US Won’t Hesitate to Act Against Iraq’s Militias to Protect Personnel

State Dept: Iranian-backed militias are Iraq's 'single biggest problem'

The US State Department is continuing its threats against Iraq on Thursday, warning they cannot tolerate the threat posed by Shi’ite militias in Iraq, and that they will not hesitate to act against those militias to protect American personnel.

This situation has been a mounting concern for Iraqis in recent weeks, with US threats and expression of outrage surrounding recent rocket fire. The fear is that the US, which has threatened to close its embassy, might start a war against the militias, and turn Iraq into a warzone yet again.

State Department officials have been very clear that they consider the militias, which they call “Iranian-backed militias” because of their being Shi’ite, as Iraq’s “single biggest problem” that needs to be resolved. The US seems to believe this resolution will come from threats or direct military action.

While the Kadhimi government is taking the threats seriously, it’s not clear they are in a position to resolve this. The government doesn’t have strong control over the militias, but that’s a long-standing issue, and one an interim government probably won’t resolve in short order.

Moreover, trying to move against the militias on behalf of the US is a double-edged sword, risking turning the protest movement against the government for being too beholden to the US. And that’s even assuming they could do anything to the militias, which recent history does not support.

Iraq’s main concern is avoiding hosting a US-Iran proxy war, and even if the militias aren’t actually Iranian, the US perception is enough that they’re liable to start this sort of conflict without any real Iranians being involved.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of