Meanwhile, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), composed mainly of Shiite militias, have gone through a process of state legitimization, becoming a part of Iraq’s security forces. Given that Tehran supports large parts of the PMU both militarily and financially, the PMU presence in the Mosul operation has undoubtedly caused concern in Washington about the possible expansion of Iran’s influence in Iraq.
While Iranian officials reject the notion that Iran supports the PMU with the purpose of increasing its regional clout and expanding its sphere of influence in Iraq, the support does indeed greatly serve Iranian interests. Thus, one of the key objectives of the United States in post-IS Mosul will likely be to seek to control and contain Iranian influence.
In other words, the PMU may be on a collision course with the United States and its partners in northern Iraq.
In this equation, it should be borne in mind that Iran directly ties the security of its borders to the security and stabilization of Mosul. Brig. Gen. Iraj Masjedi, a senior adviser to Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force (the foreign operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), has called the fight against IS tantamount to defense of the security and geopolitical situation of Iran.
Masjedi — Iran’s incoming ambassador to Iraq — said March 9 in Tehran that the Islamic Republic will definitely support Iraq’s territorial integrity. He further emphasized the importance of Iran’s fostering Iraqi security forces after victory in Mosul and the defeat of IS in order to prevent the possible formation of other clandestine terrorist groups.
He also expressed support for further security cooperation between Iran and Iraq, besides the ongoing military collaboration. In other words, Iranian officials see Iran’s presence in Iraq as a matter of ensuring Iran’s own national security and not simply as part of a power struggle.