Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi, who has been held up by Western officials as a moderating force in Iraqi politics, was photographed standing with Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a former commander in the Badr Organization who was listed by the US government as a specially designated global terrorist in July 2009 and was described as “an advisor to” Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
Abadi and Muhandis, as well as former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, were photographed together at a ceremony that celebrated the one year anniversary of the fatwa, or religious edict, that called for Shiites to take up arms against the Islamic State. The fatwa, which was issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, led to the formation of the Popular Mobilization Committee in the summer of 2014.
The Popular Mobilization Committee is directed by Muhandis, who is closely tied to Iran and Soleimani. The paramilitary organization is dominated by Shiite militias such as Hezbollah Brigades, Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous), Saraya al Salam (Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades), Harakat Nujaba, Saraya Khorasani (Khorasan Brigades), the Imam Ali Brigades, and the Badr Organization. Hezbollah Brigades is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization while top leaders of Asaib al Haq, the Imam Ali Brigade, and Harakat Nujaba are listed as Specially Designated Global terrorists. All of these groups remain hostile towards the US. Two of them, Harakat Nujaba and Saraya al Salam, have threatened to attack US interests as recently as this spring.
The Iraqi government has increasingly relied on the Popular Mobilization Committee to lead the fight against the Islamic State as the Iraqi military and security services have proven incapable.
Leading Iraqi political and religious figures such as Sistani have been reduced to cozying up to what John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL, or the Islamic State, described as the “extremist elements.” [See Threat Matrix reports, Sistani representatives laud Imam Ali Brigades commander, and US support for Iranian-backed Shiite militias ‘should not alarm us,’ General Allen says.]
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