According to Iranian media, Abu Mehdi Muhandis briefed Grand Ayatollah Bashir Hussain Najafi and the head of his office in the holy city of Najaf yesterday on ongoing Fallujah operations. Muhandis is the commander of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, a US designated global terrorist and a deputy to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. Najafi was born to a prominent clerical family in British India and is one of the five Grand Ayatollahs in Iraq.
The senior cleric praised the ongoing successes of Iraqi forces against the Islamic State and proclaimed, “all of Iraq must be cleansed from DAISH (pejorative for Islamic State) terrorists.” He also stressed the necessity of protecting public and private property during the Fallujah operation and said, “Members of the security forces and popular mobilization are the pride of the clergy.”
Najafi then announced: “Iraqi holy warriors and fighters must have serious will to liberate the remaining areas under the occupation of terrorism and not to give an opportunity for the invasion of this country’s soil.”
The head of the senior cleric’s office and his son, Hojjat al Eslam Sheikh Ali Najafi, also called for the protection of civilians in Fallujah “so they are free the clutches of terrorism with the least harm.” He likewise praised “members of popular mobilization who with faith and courage have once again demonstrated to the world and proved that they stand against the enemies with strength and treat innocent humans with kindness and gentleness.”
The militias backed by Tehran have often acted outside the law in Iraq as they battle Islamic State militants. The UN human rights chief warned this week that there were “extremely distressing, credible reports” that Iraqis fleeing Fallujah are facing physical abuse and even summary executions as they escape Fallujah. According to The New York Times, on the other hand, “for the most part, civilians who have fled the areas around Fallujah have said they had tired of the grim life under the Islamic State and had been treated well by the militias and Iraqi soldiers.”