Former Iraqi prime minister Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in late November, slammed recent US sanctions that targeted a pro-Iranian militia leader in Iraq. On December 6, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Qais Khazali and his brother Laith for involvement in suppressing protests in Iraq.Mahdi said that Iraq rejects and denounces the sanctions. He instead praised Khazali and his group Asaib Ahl al-Haq for its role in fighting Islamic State. Khazali’s group has been active in Iraq for many years and once fought the US in 2007. Imprisoned from 2007 to 2009, Khazali later played a limited role in Syria and then in fighting ISIS in Iraq. His militia is one of the major players in the Popular Mobilization Units, a group of militias that is now an official paramilitary force in Iraq. It has around 100,000 men and has support from key religious figures. Most of these fighters are Shi’ites; the militias fight under sectarian banners. Khazali is known for inciting against Sunnis in Iraq and claiming that the war on ISIS is a culmination of a thousand years of revenge for historic persecution of Shi’ites.Mahdi also condemned protesters for insulting Iraqi leaders and tearing down posters of them. Protesters have targeted images of Hadi al-Amiri, a leader of the Fatah Alliance, and have also targeted images of Iranian leaders. The protesters have burned an Iranian consulate.In 2017, then-US secretary of state Rex Tillerson had said that the militias should go home. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said the militias were the hope for the future of Iraq. Mahdi has now indicated similar sentiments. The militias are a key part of the pro-Iranian influence in Iraq.