Iraq's Iran-backed militias propose entering Syria to back Assad
A spokesman for Iraq's Iran-backed paramilitary forces has said they ready to move inside Syrian territories to fight alongside the Assad regime after they captured areas along the border.
Karim al-Nouri said on Monday that controversial Popular Mobilisation Units [PMU] were willing to cross into Syria as long as the Iraqi government approves the move.
The PMU - mostly Shia fighters with close ties to Iran known in Arabic as al-Hashed al-Shaabi - this week pushed IS militants out of the border village of Umm Jrais, cutting off the last IS supply line between Syria and Iraq.
"We are prepared to fight IS inside Syria in coordination with the Syrian government," Nouri said, according to the pro-Hizballah al-Mayadeen TV.
He said that a major shift has taken place in "the nature of the fight" against the extremists as IS looks set to lose the last districts they control in their former stronghold of Mosul.
"By taking the border area, we have given the Syrian army the ability to comfortably advance on Raqqa," Nouri added.
The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been backed militarily by its close allies Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hizballah throughout the six-year civil war, which began when Assad crushed peaceful protests demanding reforms.
Since its formation the PMU has been accused of human rights abuses against Sunni populations it has liberated from IS control in Iraq.
The militias have also been seen as a cause for the marginalisation of Sunnis in the fight against IS.
According to documents recently obtained by Syrian news website Zaman al-Wasl, there are currently 88,733 foreign Shia militiamen fighting for Assad in Syria.
The PMU plan to erect a dirt barricade and dig a trench along the border with Syria to secure the porous border area that has long been a haven for smugglers and insurgent activity.
PMU spokesman Hadi al-Amiri said the paramilitary forces will also move south to clear the rest of the border with Syria from IS extremists.
Free Syrian Army commander Ahmad Hamada told The New Arab that the Iranian-backed PMU has a clear "sectarian agenda" and want to meet up with Assad's forces, which have been advancing on the Iraqi and Jordanian border.
On May 18, a US airstrike hit pro-Syrian government forces that the US said posed a threat to its troops and allied rebels operating near the border with Jordan.
The attack was the first such close confrontation between US troops and fighters backing Assad.