In Rudaw 

Iranian-made drones in Iraq prepared to strike US bases: PMF leader

A leader in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Shaabi) affiliated with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said on Sunday there are Iranian-made drones in Iraq that are ready to be used against US combat troops in the country.

Abd al-Rahman al-Jazairi told Rudaw’s Fouad Rahim in a televised interview on Sunday that Iran supports the PMF, which brought in Iranian drones to bomb Islamic State (ISIS) sites, but said the reality now dictates they be used to strike the bases of US forces in Iraq, claiming they pose a threat to the PMF.

“The American presence in Erbil province is problematic, and the US base there is targeting PMF, so the Iranian drones we have are ready for any emergency to strike the American headquarters,” Jazairi said.

A schism developed in the PMF in 2020, with some units loyal to Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the others tied to Iran. Sistani-affiliated units are associated directly with the commander in chief, the Iraqi prime minister. Its factions are not known to have fired on protesters, have a generally better human rights record in areas they occupy, and are not implicated in the targeting of foreign troops and infrastructure.

PMF units close to Iran are widely accused of abducting and killing protesters during Iraq’s wave of anti-government unrest that began in 2019, and of targeting US and coalition personnel stationed at bases across Iraq.

The PMF leader said he was against any operations targeting Iraqi sovereign airports, especially since they are used by civilians.

“We reject any attack on Erbil’s airport altogether,” Jazairi said, but stated if any PMF leader were attacked, they “will definitely respond.”

A top US general said in April that Iran’s use of small drones poses a major threat to United States forces in the Middle East.

“Small, commercially-available drones are one of the most persistent and dangerous threats that we see at the Central Command AOR, I am very concerned about it,” US Central Command commander General Kenneth McKenzie told the House Armed Services Committee.

Erbil International Airport was hit by an explosives-laden drone on April 14. The attack and other similar incidents targeting international zones taking place across Iraq have widely been blamed on pro-Iran militias, and have increased since the US assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) general Qasem Soleimani.