Filling Soleimani’s void: Hezbollah steps in to guide Iran’s militias in Iraq

After the killing, Hezbollah “urgently met with Iraqi militia leaders.”

By World Israel News Staff 

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group has stepped in “to guide Iraqi militias” to fill a gap left when Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq in January, reports Reuters, citing two sources with knowledge of the meetings.

After the killing, Hezbollah “urgently met with Iraqi militia leaders, seeking to unite them in the face of a huge void left by their powerful mentor’s death,” says the news agency.

The Lebanese-based Hezbollah organization has also been involved in the fighting in Syria and is now, according to the report, spreading its activities to Iraq as well.

It follows a pattern of Iranian entrenchment in these countries against which Israel has been fighting.

“Iran’s aggression in our region, and against us, continues. We are taking all necessary actions to prevent Iran from entrenching here in our region,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in November.

“This includes the activity necessary to thwart the transfer of lethal weaponry from Iran to Syria, whether by air or over land,” he added, vowing to “take action to thwart Iran’s effort to turn Iraq and Yemen into bases for launching rockets and missiles against the State of Israel.”

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In August, a drone strike in Iraq reportedly hit a pro-Iranian militia affiliated with Hezbollah, killing one and destroying two vehicles carrying arms. Israel was deemed responsible although the IDF refused to comment. Fingers were pointed at Israel for another attack during the same month on a military base southwest of Baghdad belonging to the same militia, called the Popular Mobilization Forces.

“The Tehran-backed militias are critical to Iran’s efforts to maintain control over Iraq, where the U.S. still maintains some 5,000 troops,” Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, NATO countries are preparing to mobilize more than 200 trainers to work with the international force that is fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq, in a bid to build up the Iraqi army as President Donald Trump has demanded that U.S. allies do more in the Middle East, senior officials said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

The move is to be high on the agenda Wednesday when NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels to weigh exact troop numbers, says AP.