The Pentagon’s Inspector General (IG) recently reported that some of the U.S. M1 Abrams tanks sold to Iraq were used by pro-Iranian Hashd al-Shaabi factions. The IG found that 9 tanks ended up with the Hashd, and some were deployed to Syria. A few of the tanks fell into the hands of the Hashd during the 2014 fall of Mosul and during the Battle of Tikrit. The IG didn’t say where the rest came from, but it can be assumed the Iraqi government was the other source. The Kurds claimed that the Abrams were used against them as well when the federal government moved into the disputed territories in October 2017. The IG claimed that the vehicles were now back in Baghdad’s hands. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi is pro-western and has had issues with the Tehran backed groups. He has also forbidden Iraqi forces to cross over into Syria. That didn't seem to stop his government from handing out this heavy equipment to those groups, nor say anything about it when the tanks crossed the border.
This story started when the Abrams company threatened to stop maintenance work for Iraq after it found out its tanks were with the Hashd. That was reported in January 2018, but the Inspector General said that the repair program was still going on.
Hashd groups have been open about their use of American equipment for years. In 2015, Kataib Hezbollah posted a video of a convoy that included an Abrams tank, M113 armored personnel carriers, Humvees and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs). Later that year, Badr published photos of some of its fighters posing in front of an Abrams in Saqlawiya, Anbar with its flag flying on top. Kataib Hezbollah also had two videos of convoys moving through Anbar that also featured Abrams. 2016, Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada and Kataib Hezbollah had more footage of its forces with Abrams.
Screen shot from 2015 Kataib Hezbollah video of one of its convoys (Long War Journal)
2015 Photo by Badr with its fighters around an Abrams tank with the group's flag on it (Long War Journal)
2016 screen shot of a Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada video with an Abrams and the group's flag (Long War Journal)
2016 screen shot of a Kataib Hezbollah convoy with an Abrams on a transporter (Long War Journal)
The reports of the Hashd using the Abrams tanks versus the Kurds last year led to protests by some congressmen who threatened to cut off aid to Iraq as a result. That might have prompted the Defense Department’s Inspector General to look into the matter. Otherwise, the Americans had not said anything publicly about this matter despite it being widely known within Iraq.
Agence France Presse, “Pro-Iranian militia used US Abrams tanks in Syria: Pentagon,” 2/9/18
Baghdad Post, “US Abrams threatens to depart Iraq after IMIS violations,” 1/28/18
Department of Defense Inspector General, “Overseas Contingency Operations, Operation Inherent Resolve Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines, October 1, 2017-December 31, 2017,” 2/2/18
Garland, Chad, “Iran-backed militias obtained 9 US-made Abrams tanks in Iraq, report says,” Stars and Stripes, 2/9/18
Roggio, Bill and Weiss, Caleb, “Badr Organization fighters pose with US M1 Abrams tank,” Long War Journal, 7/12/15
- “Video shows Hezbollah Brigades convoy transporting American M1 tank,” Long War Journal, 1/28/15
Weiss, Caleb, “Iranian-backed militia seen with US tank in Iraq,” Long War Journal, 2/8/16
- “Iraqi Shia militias show US-made equipment on road to Samarra,” Long War Journal, 3/4/16