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In late May, an Iraqi Islamic scholar called Akram Kaabi visited militia fighters in a desolate Iraqi town near the Syrian border.The Nujaba group, which has about 10,000 fighters, is now one of the most important militias in Iraq. Though made up of Iraqis, it is loyal to Iran and is helping Tehran create a supply route through Iraq to Damascus, according to Iraqi lawmaker Shakhwan Abdullah, retired Lebanese general Elias Farhat and other current and former officials in Iraq. To open it up, Iranian-backed militias are pushing into southeast Syria near the border with Iraq, where U.S. forces are based.The Nujaba militia is one example of the way Iran is seeking to expand its Shiite influence in Iraq and across the wider region. Kaabi has repeatedly said that Nujaba is allied with Iran.Current and former officials in Iraq and militia members say many of the militias have been armed and trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.A key question for both Iraq and Syria is what happens with the Nujaba and similar Shiite militia groups if, as seems likely, Daesh is pushed out of both countries.Iranian news and militia websites reported Shiite militia fighters allied with Iran moved into the area at the time.
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