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Debate emerges as Iraqi forces enter Iran to aid flood relief

The presence of Iraqi forces in Iran set off an online debate about the role of foreign fighters inside Iran.
A bridge destroyed by flood is seen in Lorestan province, Iran, April 4, 2019. Picture taken April 4, 2019. Khashayar Javanmardi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1DE249C760

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq confirmed on April 12 that hundreds of members of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) entered Iran to help with flood relief. According to Ambassador Iraj Masjedi, the PMU, which was formed in response to a 2014 religious edict issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to defend Iraq against the Islamic State, entered the provinces of Khuzestan and Lorestan after acquiring visas through Iran’s embassy and consulate.

Social media sites showed videos of PMU caravans entering Iran. Afterward, Iranian-linked social media websites showed the PMU working near the flood-hit areas, waving both the Iraqi flag and that of the PMU unit Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. The PMU presence set off an online debate, given that the last time an Iraqi force entered Iran it was an invasion ordered by Saddam Hussein in 1980, sparking a bloody eight-year war.

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