Iran 'training Iraqi militiamen as special forces fighters'
More than 3,000 Iraqi Shia militia fighters have started training in Iran as Iraq attempts to counter the Islamic State group, a senior Iraqi MP from the Sadrist al-Ahrar bloc has told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
The Iraqi MP, who did not wish to be named, said that the "Popular Mobilisation" fighters were being trained to become special forces at a Revolutionary Guard camp in the border city of Mousiyan.
|The reduction of Iran's military presence in Iraq was a political decision following US pressure on the Abadi government.|
According to the MP, most of the fighters selected to join the new force came from well-known militias. He said the Mahdi army and the Sadrist Promised Day brigade would not be part of it.
"Their training programme started nearly two weeks ago," he added.
This comes amid news leaked by Iraqi military circles on the reduction in the number of Iranian fighters in Iraq, such as those in the Quds brigade and the Basij militia, to less than 2,000.
A senior Iraqi military official working in the Iraqi army command said: "Iran has been reducing the number of its fighters in Iraq gradually since last month's battle of Tikrit."
He said: "The withdrawal of Iran's Revolutionary Guard from Iraq has reduced the number of Iranian consultants and fighters to less than 2,000."
The official added: "The Iranians kept these forces away from the army, and they are currently with the Popular Mobilisation militias, particularly Badr, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, al-Kharasani and Imam Ali."
He said: "The reduction of Iran's military presence in Iraq was a political decision that followed US pressure on the Haider al-Abadi government."
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.