According to Iraqi observers, the elite Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-QF) continues to supply affiliated Iraqi militias with shipments of arms and missiles, with flagrant disregard for Iraqi law.
This deliberate undermining of Iraq's sovereignty and law indicates Iran is looking to take "more hostile measures" to threaten the security of Iraq and the region as international pressure on it intensifies, they said.
Last August, media outlets reported that Iran had in recent months delivered an estimated 20 ballistic missiles to affiliated militias in Iraq as part of a programme overseen by Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani.
These included Zulfiqar, Fateh-110 and Zelzal missiles, with ranges between 200 and 700 kilometres.
In the eyes of Tehran, supplying affiliated militias with weapons is "an option that must be pursued" as part of its strategy to impose its hegemony, said military expert Muayyed Salem al-Juhaishi.
"It is natural and certain that the Iranians have delivered weapons and missiles to their militias in Iraq, particularly the Kataeb Hizbullah (Hizbullah Brigades), Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Jund al-Imam," he told Diyaruna.
"The weapons may be light and the missiles may be short-range models that are not technologically-advanced and cannot hit their targets with precision, but we can never assume that such activities did not happen or have stopped," he said.
Support for missile manufacturing
In addition to moving weapons into Iraq via secret border crossings, al-Juhaishi said, the Iranians also are providing support to affiliated militias to help them manufacture missiles inside Iraq, particularly in Baghdad and Karbala.
Driving this effort is the Quds Force, he said, adding that according to media reports, "Iraqis have already been trained in Iran on how to operate the missiles".
There has been a "continuous" flow of arms shipments into Iraq from Iran, alongside "Iranian efforts to provide training and advice to the militias", political analyst Adel al-Ashram Bin Ammar told Diyaruna.
Iran is trying to strengthen its presence in Iraq by way of the militias it supports in that country, he said, "and is currently inclined to do so more than at any time in the past, in view of the current situation".
"It is looking to take more hostile measures to maintain its influence," he said, adding that supporting the militias with missiles, weapons and training "is one of its most important tools".
According to Bin Ammar, the IRGC-QF has been pushing affiliated Iraqi militias to be at the forefront of Iraqi politics, which threatens the security of Iraq and the region.
Iran is fully confident of the loyalty of those armed groups, he said, and that its loyalists "will obey its orders" without question, as obedience is a duty, "even if it comes at the expense of their country’s security and interests".
Tighter control over border crossings
The threat posed by Iran-backed militias is growing, Bin Ammar said, noting that the Iranians are "trying to create chaos by sending weapons into Iraq so as to open up a front for conflict, entrenchment and confrontation".
These militias carry out the Iranian regime's agenda, he said, and "provide Iran an opportunity to seize Iraq’s human and economic resources and put them at Iran's disposal".
For this reason, strategic expert Ahmed al-Sharifi told Diyaruna, Iraq must exercise tighter control over its border crossings in order to curb the illegal flow of weapons and projectiles.
"It is essential that any weapon of any kind be in the hands of the state, as this is one of the basic concepts and parameters of the modern state," he said.
"Any import of weapons must be subject to strict laws and stringent procedures that do not permit arms smuggling, or that the weapons end up falling into the hands of any party outside the official institution," he said.
"Weapons control is an important and vital part of the efforts to manage and overcome the crises in Iraq and steer the country away from the cycle of conflicts, tumult and lawlessness," he added.
General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command, said last April that the US would use indirect means to limit Iran's expansion and its support for armed groups in the region.
He said the US would disrupt Iran’s activities, including by interdicting illicit weapons shipments to countries in the Middle East.