Kadhimi threatens to resign if he does not have a free hand to rein in pro-Iran militias

Iraqi writer Masar Abdul Hassan Radi believes that Kadhimi’s threat to resign is nothing more than a face-saving manoeuvre.
Wednesday 02/06/2021
A file picture shows Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (C) visiting the army headquarters in Tarmiyah, 35 kilometres north of Baghdad. (AFP)
A file picture shows Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (C) visiting the army headquarters in Tarmiyah, 35 kilometres north of Baghdad. (AFP)

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is threatening to submit his resignation to President Barham Saleh and the leaders of the Shia forces, unless the government gives him a free hand to rein in the actions of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are nominally affiliated with the leadership of the armed forces.

The PMF is formally linked to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, a position held today by Kadhimi. But the PMF will follow Iran’s vision in all decisions.  This is known in Baghdad and recognised by political parties.

“The political forces have been in continuous consultations since the armed parade held in the Green Zone,” a senior Iraqi government official told the Arab Weekly, adding that “In all circumstances, the government will not allow this kind of parade to happen again.”

According to the senior official, “Kadhimi has given President Barham Saleh and the leaders of the various Shia forces, the choice between him submitting his resignation or giving his government a free hand to hold accountable the abusers, the corrupt and those involved in terrorist crimes among the leaders and officers of the Popular Mobilisation Forces.”

The Iraqi prime minister said that the logic of state and law enforcement was applied in the country last week.

He added that, “Last week witnessed events that were dealt with wisely, even though there were people who tried to drag us into the unknown. But our behaviour was determined by the principle of preserving the supreme interests of the country and ensuring the welfare of all our people.”

An Iraqi parliamentarian described Kadhimi’s position as “courageous”, as he asked President Saleh to choose between his resignation and putting an end to the anomalous situation represented by the role played by the PMF outside the framework of the law.

The parliamentarian, who preferred not to be named, told The  Arab Weekly, “Kadhimi takes a courageous stand when he puts the people in the picture. Either the people stand with him or choose the path of chaos. The prime minister is consistent with himself and loyal to his position”.

A few days ago, when Kadhimi ordered the arrest of Qassem Musleh, the PMF commander in Western Iraq, armed militias entered the Green Zone and threatened to attack government headquarters.

Musleh was arrested after three people confessed to being directly responsible for leading a secret death squad that assassinated many activists opposing Iranian influence in Iraq, among them Fahim al-Taie and Ihab al-Wazni in the city of Karbala.

A file picture shows members of the Iraqi Counter-terrorism Service (ICTS) deployed in the streets of the capital Baghdad. (AFP)
A file picture shows members of the Iraqi Counter-terrorism Service (ICTS) deployed in the streets of the capital Baghdad. (AFP)

Although the militias and all their members who are officially affiliated with the leadership of the PMF withdrew from the vicinity of Kadhimi’s home, the US embassy, the United Nations mission and the headquarters of the Iraqi Parliament without achieving their goal of releasing Musleh, their impressive military parade left hanging the question of who holds more power in Iraq.

From their withdrawal until the time of the filing of this report, tanks, armoured vehicles, troop carriers and military vehicles continue to occupy the perimeter and entrances of the Green Zone, where the headquarters of the government, parliament and international missions are located.

During the past few years, Iranian-controlled Iraqi media sought to present the PMF as a “holy force” whose members could not commit any errors. But this is contradicted by much evidence that illustrates the involvement of leaders and senior officers of this force in terrorist crimes and acts of theft and corruption.

An Iraqi political observer said he was not surprised by Kadhimi’s announcement that he had reached a critical juncture where he sees himself unable to manage state affairs in the presence of an armed force that lives off the state but is not subject to its control.

The same observer told The Arab Weekly, “This is a dilemma that those who preceded him did not confront because of their association with parties loyal to Iran.”

“And because he deviated from this rule that was toed by post-occupation Iraqi regimes, Kadhimi has faced a difficult situation in which the government was unable to put an end to systematic killings and kidnappings carried out by militias that are not subject to the rule of law and only recognise their own laws”.

A clash between the state and the militias seemed unavoidable. That is because these militia forces had something akin to a coup in the making, which manifested itself through shows of force that they put on in the streets from time to time, in addition to continuing to lob missiles at the areas of the diplomatic missions that the state is supposed to protect.

But Iraqi political commentator Ali al-Rubaie believes the threat of resignation is neither serious nor credible for reasons related to the circumstances of Kadhimi’s accession to his position and others related to the political situation existing before he assumed the premiership where the militias dominated every sinew of the state.

Rubaie attributed this to Kadhimi’s failure to have a plan to reinforce the authority of the state and its right to use legitimate violence and state coercion to impose its sovereignty.

Rubaie told The Arab Weekly that “Kadhimi not only does not have any vision to control the state apparatus, ensure civil peace and curtail the erosion of the legitimacy of his government, as it lacks competence and he has become the weakest prime minister that Iraq has known since the killing of the first demonstrator during his reign”.

Iraqi writer Masar Abdul Hassan Radi believes that Kadhimi’s threat to resign is nothing more than a face-saving manoeuvre by his government and will not ultimately disrupt the balance of power controlled by Iran.

Radi told The Arab Weekly, “Iranian militias have been keen, since Kadhimi’s assumption of the premiership, to exercise their power against him whenever discontent rises in the street.”

He added, “The threat to resign is not something new for those who have headed the Iraqi government. Former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi always said his resignation was in his pocket, but when he resigned, he submitted his resignation to the religious establishment and not to the people”.