By Bijan Razzaghi
Iraqi Shia militias are confirmed to be operating at least 12 M1A1AM Abrams tanks. The tanks originally were acquired by Iraq in 2011 during the American withdrawal. At some point during the war with IS the Iraqi PMO (a combination of Shia millitas) acquired the Tanks.
The M1A1s offer unique capabilities that the militia’s T-72s and T-55s do not have. The Abrams uses a laser range finder that allows the fire control system to adjust the gun to hit targets up to 3,500 meters away. In addition the FLIR (forward looking infra red) increases the tanks ability to accurately hit targets at long range. Previously the Millitas lacked this capability. The Tanks have been seen, being used by the Militia’s in Tal Afar, Mosul and Tikrit.
The tanks have been seen equipped with M2HB and NSV machine guns on the turret. This modification was likely designed to stop VBEDs. The tanks have also appeared in parades on flat bed trucks along with American made humves and M113s.
The primary concern for the coalition is the Shia Millitas open hostility towards the American presence. The groups that The PMO are composed of include Katib Hezbollah, Asab Al Haq and the Peace companies formally (Mehdi army). All have previously fought against the US led coalition in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. The PMO are also advised and supported by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp.
It is possible that more American made weapons will end up in the hands of the PMO do to its recent incorporation into the Iraqi Army. The Abrams is the most sophisticated weapon to fall into the millitas hands. The PMO have been known to operate outside Iraqs borders yet as of now no M1A1 Abrams tanks of appeared in Syria.