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    BAGHDAD AT STANDOFF WITH U.S. OVER ABRAMS TANKS FELL INTO MILITIA HANDS

    Many American-made M1A1 Abrams tanks provided by the U.S. to Iraq are feared to remain unrepaired as the company that fixes them has pulled many of its people from Iraq.
    The pullout of the U.S. company personnel from Iraq comes after at least nine of the armored vehicles ended up in the hands of pro-Iran militias, including Hashid al-Shaabi and other Shia groups.
    It potentially hinders efforts to fully dislodge Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, who still maintain a presence, particularly along the Syrian border.
    Abrams tanks have been sold to Iraq over the past decade, Pentagon said last month, but Washington “has not provided defense articles to the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) by law.”
    The PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi, is a paramilitary group with close ties to Tehran, and was actively engaged in combat against the ISIS in Syria.
    Kurdish Peshmerga officials accuse Iraqi forces of using Abrams tanks provided by the U.S. in an offensive to restore Baghdad’s authority in territories disputed between the central government and Erbil.
    Iraqi forces had launched a major military operation in Kirkuk province on October 12, three weeks into a deepening crisis between Baghdad and the Kurds since their September 25 independence referendum.
    The 48-hour operation resulted in Kurdish forces being almost entirely confined to their longstanding three-province autonomous region in the north.
    The three day Iraqi operation resulted in death of several people from both sides, particularly the Kurdish forces.
    (NRT)

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