An Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia in Iraq gains control of border-region with Syria

A powerful Iranian-backed Shi’ite Militia, called the Popular Mobilization Force – Hashd al Shaabi in Arabic – continues to gain ground on the Iraqi border with Syria, as it pushed the Islamic State out of most villages in that district. The territory it has recently taken is located north of the Islamic State-held town of Ba’aj, in the vicinity of the main road linking the Iraqi northern town of Mosul, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State in Iraq, with Syria. A field commander from the Popular Mobilization force said he was confident the whole area would soon be under their control, effectively giving the Iranian proxy full control of the Syrian borders.
“When we control this district, we will in fact be in control of the Syrian borders. What will remain is only one outpost, God willing, we will advance towards it. The enemy deems this to be one of the largest and strategic villages on the Syrian border, and because of this, it is the biggest and best place to defend itself, and this impedes the progress of our troops. But it’s only a question of time. We don’t want any losses,” said Karim, Hashd al-Shaabi Field Commander.3
The maneuver is perceived as the prelude to a connection with the Iranian-backed forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, although they are yet to reach the Iraqi border from the Syrian side, territory which is currently controlled by the US-backed Kurdish militias that are fighting the Islamic State.