By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
More photograpic evidence revealing the presence of Iranian tanks in Iraq has emerged. Newly released images show what is believed to be the same T-72S as the one seen near Tikrit, while arriving in the town of Samarra, South of Tikrit. The new images come just a day after the first confirmed sighting of an Iranian T-72S tank in Iraq.
The T-72S is inspected by Qassem al-Araji (standing in the middle), the right hand of Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organization. When asked about who was to help Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State Qassem al-Araji previously stated ''We Want Help from Iran, Not U.S., in our fight against ISIS'' and that Iran has played "a major role in supporting our military forces,''.
This support now clearly also includes the transfer of Iranian T-72S tanks, at least one of which entered Samarra on an Iraqi Army tank trailer escorted by fighters of the Badr Organization.
But contrary to what was first believed, the tank is operated by the Iraqi Army, not by Kata'ib Hizbullah or the Badr Organization, which are the most influencial of the many Shiite militias currently fighting in Iraq. A source within the Badr Organization close to Qassem al-Araji says that ''Badr doesn't have a mechanized unit. Tanks are operated by Iraqi ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) but operators may be Badr sympathizers.''
As the T-72S is more advanced than the Iraq's older T-72 'Ural' and T-72M1 variants, it seems plausible that Iraqi personnel received training on the T-72S in Iran, once more indicating the strong bond that has come into being between the two nations.
Iran's expanding sphere of influence: Iranian T-72 tanks in Iraq (1)