ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – US Abrams tanks sold to Iraq have been used by Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The tanks were later returned to the Iraqi army, Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon stated.
He mentioned that the M1 Abrams tanks were sold to the Iraqi government, but Washington had “not provided defense articles to the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which are part of the Iraqi security forces by law.”
Hashd al-Shaabi is made up of dozens of Shia militias established in 2014 following a religious call for Shias to take up arms against IS. The militia is estimated to have 60,000 to 140,000 fighters.
“We have discovered incidents where some US-origin equipment, including M1 Abrams tanks, came into the possession of certain PMF groups. This equipment was subsequently used by these groups in the fight against the jihadist group,” Pahon added.
“All of these tanks were recently returned to Iraqi Security Forces custody,” the spokesperson said.
The Iraqi parliament considers the PMF an official part of its country’s forces.
However, in November 2017, US House of Representatives Ted Poe introduced a bill called “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017” that calls for imposing terrorism-related sanctions on Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, two militia groups operating under the PMF umbrella.
Earlier in 2017, military officials in Kurdistan repeatedly accused the PMF and Iraqi forces of using M1 Abrams tanks to attack Peshmerga and the Region following the Sep. 25 independence referendum.
The US has also remained wary of Iranian influence in Iraq.
“We will continue to screen and vet all forces that receive US-origin defense equipment…to ensure that this equipment remains in the possession of the designated end-user,” Pahon noted.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany