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Iraq’s Vice President Requests US Assistance Against Iran-Backed Militias in His Country

Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi is in Washington this week for talks with Trump administration officials and congressional leaders. He hopes that the administration will make good on promises to counter Iran’s influence inside Iraq, as well as across the Middle East.

One of Iraq’s three vice presidents, Al-Nujaifi and his brother head a prominent Iraqi defense faction. They were both represented in Washington by the same lobbyist who was employed by Michael Flynn last year. Flynn was President Trump’s original national security adviser. Trump fired Flynn in February, and Flynn is now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

At the U.S. Institute of Peace last Tuesday, al-Nujaifi described Shiite militias in Iraq as operating a “parallel army” that may divide the nation. The Iranian-backed factions “have gained a lot of power and maybe they can pose more problems,” al-Nujaifi said.

Al-Nujaifi said in an interview, “More attention should be paid to the strengthening of military capabilities of the people of former ISIS-occupied areas, training and enabling them to defend their areas.” He suggested deploying more American military forces. More than 2,000 additional troops to Iraq have been authorized by The Pentagon since President Trump took office, but it is reported that analysts aren’t expecting any new, significant surge. In fact, Mideast analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Knights, said, “I presume his pleas will be met with collective eye-rolling.”

Actually, after two years of lobbying in Washington al-Nujaifi’s brother, Atheel failed to gain much support. Atheel al-Nujaifi’s only lobbyist was Washington lawyer Robert Kelley, who is now a Trump adviser.

Kelley set up Osama al-Nujaifi’s meetings with Trump administration officials this week. Kelley also registered Flynn Intel Group with Congress for its lobbying on behalf of a Turkish-owned company, Inovo BV in October of last year. However, in March Flynn’s firm instead filed as a foreign agent with the Justice Department, conceding that the work it did probably aided Turkey’s government.

The filing is now under scrutiny as part of former FBI Director and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.