A video released on YouTube by Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuda (KSS), which is also known as the Battalion of the Sayyid’s Martyrs, purports to show an American-made M1 Abrams tank in action in Syria. In the video, the tank is shown flying the KSS flag. The government of Iraq claims not to know how the KSS obtained the signature armored vehicle of the U.S. Army, while it also denies having any involvement with the terrorist organization.
 
A statement from the Department of Defense said, According to the U.S. Defense Department, “We have received assurances from the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces that they will use U.S. equipment in accordance with U.S. law and our bilateral agreements. If we receive reports that U.S.-origin equipment is being misused or provided to unauthorized users, we engage the Iraqi government in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy to address any confirmed issues — up to the highest levels, if necessary.”
 
Th KSS (Arabic: كتائب سيد الشهداء‎) are an Iraqi Shia militia that was formed in 2013 to protect "(Shia) shrines across the globe", the preservation of "Iraqi unity" and to "put an end to the sectarian conflict". It supports Syrian President Bashr al-Assad and has been focused on protecting the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque in the southern suburbs of Damascus. The organization was involved in the Battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin in December 2014. It reputedly has close ties with the Badr Organization and with Iran. 
 
Observers believe that the M1 tank apparently in the possession of the KSS may have been procured in Iraq’s central Salahadin province, where the KSS fought ISIS. It is known as one of the most lethal weapons in the world. While it is easy to drive, using it as an effective weapon takes serious training and maintenance. Its main gun uses 120-mm. rounds that are not easily procured and guzzles JP-8 jet fuel. The tank sports a 32-foot gun and has a cruising range of 275 miles. It reportedly goes through 300 gallons of fuel every eight hours and gets 0.6 miles per gallon.
 
Maintenance is an issue. Those operating the M1 must continually monitor its hydraulics and batteries. If the tank's tracks become dislodged, a highly-trained tank mechanic is required for reassembly. Mechanics working on the tank must be familiar with turbine engines. Track maintenance can be challenging “especially in sand.”
 
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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