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The Iraqi Front: Who are the militias?

This (Monday) morning, around one thirty AM, the residents of Eilat woke up with sirens and alarms: An unidentified drone penetrated the country and made its way towards the city. A few minutes later, the UAV hit a building near the sea, causing minor damage, without Israeli casualties. But unlike most of the attacks carried out on Eilat in recent months, which came from the Houthis far in the south, this attack was carried out by the Iraqi militias, from the east.

So, who are the Iraqi militias, and what is their connection to the war? To answer this question, we need to examine the history of Iraq in the last 20 years, since the US invaded it in 2003 and ousted dictatorial Saddam Hussein. The United States tried to create a democratic society in Iraq in the years that followed but failed due to sectarian friction (mainly between the Shi’ite majority and the Sunni minority supported by Saddam back in the day), and the rise of religious extremism – Al-Qaeda, and later ISIS. The United States abandoned the Iraqi project in 2011, and the country fell into a deadly civil war.

At this point, neighbouring Iran began to intervene in Iraq, increasing its influence on the Shi’ite population under the guise of supporting the government in the civil war – in part by supporting the creation of Shi’ite paramilitary militias that would fight ISIS but would be more subordinate to Iran than to the Iraqi government. The United States, too, has once again supported the Iraqi government and managed to demarcate the Iranian influence to some extent, but after the end of the civil war, the militias still exist and constitute a significant force in the country.

The militias have already made clear their commitment to the idea of destroying Israel and striking at Israeli targets. This was expressed a year ago, when it became known that one of the main militias, “Kata’b Hezbollah,” kidnapped an Israeli researcher, Elisabeth Tzurkov. Since the war in Gaza began, the militias have used explosives and cruise missiles supplied to them by Iran to hit Israel at a distance. While this is a relatively small and infrequent threat, it is still an Iranian way to erode Israel over time in the absence of a real Israeli response, and in another way to strengthen Iran’s hold on the fertile crescent – via Iraq to Syria, Lebanon, and Hezbollah to the Israeli border.

The UAV that hit Eilat this morning illustrates the point of view of the militias, who see all of Israel as a target. In the meantime, Israel did not officially act against the militias – when the United States, on the other hand, deteriorated into a number of exchanges of fire with them. But the Iraqi threat is not new to Israel, and preparations must be expected, and if the situation worsens, Israel will find the right way to deal with it.

To respond – rxpuyhi@gmail.com

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