Decommissioning of Iraqi anti-terror commander draws criticism

Iraqis took to social media to criticise the government decision leading the hashtag “We are all Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi” to trend on Twitter.
Friday 04/10/2019
Iraqi protesters hold pictures of Staff Lieutenant-General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi during an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, October 1. (dpa)
Iraqi protesters hold pictures of Staff Lieutenant-General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi during an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, October 1. (dpa)

LONDON - The Iraqi government’s decision to decommission Staff Lieutenant-General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi as deputy head of the Counter-Terrorism Service drew wide public criticism on traditional and social media.

The decision to sideline Saadi was taken by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi but no reason for the move was announced. Saadi was transferred to an unspecified post at the Iraqi Defence Ministry.

Saadi branded the transfer an “insult” and a “punishment” and told the Associated Press that “there is no job for me at the Defence Ministry… I prefer to retire.” Eventually, however, Saadi complied with the prime minister’s ordered transfer.

Commentators in Iraq were divided on the motives behind Abdul-Mahdi’s sidelining of Saadi, a widely respected general celebrated for his part in the war against the Islamic State.

Observers attributed the move to pressure from the country’s Iran-backed militia leaders who viewed Saadi as too close to the United States, which created Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS). Saadi was also unhappy with the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), the umbrella group of the militias, whose influence he sought to limit.

Factions within the PMF "personally" lobbied for Saadi’s removal, an Iraqi government official told Agence France-Presse. “These groups were operating outside the state and the only barrier was the CTS,” the official said. “The idea is to sideline him to bring somebody close to Iran and no longer have the CTS as a check.”

Other observers said the motive behind Saadi’s transfer was not because of pressure from the PMF but stemmed from complaints from fellow CTS members.  Saadi was reportedly looking into corruption within CTS circles.

Iraqis took to social media to criticise the government decision leading the hashtag “We are all Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi” to trend on Twitter.

Some demonstrators at mass rallies in Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq raised a photo of Saadi during the protests.

Politician Khaled al-Obeidi, a former Iraqi defence minister, called on parliament to investigate Saadi’s decommissioning.

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