Iran-backed Iraqi force occupies Islamic State-held villages near Syria

An Iraqi Shi'ite army backed by Iran on Monday said it pushed Islamic State out of several villages on the border with Syria.
By Billy Kirk | May 31, 2017
An Iraqi Shi'ite army backed by Iran on Monday said it pushed Islamic State out of several villages on the border with Syria.

The win could potentially reopen a supply route to send Iranian weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The maneuver could also be the first move to a connection with Assad's Iranian and Russian-backed forces, although they are yet to reach the Iraqi border from the Syrian side.

According to Reuters, Syrian rebel sources have warned of advances by the Syrian Army and Iranian-backed militia to arrive at the frontier.

The territory claimed by the Popular Mobilization force on Monday is located north of the IS-occupied town of Baji.

For the Iranian-backed militia, the win over the Islamic State is a step towards achieving a link up with Assad's Syrian forces.

This will give Assad a significant advantage in dealing with the six-year rebellion against his leadership.

But the territory is adjacent to with land held by US-backed Syrian Kurdish groups on the Syrian side, who are more focused on battling Islamic State than Assad.

It is not clear whether the Syrian Kurds are willing to permit the Iraqi Shi'ite force to utilize their territory to connect with Assad's troops, who are based further west and south.

In a statement on its website, Popular Mobilization said its advance to the Syrian border was a "Ramadan miracle," referring to the Muslim fasting month which commenced over the weekend.

Popular Mobilization is participating in the US-backed Iraqi campaign to defeat the Islamic State in the city of Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh.

 

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