The United States’ attempts to isolate Iran, including by punishing Iraqi militias and politicians who are supported by Iranian officials, has deepened tensions not only between Washington and Baghdad but also within the Trump administration.
American military and intelligence officials said the increasing pressure on Iraq risks infuriating its Parliament, including politicians linked to Iran, which could limit the movements of the 5,200 United States troops based in Iraq.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose confrontational stand on Iran has already strained ties with European allies, is leading the push for Iraq to confront its fellow Shiite-majority neighbor. He will arrive in the Middle East on Tuesday to speak with officials in Kuwait, Israel and Lebanon about containing Iran.
Under plans recommended by Mr. Pompeo and some White House officials, the State Department would designate Iran’s military Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. It would be a first instance of the United States designating a unit of another government’s military as a terrorist group; American officials said it could put United States troops and intelligence officers at risk of similar actions by foreign governments.
The plans also would designate some Iraqi Shiite militias as foreign terrorist organizations. As a result, the Iranian-trained militias — and Iraqi officials who support them — would be subject to new economic sanctions and travel restrictions.
The proposal was described to The New York Times on condition of anonymity by a half-dozen American and Iraqi officials and experts familiar with the sensitive diplomatic plans but not authorized to discuss them by name.
“The Americans can make the decisions they want, but what the Americans see is different than what we see,” Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq said last week. “Our position on the Popular Mobilization Forces is very clear and well known.”