The Iraqi militias are escalating in the Iraqi arena and raising the events’ heat there. They have threatened to launch military strikes against American sites in the time to come if the United States did not commit to withdrawing its forces from Iraq by the end of this year. This has been coincided with militias also escalating against the Iraqi government and state following announcing the recent parliamentary elections’ results, in which the Iraqi parties loyal to Iran lost their place in the Iraqi parliament.
It is noteworthy that Rayan al-Kildani, the Secretary-General of the Babylon militia, has revealed a meeting he had with Abu Ala’ al-Wala’I, the leader of Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia, about opening the door to volunteering for Iraqi youth to take up arms against the American forces in the event they did not abide by the agreement between Baghdad and Washington that states to withdrew its army from Iraq on December 31, this year. Al- Kildani points out that he asked al-Wala’I to postpone the date of military operations because it coincides with the festive season of the New Year and the birth of the Prophet Jesus among the Christians, and that the latter agreed and postponed it until further notice.
Plan T… Escape forward and return to the first allegation
With the militias announcing the postponement of the date of targeting the American forces until after the Christmas period, Khaled Hammadi, a researcher in Iraqi affairs, doubts the seriousness of the militias’ tendency to target the American forces in Iraq. The researcher indicates that the talk about the postponement of these operations is nothing but a a red herring in the eyes inside the circles loyal to these militias in order for them to cover up their inability to take such a step, especially under the current circumstances.
In addition, Hammadi stresses that the announcement of opening the door for recruitment and war on the United States is nothing but an attempt to attract Iraqi youth to join the militias and expand their popular base by promoting themselves as a resistance to the American forces. They have also been playing on media propaganda and a show of force to avoid any future pressure it may be used against them. Hammadi shows that the militias have not had any move against the American forces since Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, was assassinated on Iraqi soil in the year 2020. Rather, Quds Force’s leaders formed a mass flight towards Iranian lands for fear of a similar fate.
As the militias failed to change the election results by escalating on the street, which represents Plan A, and did not succeed on their attempt of military escalation and the threat of weapons, which represents Plan B, Hammadi considers that they seem to have decided to switch to the plan called “Plan T,” which is based on an attempt to link the pressures they are subjected to with their the rejection of the American forces in order for them to gain popular support and to obstruct the formation of the new government that is almost completely controlled by the Sadrist movement.
“Facing the conditions that the militias are going through, they have no choice but to try to escape forward and play on the time factor, in addition to trying to attract the Iraqi street to them by returning to their first path and allegations of fighting American forces as a means of media that helps improve their appearance in front of Iraqi street,” Hammadi says. He points out that the militias’ repressive practices, their absolute loyalty to Iran and their involvement in a sectarian war that began in 2004 and went on for years will limit their ability to reproduce themselves and, therefore, trying to talk about resisting the American forces will not help the militias much.
As for their tendency to try to win the Iraqi street on their side, Hammadi describes it as an indication of the militias’ conviction that it is impossible to restore their parliamentary status or to put pressure on the government to change the election results dramatically, especially after the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi as all the accusations are headed on the militias. At the same time, he points out to the militia leaders’ fears that Tehran would abandon them if they were directly convicted of this assassination attempt.
Officially, al-Sadr is out of the Iranian flock
What makes the situation more difficult for the Iranian-backed militias are the changes taking place in the Sadrist movement’s position, which won the recent parliamentary elections. These changes have been revealed by Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the movement, through his demand to disband the loose militias and confine weapons to the state. Al-Sadr has warned against dragging Iraq into danger, especially as some parties are seeking more parliamentary seats.
Al-Sadr also stresses that the government, which he will have the lion’s share in, will be the government of the “national majority”, and it will work to combat corruption, whoever the perpetrator is, and will not exclude anyone. He has also denounced the escalation in the country, especially the bombing that shook Basra last Tuesday, which he considered a “political explosion.”
Commenting on the Sadrist position, its changes and its impact on the militias, Omar Khawlani, a researcher in the affairs of armed movements, says that the Sadrist movement had owned one of the most powerful Iranian-backed militias after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, but after the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Al-Sadr began to play on the ropes of international and regional balances and clearly distanced himself from the Iranian desire until the day he reached the point of almost officially declaring that he is out of Iran’s flock. Khawlani points out that al-Sadr’s call to disarm the militias is in direct conflict with Iranian interests and policies in the country.
Khawlani believes that the matters will move to the level of direct confrontations between Al-Sadr and the Iranian-backed militias, especially since these militias see Al-Sadr as part of the conspiracy that expelled them from the parliamentary throne and dominated the Iraqi state. He notes that such a scenario may have disastrous implications on Iraq.
For his part, Majid al-Samarrai, a journalist writer, indicates that the leaders of the al-Wala’I militias and their political cover have become aware that the media escalation has ended, and in the coming days, they will maneuver with Muqtada al-Sadr with their cunning and piety. However, al-Sadr knows them well because he is one of them. “Anyone observed the occurances after the results of the Iraqi elections is no longer needs to resort to the so-called body language, which was clear by Muqtada al-Sadr’s reluctance scenes and his failure to shake hands with the members of the so-called coordinating framework, led by Nouri al-Maliki. Immediately after the meeting ended, Muqtada al-Sadr, as usual, launched his so-called clips on Twitter in his handwriting, explaining his position on the meeting “neither eastern nor western, a national majority”. This simply means that he disagrees with the consensus project and wants to go with majority,” al-Samarrai adds.