Baghdad: This Thursday, a massive joint Iraqi-American military operation is scheduled to start against what Iraqi officials describe as "Iranian weapon smugglers".
The scheduled operation, in which large numbers of Iraqi and American soldiers are expected to participate, will focus on the southern city of Amara, in the Maysan province, about 320km southeast of Baghdad.
It comes after similar military operations carried out by the Iraqi government in Basra, Mosul and in Baghdad's Al Sadr City against Shiite militias in past months.
Sa'ad Aziz Al Garawi, a top official in the Iraqi army told Gulf News: "At this time, the movement of the Iraqi army is to consolidate security surrounding the entrance and exits of Al Amara city prior to the beginning of a decisive military operation, which aims to destroy the net of Iranian weapons inside Iraqi cities with information that about more than 70 per cent of weapon smuggling is carried out from the Maysan province which is a border Iraqi city with Iran."
Top sources in the Iraqi intelligence services told Gulf News that most groups in the Iranian Al Quds Army responsible for smuggling Iranian weapons to Iraq ran away to the Maysan province after the military operation carried out by the Iraqi forces supported by US and British forces in Basra province last March.
About a half million people, most of them Shiites, live in Amara. The Mahdi Army which follows Shiite leader, Moqtada Al Sadr, is one of the most important military groups and has a big influence inside the province.
Iraqi officials added that the Iraqi government expects that the next military operation in Amara will lead to uncovering large hideouts for heavy and medium-weight weapons such as those found in Basra and Al Sadr City in Baghdad.
Major General Hussain Aziz, the former police leader in Maysan, told Gulf News that the political assassinations in the city could no longer be tolerated.
Accordingly, it was necessary to move to stop "this security deterioration."
Maysan province and its centre, Amara, is considered to be an active transit city for the transfer of all types of drugs.
It is also an oil-rich city and it ranks third after Basra's and Kirkuk's oilfields.
Salman Al Rubaii, an engineer in an oil investment institution in Maysan told Gulf News: "The next military operation is very important to crush the militias involved in oil smuggling because these operations in the oilfields of Al Bazerkan, Abu Gharb, Fakah and Amara by oil gangs requires a great military move in order to dictate the law."
Iraqi security forces also are targeting suspected Sunni insurgents in the northern city of Mosul as civilians and US-allied fighters continue to face attacks.