Iraqi Army launches security operation along planned oil-transit route to Iran

Iraqi forces launched a security operation along a planned oil-transit route to Iran on Wednesday. The military said it was clearing and “destroying sleeper cells” in the mountainous border area where two armed groups are operating, Reuters reported. Iraqi oil officials announced in December plans to transport Kirkuk crude by truck to Iran’s Kermanshah refinery. The trucking was to start last week. Sources within the Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said there were between 200 and 500 fighters, belonging to remnants of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and a newly-emergent militant group known as the White Flags. Other security sources said the militants numbered between 500 and 1,000.