May 17, 2019
The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, has recently met Tehran-backed Iraqi militias in Baghdad and told them to “prepare for proxy war,” the Guardian reported.
Two senior intelligence sources said that Soleimani summoned the militias three weeks ago amid a heightened state of tension in the region.
While Soleimani has met regularly with leaders of Iraq’s Shiite groups over the past five years, the nature and tone of this gathering was different. “It wasn’t quite a call to arms, but it wasn’t far off,” one source said.
The move to mobilize Iran’s regional allies is understood to have triggered fears in the US that Washington’s interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat, said the Guardian. The US on Wednesday ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s surprise visit to Baghdad this month came after US intelligence showed Iran-backed Shiite militias positioning rockets near bases housing US forces.
Leaders of all the militia groups that fall under the umbrella of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were in attendance at the meeting called by Soleimani, the intelligence sources told the Guardian.
One senior figure who learned about the meeting had since met with western officials to express concerns.