Iranian-backed Iraqi militias form coalition ahead of parliamentary elections

Ahead of the Iraqi parliamentary elections in May, Iranian-backed militias announcement the formation of a coalition called al Fatah al Mubin (Manifest Victory). It is headed by Hadi al Ameri, head of the Badr Organization and current Iraqi parliamentarian, who has close ties to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani called Ameri a “living martyr” last year. The IRGC-backed coalition is poised to shape the next Iraqi government, highlighting the new political order.

Al Fatah’s analysis shows that it is an Islamist coalition dominated by the political wings of the Iranian-backed groups of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (FMP). The majority of its members have long-standing ties to Iran. The coalition also includes smaller parties that have no known armed wing, as well as at least one minority group. Iranian-backed groups use the cover of coalition and political participation to give themselves cover of legitimacy.

Coalition shows how Iran-backed network circumvented recent arbitrary restrictions by Baghdad and Najaf’s top Shiite authority to separate guns from politics [see FDD’s Long War Journal report, Top Iraqi-Shiite cleric endorses incorporation of PMF into the state]. So far, Al Fatah consists of 18 groups:

  • Badr organization
  • Al Sadiqoun, affiliated with Asaib Ahl al Haq
  • Jihad wal Bana movement, affiliated with the Iraqi Jihad / Hezbollah Companies, led by Hassan al Sari
  • Islamic Taliyah Party, led by Aly al Yasseri, affiliated with Khorasani companies
  • Muntasirun Block (Victorious), led by Mahdi al Musawi, affiliated with the Seyyed al Shuhada Brigades
  • Professionals of the Construction Party – Al-Imam Ali Brigades
  • Al Ataa wal Sidq [Giving and Honesty] Movement, led by Murtada Ali Hammud al-Sadi, affiliated with Ansar Allah al Awfiya
  • The Islamic Movement in Iraq, led by former PMF spokesperson Ahmad al Assadi, affiliated with the Junud al Imam Brigades
  • The 15the of the Shaaban Movement, led by Razaq Yasser
  • Hezbollah / Iraq, led by Salem al Bahadeli
  • Kafa Sarkha Lil Taghir, founded in 2015 by Rahim al Daraji, no known militia affiliation
  • Iraq Future Gathering, led by former minister of petroleum Ibrahim Mohamed Bahr al Ulloum
  • Al Adalah and Al Wehda (Justice and Peace) gathering, a party led through Sheikh Amir al Fayez
  • Block Al Wafaa Wal Taghyir (Faithful and Change), based by Iskandar Watut in 2012
  • Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (CISI), headed by Hammam Hamoudi
  • The Islamic Action Organization is an Islamist group founded in 1962 by Sheikh Jasim al Asai, alias Muhsin al Husayni. The party is LED by Deputy Secretary General Hasan al Asadi.
  • The Sha’bi Independent Gathering, led by Falah al Jazayeri.
  • Shabak Democratic Gathering Party, led by Hanin al Qaddo. The Shabak are a minority group from the province of Nineveh.

On January 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, who heads the Nasr al Iraq (Victory Iraq) coalition, announced a ticket with Fatah, hailing the alliance with sectarian figures as “trans-sectarian”. This decision aroused the contempt of many supporters, including the incendiary cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who called it is an “odious” agreement which “would pave the way for the return of corruption and sectarianism”. A day after Abadi’s announcement, Abadi’s alliance with Fatah collapsed. In a statement, Ameri noted al Fatah is ready to form another alliance with Abadi after the elections, citing “technical” issues for the split.

Soleimani negotiated the initial agreement between Abadi and Fatah according to journalists and Iraqi media. Kurdish journalist Abdullah Hawez tweeted that the Iranian general was in Baghdad on January 13 and attended a meeting with Abadi, Amiri and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a US-nominated terrorist who is the de facto leader of the PMF and its chief of operations. Based in london Al Araby al Jadid citing “Iraqi political sources in the ruling national coalition” claims Soleimani visited Baghdad again on January 17 to help “reduce the differences of opinion between political protagonists within the ruling alliance after the sharp disagreements that resulted in the formation of political alliances to organize the legislative elections of 2018 “. A senior National Alliance official said Soleimani had met with all the main Shiite political leaders except Abadi and Sadr.

Regional media suggested that the new alliance fell apart due to Sadr’s objection to the inclusion groups supported by Iran. Other media sources suggested that IRGC-backed Badr and Asaib Ahl al-Haq withdrew as a result of inclusion of figure Ammar al-Hakim, who would have fallen with Iran after breaking with ISCI last year and forming its National Wisdom Party against wishes Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Ameri has refuse that al Fatah demanded the exclusion of Hakim and Sadr.

As the Iraqi elections approach, Iran will use all means necessary to maintain and expand its influence over the Iraqi government by strengthening its network. The Iraqi state now depends on the PMF, which is dominated by Iranian-backed formations, to provide security. One of Soleimani’s MPs leads a political coalition and will shape the next Iraqi government. Iranian Ambassador to Iraq and Quds Force Commander Iraj Masjedi noted This month, he is overseeing Tehran’s program of “logistical, engineering and weapons” assistance to an Iraqi army “in need of rebuilding,” adding that negotiations are continuing with the Iraqi Defense Ministry, the federal police, the Ministry of the Interior and the PMF. Last year, Masjedi spoke of helping train “popular” intelligence and security units in Iraqi provinces. Meanwhile, Iran seeks to increase trade to Iraq to $ 20 billion within five years and continues to invest in religious and social projects, such as expanding Shiite shrines.

Iran’s attempts to promote sectarian and corrupt faces in Iraq further block the dynamic that has contributed to the destabilization of Iraq and undermine Abadi’s efforts to present himself as a bulwark against sectarian forces that publicly boast of their close ties with the Islamic Republic.

Amir Toumaj is a research analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Romany Shaker is a research analyst and specialist in the Arabic language for the defense of democracies.

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