The Iraqi government has launched another in a series of campaigns targeting extremist militias and criminal gangs. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently ordered Iraq’s security forces to take control of the southern city of Amarah, which has been a stronghold of extremist Shi’ite militias supported and funded by Iran. Amarah is also known as a center for weapons traffic from Iran. Iraqi security forces have met little armed resistance in the city, but they report finding large caches of weapons and ammunition, including Iranian-made improvised explosive devices.
The operation in Amarah follows similar campaigns by the Iraqi government targeting extremist Shi’ite militias in Basra and Baghdad. U.S. forces provided support for these campaigns, but they were planned and led by the Iraqi military.
U.S. Major General Kevin Bergner, spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, told reporters that there were good reasons for the Iraqi government’s decision to secure Amarah and the surrounding region:
“It is a province that shares a significant border with Iran. It is a place where the government of Iraq specifically is focused on removing illegal weapons and enforcing the rule of law there. And all of that could contribute to a better control of smuggling and a reduction in illicit cross-border activity that would include reducing the amount of illegal weapons being moved across that border.”
Iran has repeatedly pledged to help the Iraqi government restore stability to Iraq. But the regime in Tehran continues to support extremist militias with funding, training and weapons. Major General Bergner said the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is “a key source of support” for the extremist militias. He also said that Iraqi citizens are increasingly cooperating with Iraq’s security forces and exchanging information that leads to the discovery of arms caches, which include weapons provided by Iranian sources.
Major General Bergner said both Iraqi and coalition forces “will press on and support the Iraqi people across the board in further reducing the capability of criminals and terrorists.”