Stuart Jones, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, recently said the United States “is still forming a ‘comprehensive Iran policy’ that addresses Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and militant groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.”
Meanwhile, according to Kuwaiti press, Trump promised Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, during the prince's May 15-17 visit to Washington, that the United States is working to impose sanctions on the Iranian allies who are involved in terrorism — including allies in the Iraqi and Lebanese governments.
A Saudi delegation to the United Nations earlier also expressed concern that Iranian militias continue to pose a threat to stability in the region.
It's evident the United States and the Gulf states are worried about the wide Iranian influence in these countries, be it through political leaders, armed organizations or militias.
In Lebanon, the biggest player is Hezbollah, backed by Iran.
In Iraq, there are armed parties and factions known for their close relationship with Tehran and for receiving financial and political support from it.
On May 19, Washington and Riyadh announced the inclusion of Hashim Safi al-Din, the head of the executive board of the Lebanese Hezbollah, on the “joint blacklist of terrorism.”
In the same context, the United States is trying to cut off communication between the Shiite militias affiliated with Iran to confine their actions.
This came as US-led Coalition jets carried out on 7th June shelling operations against pro-Bashar al-Assad forces and Iranian Militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) near Tanf area, located near the Iraqi-Syrian borders.
The Coalition also shelled an IMIS convoy in the Syrian Desert near the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian borders.
These operations killed over a dozen of IMIS terrorists and injured several more.
Western experts confirmed May 20 that “the air raid reveals the US military plans in the region.”
This coincide with what was revealed by a source from the Iraqi prime minister office that Trump's advisor Jared Kushner delivered a list to Haider al-Abadi that held tens of top leader from IMIS who are working within the Iraqi defense and interior ministries.
The source asserted that these leaders receive their orders directly from the Mullah regime in Iran and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who many consider to be a puppet of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
It is well known that the Gulf states and US circles accuse many IMIS leaders of being linked to and supported by Iran.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an IMIS committee head in Iraq, admitted in a video that he has ties to both Tehran and Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani.
Akram al-Kaabi, the leader of the Iraqi Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, seemed more explicit about his relations with Tehran when he said there was a need for “the Iraqi IMIS to fight in Syria.”
Qais al-Shathir, a parliament member with the Coalition of Iraqi Forces said, "The relationship of Iraqi political parties and politicians with Iran is not hidden, as these receive material and moral support from it.”
Also, "The majority of those referred to as having a close relationship with Tehran are popular in Iraq, are part of the political process and have contributed to the battles against ISIS," he said, noting that Washington should think twice before taking on those groups.
However, Jassim al-Moussawi, a writer, political analyst and head of the Media Monitor Center, said that such pro-Iranian groups could be successfully targeted for sanctions because "some Iraqi Sunni leaders sought to internationalize the crimes committed by IMIS in the areas liberated of ISIS.” This could "serve to legitimize any sanctions against them.”
Moussawi said, “Washington could exert pressure on the Iraqi government to extradite those wanted by law and prosecute and prevent IMIS leaders from traveling based on international lists of wanted people.
It could also impose other measures such as freezing assets and resorting to prosecutions.”
In March, Trump talked with Abadi about his government's close relationship with Tehran and the Iranian fighters who are helping Baghdad in fight against ISIS.
There are already accusations that Iran has widely deployed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and IMIS factions on the Iraqi borders with Syria and Jordan.
This has prompted Gulf leaders to petition Washington to classify Iran-backed militias as terrorist groups.
Both the United States and regional players believe the post-ISIS phase will require joint action to encircle armed groups and militias both in Iraq and Syria, knowing that these groups have grown in number and gained important combat experience during their war against ISIS, thus posing a threat to US interests in the region and to the Gulf states allied with Washington.