The pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite drive to capture Tel Afar, 55 km from Mosul in western Iraq, was designed less to complete the encirclement of the Islamists in Mosul - in support of the US-led coalition - and more to forge a link in the land bridge Tehran aspires to build to give its Revolutionary Guards free passage to Hizballah and the Shiite groups fighting for Bashar Assad in Syria. This is reported by DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources.
The Iraqi Shiite battle for Afar is led by Iran’s Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soliemani from the front lines.
US and Iraqi commanders of Operation Inherent for expelling ISIS from Mosul welcomed the Iran-led Iraqi Shiites’ initiative to take Tal Afar in order to sever ISIS’ supply lines from Syria to Mosul.
But Iran’s overriding motive in initiating this operation was laid bare by Ahmad al-Asadi, spokesman of the pro-Iranian Iraqi Hashid Shaabi Shiite groups, when he spoke to reporters Saturday, Oct. 29 in Baghdad.
After “clearing” these “terrorist gangs,” from 14,000 sq. km of Iraq including Tal Afar and the regions bordering on Syria, he said, “We are fully ready to cross the border into Syria and fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad.
According to our sources, this plan was not coordinated directly with the US-Iraqi command of the Mosul operation, but with the Russian military command center in the Syrian province of Latakia.
It is important enough for the Russian command to have just established a new center for military and intelligence interchanges. It is staffed by Russian, Turkish, Syrian, Iraqi Shiite and Iranian officers. This mechanism has been put in charge of coordinating Shiite military operations both in Syria and Iraq.
It was decided that when US military assistance or air support is deemed necessary, requests will be piped through the bureau of Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and passed on to the US-Iraqi command of Operation Inherent.
Russian, Iranian and Turkish officers have thus effectively hitched on to the decision-making process for the Mosul offensive alongside American officers.
The irony of this arrangement is that, the US armed the Iraqi army, and indirectly the Shiite militias, for this offensive with top-notch Abrams M1 tanks, M1-198 Howitzers and M88 Recovery vehicles for tanks. All this s valuable hardware looks like ending up away another battlefield away from Mosul in Syria, and under a different command, Russia..