Iran proxies fret over Iraqi PM’s moves to clip Tehran’s wings

Military sources said the new Iraqi prime minister is planning to build up the capabilities of Iraqi armed forces with advanced weapons, equipment and an integrated security system.
Thursday 14/05/2020
 Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi addresses the parliament in Baghdad, May 7. (AFP)
Departure from old policies. Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi addresses the parliament in Baghdad, May 7. (AFP)

LONDON--Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s efforts to undermine the influence of Iranian militias and free state institutions from their hegemony is fueling backlash from Tehran’s proxies.

In an attempt to incite Kadhimi, Ali Kourani, a Lebanese cleric close to the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, attacked the new Iraqi government and accused Kadhimi of advancing the US’s agenda.

Kourani, whose brother was a former spiritual guide of Hezbollah, said that Kadhimi “has the blessing” of the United States because he is intent on disbanding the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and other pro-Iranian militias in the country. 

Kourani also appealed to Hadi al-Amiri, head of Al-Fatah coalition in the Iraqi parliament and leader of the Badr Organisation, and Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist movement, to work together in order to prevent Kadhimi from achieving his goals.

The Lebanese cleric also defended Iranian proxy “Thar Allah,” which means “God’s Revenge” in Arabic, after Iraqi security announced two days ago that it had arrested militia members on charges of shooting protesters in Basra, including one youth who died. 

Kourani described the protesters who demonstrated in front of the movement’s headquarters as “pawns” who had been used by the American Consulate in Iraq, and argued that Thar Allah militiamen had acted in self-defence.

Since taking office, Kadhimi has sought to build a strong security and military institution capable of countering the influence of Iranian militias and confining weaponry to official state forces. 

Military sources said that the new Iraqi prime minister is planning to build up the capabilities of Iraqi armed forces with advanced weapons, equipment and an integrated security system.

After years of violence, the Iraqi government believes the army must improve its capabilities to face complex challenges, including disarming militias and preventing weapons smuggling. The prime minister, who also assumes the role of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, will be critical in spearheading this effort.

Kadhimi’s efforts to curb Iranian influence and fight corruption are seen as a departure from the policies of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who helped Tehran expand its influence in Iraq in all fields, including politics, security, the economy and foreign relations. 

If Kadhimi continues to move in this direction, Iran is expected to play less of a role within Iraq and the latter will have a chance to restore its autonomy.