Fact Check: US 10th Mountain Division Is NOT Pursuing Pro-Iranian Shiite Militias Or Planning Regime Change In Iraq

Fact Check

  • by: Jamal Halaby
Fact Check: US 10th Mountain Division Is NOT Pursuing Pro-Iranian Shiite Militias Or Planning Regime Change In Iraq Set Rotation

Are members of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division on high alert upon deployment in the Iraqi capital Baghdad ahead of "deterrence operations," specifically against pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim militias, or to force a regime change in Iraq? No, that's not true. The U.S. Army said in a statement on July 14, 2023, that the 10th Mountain Division replaced the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Ohio Army National Guard, as part of a "regular rotation" of forces. The deployment was planned since earlier this year and announced by the U.S. Army in another statement on March 8, 2023.

Part of the claim appeared in a video (archived here) posted on TikTok on August 22, 2023, under the title "American forces arrive in Baghdad." It opened:

While advancing towards Baghdad, the American 10th Mountain Division announces a state of high alert ahead of deterrence operations.

The 11-second video in Arabic, which was translated into English by Lead Stories, did not specify the goal of the alleged preemptive actions. But a handful of other videos speculated that there were plans in place to either clamp down on pro-Iranian Shiite militias scattered around the country, or to force a regime change in Baghdad. A man's voiceover made the claim on the deterrence operations, while some clips showed images of U.S. troops preparing their gear at an unspecified location.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

US 10th Mountain Division.jpg

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed Aug 23 10:26:37 2023 UTC)

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during an August 8, 2023 meeting with Iraqi Defense Minister Thabit Muhammad Al-Abassi that U.S. troops were in Iraq at the "invitation of the Iraqi government to support Iraqi security forces" battling the ISIS terror group, according to a Pentagon press release.

The Operation Inherent Resolve of the Combined Joint Task Force, under which the U.S. forces operate, said in a statement on August 17, 2023, that the type of replacement of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team by the 10th Mountain Division is referred to as a "relief in place and transfer of authority." The statement pointed out that the official transfer of authority was marked by a ceremony at Erbil Air Base in northern Iraq on August 15, 2023. "These operations are standard and routine, conducted in a planned, deliberate manner, and carefully coordinated with security partners," explained the statement.

Schermata 2023-08-25 alle 11.02.49.png

(Source: X screenshot taken on Fri Aug 25 9:02:49 2023 UTC)

Several press releases by Operation Inherent Resolve stated that U.S. troops in Iraq are conducting training exercises, some with Iraqi soldiers, in various parts of the country, mostly in the north, and on the country's border with Syria to "validate weapons systems and maintain crew proficiency and readiness."

The Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve "works by, with and through regional partners to militarily defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in order to enable whole-of-coalition governmental actions to increase regional stability," according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Since the 10th Mountain Division took over on August 15, 2023, TikTokers speculated on the mission of the U.S. troops. Some videos posted on TikTok falsely claimed that the American forces were in Iraq to rout out pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim militias in the country. The claim, however, is seen as part of a campaign by Shiite Muslim militias who are leery of American influence, especially among Shiite tribes in southern Iraq, according to AL-Monitor. It said hostility against the U.S., including threats to attack its facilities in Iraq, increased in recent weeks in the wake of recurring visits by American officials and a flurry of public diplomatic activity in Baghdad by U.S. Ambassador Alina Romanowski.

Underlining the extent of the militias' frustration with America's cultural and social outreach in Iraq, AL-Monitor, a Washington, D.C.-based outlet, reported on April 9, 2023, that U.S. social activities in southern Iraq in the past have also caused a stir, especially among the militias. "For example, Reham Yacoub, a famous activist from Basra, was assassinated in 2020 for her previous cooperation with the U.S. consulate in the city, which was closed in 2018 after threats by the militias," added the outlet, which specialized in Mideast news reports and analysis.

A video, with 1.2 million views since it was posted on TikTok on August 22, 2023, offered a peculiar narrative. It showed Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, speaking from the podium, with a voiceover in Arabic claiming that the U.S. servicemen were in Iraq to force a regime change and re-install the Arab Baath Socialist Party of the late Saddam Hussein, who was unseated in a U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Saddam was executed on December 30, 2006, after an Iraqi court found him guilty of ordering the massacre of more than 140 Iraqis, mostly Shiites, in the village of Dujail in 1982.

A headline across the 22-second video, translated from Arabic by Lead Stories staff, read:

The Pentagon's head pledges to reinstall the Baath Party.

  Jamal Halaby

Jamal Halaby is a fact-checker, who has been working with Lead Stories for nearly two years, helping bring the truth and factual information to the organization's global audience. With extensive background in investigative journalism and content writing and editing in Arabic and English, Jamal uses that experience to expose a burgeoning market of misinformation and disinformation. Previously, he worked as a writer for the Associated Press and several other reputable international news organizations. He has a passion for empirical analysis and discerning the veracity of the news.

Read more about or contact Jamal Halaby

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