A new era of paramilitary supremacy in Iraq

A new era of paramilitary supremacy in Iraq

Newly elected Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid appointed Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as Prime Minister-designate on October 13, 2022. (Reuters)

BAGHDAD: Iraq has a new Prime Minister, and his name is Nouri Al-Maliki.

The current occupant of the post, Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani, is a nobody, has no parliamentary support and is entirely beholden to those who put him in power. There are excellent reasons why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis arrested Baghdad in August over Sudani’s candidacy.

In 2010, when Maliki was prime minister, he appointed Sudan’s human rights minister – at a time when there were no human rights to administer. During this dark phase of Iraq’s history, Maliki co-opted militias such as Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, the Mukhtar Army and the Imam Ali Brigades to embark on bloody sectarian purges and assassinate journalists, activists and political opponents. Maliki weaponized the justice system against his enemies and purged Sunni fighters who had risked their lives fighting terrorist groups.

As chairman of the de-Baathification commission, Sudani helped Maliki purge hundreds of Sunnis and political rivals from their administrative posts. The Iraqi Integrity Commission estimated that $500 billion was corruptly diverted from the Iraqi budget during Maliki’s tenure, much of which went to funding paramilitary violence.

Such were the industrial-scale crimes against human rights and inter-religious coexistence under the watch of Maliki and Sudani that in 2014 Iraq completely disintegrated and much of the country became a playground for the two scourges of Daesh and Hashd Al-Shaabi militias, which have perpetrated crimes against humanity. to entirely new levels of horror and cruelty.

As prime minister, Sudani (a longtime member of Maliki’s Dawa party) will be solely responsible to Maliki and his paramilitary Hashd allies who have brought Iraq back to the brink of civil war in their strenuous efforts to secure his candidacy.

Much of the blame for this disaster for Iraqi democracy lies with Muqtada Al-Sadr, who until recently had the largest bloc in parliament. If Sadr had shown a degree of patience and political savvy, he could have overcome the Hashd’s blocking efforts and reached an agreement with the Kurds, Sunnis and independents to form a government. Instead, he threw the mother of all political tantrums, removed his supporters from parliament and allowed the Hashd to acquire most of the freed up seats.

Initially, it looked like Sadr had a winning strategy as he flooded the Green Zone with his supporters in a bid to block Sudani’s candidacy and force a snap election. Instead, he staged one of the most humiliating raids in modern political history, after Tehran forced Sadr’s theological superior, Ayatollah Kadhim Al-Haeri, to withdraw his support.

A raunchy statement from Sadr’s office warned that the new leadership sought to make Iraq “a plaything in the hands of foreign agendas, while shifting weapons into the hands of outlaws and shifting the wealth of the nation in the pockets of corrupt banks”. Sadrist allies widely pointed out that the parties that had lost the most in previous elections had now agreed to form a government, “thereby suppressing the aspirations of the Iraqi people“.

Prime Minister Kadhimi had acted as a vital bulwark against the pre-eminence of the Hashd. Over the next few weeks, watch these militias build a bonfire of his legacy.

Baria Alamuddin

We shouldn’t overlook the extreme levels of bad blood between Maliki and the Sadrists, which sometimes escalated into murder and bloodshed among each other’s foot soldiers. In July, a recording was leaked in which Maliki, among other insults, denounced Sadr as “a hateful Zionist”. Temporarily reduced to enraged helplessness, Sadr is likely biding his time for his next blow to inflict maximum damage on a Maliki-brokered administration.

The responsibility for this debacle also lies with the Kurdish and Sunni political factions. They know very well that Maliki and the Hashd have hostile anti-democratic ambitions for Iraq, but they have allowed themselves to be divided and bought cheaply at the cost of Iraqi sovereignty. As the Kurdish PDK and PUK jostle for innocuous appointments, they risk losing Iraq.

Former President Barham Saleh was widely regarded as a trusted pair of hands. His successor, Abdul Latif Rashid – an independent Kurd whose main claim to fame is having once served as water resources minister – will struggle to emerge from Saleh’s shadow. With both Sudani and Rashid such weak and malleable personalities, it is clear who is destined to rule Iraq next. However, Sudani is already struggling to build a cabinet, amid reports of fierce rivalry between Hashd faction leaders over who will get key posts.

With the popular haemorrhage of the Hashd over the past year, Tehran worries about the future eligibility of its Iraqi puppets. Therefore, a conspiracy is certainly already underway as to how the upcoming elections can be undermined – either by preventing them from happening at all, or by seeking to dominate the consequences.

The worst fears for Iraq are coming true and things will go downhill as the militias seek to bolster their already heavy presence at all levels of this administration, in order to control and extract every last corrupt dinar from the public money. Prime Minister Kadhimi had acted as a vital bulwark against the pre-eminence of the Hashd. Over the next few weeks, watch these militias build a bonfire of his legacy.

Yet, in this moment of apparent victory, these Hashd militias are looking nervously over their shoulders. In the east of Iraq, for the past five weeks, a national uprising has been gaining momentum. Tens of thousands of brave girls and women are burning their hijabs and calling for the downfall of the hated Ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard commanders who control the Hashd.

The Iraqi Hashd and all other Iranian client militias live on borrowed time. Maybe not this year, but very soon enough brave Iranians will take to the streets to wipe out their hated tyrant regime once and for all.

At that time, the Hashd, Hezbollah and the Houthis should make sure their suitcases are packed and their plane tickets purchased; because once their Iranian masters are defeated, no one will be there to protect them from public anger for the damage they have caused to the sovereignty, stability and identity of their homeland.

Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is the editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed many heads of state.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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