups affiliated with the government of Iran.

The U.S. military has praised the Iran-backed Shiite PMU for its contribution in the ongoing fight to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul, considered ISIS’s last major bastion in Iraq.

Tension is reportedly building between Assad forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias from Iraq and Syrian rebels supported by the Syrian dictator’s enemies, which includes the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly trying to form a predominantly Sunni Arab coalition against Iran.

Iran and Russia are ardent supporters of the Assad regime in Syria.

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