Declassified documents from U.S. interrogations during the Iraq war show how much influence Iran had on the militias during that time. Qais al-Khazali, a leader of a major Shi’ite militia, was interrogated ten years ago. He was released by the U.S. during a prisoner swap a few years later.
The reports are likely to have an impact on whether Khazali is added to the U.S. terrorist list and it could also impact the political atmosphere within Iraq. The Trump administration is also considering making Khazali’s militia as a terrorist entities.
In recent months, Khazali has publicly asserted that he isn’t beholden Iran, but these reports could impact his standing in Iraqi politics. That is because they demonstrate that he had close interactions with Iran and the backing he received from Tehran.
Iran and U.S. vying for influence in Iraq
The heart of the issue is the fact that Khazali has ties with both the U.S. and Iran, meaning that he could be walking a tightrope between both countries. Iraq has long been the bone in a tug of war between the two nations.
Iran has sought to influence the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, which often meant that Sunnis bore the brunt of the military interactions. The Iranian regime also used to provide training and arms to the militias. Hezbollah was also present in Iraq, and they receive their funding from Iran as well.
“There are Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah conducting the training at these bases,” said the newly released report. “The Iranians are experts in full scale warfare while the Lebanese are experts in urban or guerrilla warfare.” Iran has long denied that it tried to foster any instability or gain influence inside Iraq.
Plot to kidnap american troops
The report also detailed how Khazali was arrested by U.S. forces and that was due to his involvement with a plot to kidnap U.S. troops. The attack was planned by Iran and the goal was to take hostages that could be traded for followers of Sadr held by the Americans.
In visits to Iran in 2005, Khazali detailed how well he was received and that he met with many high-ranking Iranian officials. He also admitted that many other Iraqi officials had ties to Iran. Now, with Khazali gaining political power in Iraq, those ties with Iran could have an impact on the future of Iraq and whether it remains an ally of the U.S.