Activists opposing the militias’ presence in Iraq have been assassinated recently. A reliable source who talked to MENA Research and Study Center under condition of anonymity sees that this is a new Iranian escalation against the government of al-Kadhimi who tries to limit the influence of the Iraqi militias loyal to Iran.
In the past few hours, Iraq announced the assassination of the Iraqi security expert, Hisham Al-Hashemi, shortly after he criticized the pro-Iranian militias in a televised interview.
According to obtained information, Hashemi had previously received death threats from militiamen supported by Iran, because he was against their activities and the Iranian influence in the country.
Several Messages and the Goal is one.
According to the source, the assassination of the security expert that coincided with the attempt to target the US embassy in Iraq is two messages with one goal; which is proving that Iran and its militias are still enjoying the same powers in Iraq, and they are still able to implement their schemes although al-Kadhimi had excluded the security leaders loyal to them.
“Iran has chosen the US embassy, and assassinated an opposing activist to deliver a clear message, since the two acts are among the biggest violations that Iran used to practice in Iraq during the past years, especially after the assassination of Soleimani,” the source explains.
A few days ago, the Iraqi Prime Minister dismissed the head of the Popular Mobilization, Faleh al-Fayyad, who is affiliated with Iran, from his positions as the head of the National Security Agency and the National Security Adviser. He appointed Abd al-Ghani al-Asadi and Qasim al-Araji, in his place, and both are rejected by Iran.
The quick response and the Iranian messages to al-Kadhimi are attributed to a possible governmental plan to replace dozens of security leaders who are affiliated with Iran, the source points out, adding that Iran is trying hard to maintain its gains in Iraq that it enjoyed for 17 years.
Iraqi PM has also dismissed the head of the federal police, and formed a committee to investigate the assassination of Iraqi activists, especially since it is a popular demand after killing more than 500 activists during the demonstrations that started last October. Some activists were assassinated, and the Iran-backed militias were accused being involved in their assassination.
The Battle Has Just Started
On the development in Iraq, Khairallah Kairallah, a journalist, indicated that al-Kadhimi’s battle to regain the Iraqi sovereignty is in its first phases, especially as he was obliged to release a cell that belonged to Hezbollah, and which was accused of planning to target the US interests in Iraq. The journalist, who wrote his article in Al-Arab newspaper, said the Iraqi PM will advance sometimes, but he will retreat at other times.
There are no accurate statistics on the number of Iraqi militiamen backed by Iran, and they are distributed in several major militias, the most important of which is Iraqi Hezbollah, which is estimated at 40,000 militiamen, the Badr Corps, estimated at 10 to 15,000 fighters, and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which includes a thousand fighters, in addition to Al-Mahdi Army. All of the above mentioned militias are linked to the PMF militia.
Khairallah considers excluding Al-Fayyad, known for his strong loyalty to Iran, as a step to erode Iran’s influence in Iraq. He indicates that Iran will prove later that it still has winning cards in Iraq that it could use against the persistent Iraqi attempts to recover the state’s institutions.
The Iraqi writer Ibrahim Al-Zubaidi, believes that the difficulty to eliminate the presence of the PMF from the Iraqi scene is attributed to the fact that PMF is strongly attached to Iran. The writer cites the statements of the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, which says: “Our popular mobilization led by Al-Fayyad will destroy the US forces in defense of Iran.”
The PMF militias were formed in the summer of 2014, according to a fatwa from the Shiite authority, Ali Sistani, and it coincided with controlling large swathes of Iraqi territories by ISIS, following the escape of Iraqi soldiers from their positions.
A former officer in the office of the former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki had accused the former PM in addition to several militia leaders backed by Iran, including Qusay al-Khazali, of facilitating the entry of ISIS members to Iraq, to distract the demonstrators who demonstrated against al-Maliki government.
According to Hossam Youssef, a political analyst sees that the Iranian escalated reactions against the Al-Kadhimi’s measures mean that Iran has moved in its war in Iraq to the phase of cowards’ fight.
“Iran has started to realize that it is losing everything in Iraq, regardless the time that this takes, and therefore it tried to deliver a message to the Iraqi government and international community, that message says if I am losing in Iraq, let my enemies lose too.
Iraqi Prime Minister has pledged to hand over Al-Hashemi assassinators to justice, and strive to stop the assassinations against activists. He also pledged to confine arms to the Iraqi state only.
In addition to the Iranian messages, Youssef confirms that by losing control in Iraq, and excluding its supported from their security and political positions, Iran will lose its influence too, and its militias will disappear.
If al-Kadhimi succeeds, Iran will have no more than a few MPs, Youssef says, adding that Iranian influence began to infiltrate into Iraq when Ibrahim al-Jaafari –loyal to Iran- assumed the government of Iraq, succeeding Iyad Allawi. That influence was also enhanced with the arrival of al-Maliki to the power as a prime minister.