Friday, 20 March 2015
Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded U.S. forces during the 2007-2008 surge in the Iraq war, has said that Iran and the Shiite militias it backs pose “the foremost” strategic threat to Iraq, superseding the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terror group.
“I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran,” Petraeus told the Washington Post during a recent visit to northern Iraq.
He said while these Shiite militias helped stop ISIS’ advance toward Baghdad, they were responsible for “atrocities” against Sunni civilians and could later emerge to be the dominant power in Iraq outside the government’s control.
“These militia returned to the streets of Iraq in response to a fatwa by Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Sistani at a moment of extreme danger. And they prevented the Islamic State from continuing its offensive into Baghdad. Nonetheless, they have, in some cases, cleared not only Sunni extremists but also Sunni civilians and committed atrocities against them,” Petraeus said.
“Longer term, Iranian-backed Shiite militia could emerge as the preeminent power in the country, one that is outside the control of the government and instead answerable to Tehran,” he added.
Petraeus said the increasing Iranian influence in Iraq, through Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Suleimani, underlines “a very important reality: The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East.”