Wiesenthal Center urges UN's Guterres to denounce Iraq's law banning peace with Israel

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is facing criticism for meeting with leaders of Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media prior to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York City, New York, US, August 1, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media prior to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York City, New York, US, August 1, 2022.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is facing intense criticism from Iraqis, a former US Special envoy for Syria and an American human rights organization for his early March meeting with the leaders of two Iran-backed militias in Iraq who have been sanctioned by Washington for terrorism and grave human rights abuses.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) showed on its website a photograph of Guterres with Qais Al-Khaz'ali, head of the Iran-sponsored  'Asaeb Ahl Al-Haqq militia, and Rayan Al-Kildani, head of the Iranian-backed  Christian Babylon movement and of its military wing, the Babylon Battalions, in Iraq.

Joel Rayburn, the former US Special Envoy for Syria, tweeted “ The UN Secretary General is all smiles meeting in Baghdad with the grinning terrorist Qais Khazali, who killed hundreds of US troops, murdered 1000s of Iraqis, & routinely bombards US personnel in Iraq & Syria.” 


The US Treasury Department sanctioned Qais Al-Khaz'ali, the Secretary General of the Iran-backed Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) as a “specially designated global terrorist”  because his militia opened fired on Iraqi protesters during 2019 protesters  in many cities in Iraq, leading to the murders of demonstrators.

According to the US Treasury Department, “.Qais al-Khazali was part of a committee of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) proxies that approved the use of lethal violence against protesters for the purpose of public intimidation.” The US government classified the IRGC’s Qods Force  as a terrorist organization. 

The US Treasury Department  sanctioned Rayan Al-Kildani for “serious human rights violations” in Iraq.  According to the Treasury’s sanction notice,” In May 2018, a video circulated among Iraqi human rights civil society organizations in which al-Kildani cut off the ear of a handcuffed detainee.”

Treasury added that “The 50th Brigade is reportedly the primary impediment to the return of internally displaced persons to the Ninewa Plain.  The 50th Brigade has systematically looted homes in Batnaya, which is struggling to recover from ISIS’s brutal rule.  The 50th Brigade has reportedly illegally seized and sold agricultural land, and the local population has accused the group of intimidation, extortion, and harassment of women.”  

MEMRI wrote’ While Qais Al-Khaz'ali did not post any photos with Guterres on his social media accounts, Al-Kildani did so on March 2. He tweeted a photo of Guterres and himself, and another of Guterres with the other dinner guests, including himself and Al-Khaz'ali, and commented: ‘After six years UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has come here and has declared his support for Iraq's democratic institutions. Welcome. We see your arrival as a hopeful sign. Iraq is the cradle of civilization and humanity cannot survive without Iraq."’

MEMRI provided translations of the Iraqi criticism of the UN Secretary-General’s meeting with the alleged terrorist and human rights abuser.

A member of the Iraqi National Charter's supreme council, Maki Al-Nazzal, declared that  "instead of the UN calling to disband the militias, its Secretary-General poses for friendly pictures with militia heads, as though they are his pals.”

The Iraqi National Charter, a union of several Iraqi bodies opposed to the militias, condemned Guterres' meeting, noting he met with  "the heads of militias who have perpetrated crimes against the Iraqis."

MEMRI noted that the statement from the Iraqi National Charter  was accompanied by the photo of Guterres flanked by the two militia heads, with Al-Khaz'ali's face blotted out.”

Iraqi news anchor Muhammad Al-Kubaisi tweeted: "Guterres' visit to Iraq turned into a bad farce when he posed with faction [heads] who are on the terror list. More than that, he granted them international legitimacy, without thinking of the victims who did not receive any protection from the UN…"

The UAE paper The National reported that spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq told the paper that  the “The photo was taken on his way out, after a dinner with government of Iraq coalition representatives, upon the invitation of the Prime Minister of Iraq, discussing the country’s future, the need to deliver and serve the needs and interests of Iraqis. There were more invitees at the dinner.”

The Iranian-American  Professor of Sociology at American University in Washington, DC, Jessica Emami told The Jerusalem Post about the Iranian regime-sponsored militias:  "Truthfully, warlords and non-state actors with armed militias cannot claim the mantle of either democracy or civilization.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center linked to the MEMRI article and asked: “Did UN Secretary General @antonioguterre take the opportunity of denouncing the new law passed that makes promoting peace with the Jewish state a capital crime punishable by life imprisonment or even death?”