Iraq’s PM introduces US-designated terrorist to Iran’s President

Abu Mahdi al Muhandis (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s hand is also extended.

During yesterday’s meeting in Tehran between Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the former introduced the latter to Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the operations chief for the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Committee and a US-listed Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Muhandis, who the US government has described as “an advisor to” Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Qods Force, was photographed with Abadi earlier this month. And he also has been photographed with Soleimani in Baghdad just last month.

Muhandis’ prominence in the top circles of power demonstrates just how much the Iraqi government has relied on the Popular Mobilization Committee to fight its battles after Iraqi security forces all but collapsed in the face of the Islamic State’s advance last summer.

The paramilitary Popular Mobilization Committee is dominated by Shiite militias such as Hezbollah Brigades (directed by Muhandis), Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous, led by Qais Qazali, who was in US custody for his role in murdering five American soldiers), Saraya al Salam (Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades), Harakat Nujaba (led by Akram Abbas al Kabi, a SDGT), Saraya Khorasani (Khorasan Brigades), the Imam Ali Brigades (directed by Muhandis), 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.

Despite the Popular Mobilization Committee’s deep ties to Soleimani and Qods Force, as well as known key leaders being listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, the US government has embraced the group as a moderating force in Iraq, and one worth backing. [See Threat Matrix report, US support for Iranian-backed Shiite militias ‘should not alarm us,’ General Allen says.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Oberron says:

    Thought you might like this. Some Highlights:

    “The most powerful factions – and that includes the Badr organization, the League of Righteous and the Hezbollah brigades – have heavier and more effective weapons from Iran. They have things like armoured vehicles, special artillery and Katyusha rockets, all things the other militias do not have.”

    “The fighters from those militias also get special privileges,” al-Kanani continues. “They get better salaries and they get them on time, no delays. They are better organized, they work in a more professional military manner and their leaders make their own decisions.”

    The second category among the Shiite Muslim militias includes those who are more loyal to al-Sistani. These include the following: the Ali al-Akbar brigades, the Abbasiyah Shrine brigades, the Alawite Shrine brigades and the Husayniyah Shrine brigades. These militias are funded by al-Sistani himself and, unlike the first category, they don’t appear to have any overt political motivation. They have been put at the disposal of the Iraqi government and tasked with fighting the IS group, defending land that has been taken back from IS fighters and protecting locals.

    What is notable about these militias is their large number. However they only have light to medium weapons – things like Kalashnikov guns and other Soviet machine guns – and they use civilian 4WD vehicles to accompany the Iraqi army to battle.

    Meanwhile the third category of Shiite militias are associated with two other major Shiite Muslim political parties with a religious bent. These are the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, which is led by a younger cleric, Ammar al-Hakim, and the Sadrist movement which is led by another cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. Both of these parties have MPs in the current Parliament and a strong focus on political, as well as military leadership. This is a major difference between, say, the ISCI-affiliated militias and the Badr organisation, which was formerly associated with the ISCI and which, under Hadi al-Ameri, seems to be operating outside the official political sphere.

    Those militias associated with the ISCI include the Ashura Brigades and the Supporters of the Faith brigades. They are dependent on the Iraqi government for funding and weapons and abide by the central government’s decisions; they also often accompany official army units and have been known to use some of the Iraqi army’s equipment.

    Some good pieces of info.

  • mike merlo says:

    Abadi has turned out to be just another sleazy weasel like Morsi from Egypt. A year from now, if not months sooner, all the cautionary praises about Abadi will be overtaken by ‘conversations’ of him being just another duplicitous character in a cast of rogues that surface with maddening regularity. Unlike Morsi who was fortunately removed from power by Sisi Abadi on the other hand is in league with the Iranians & will either go the way of Sergei Witte & simply fade away or last a while longer to help stoke the ongoing demise of Iraq

  • mike merlo says:

    @ Oberron

    As with the article you cited you left out the most important piece of information, the number of Iranians embedded in the “Militias,” their function(s), which “categories” do or do not have Iranians embedded in their “Militias,” percentage of Iranians in the overall Force of the various “Militias”

  • Eli Abrams says:

    It’s great seeing that we’re coming to our senses — Shi’a are the best of the Muslim allies and are the most advanced, disciplined and effective military force in the region (behind Israel, ofc).

  • beach without sand says:

    What alternate universe do you live in? Apparently you are not American because I am and I remember all my comrades killed in Iraq by Iranian supplied Explosively-Formed Projectiles. I remember the Marine peacekeepers killed in Beirut by “the best of the Muslim allies”. Oh and btw, while we were still fighting the Shia militias in Iraq, it was the Sunni tribes that came over and enabled us to defeat, that’s right, defeat AQI. It was Shia politics that tore apart the Iraqi Army we trained and turned it into a Shia enforcement tool, causing the widespread defection of trained Sunni and Kurd soldiers long before it’s collapse in front of ISIS.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram