Pompeo names Iraqi Badr militia leader Hadi al-Amiri as Iranian proxy
Hadi al-Amir, head of the Fatah Alliance, the second-largest political party in Iraq, and leader of the paramilitary Badr Organization, is one of Iraq’s most powerful men.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
A prominent Iraqi political party leader is an Iranian proxy, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Wednesday.Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Fatah Alliance, the second-largest political party in Iraq, and leader of the paramilitary Badr Organization, is one of Iraq’s most powerful men. He was also considered a key figure in post-ISIS Iraq, one that some US officials once believed they could work with, despite his previous anti-American and pro-Iranian views. Now he is seen as one of the leaders of the attack on the US Embassy, and Washington is calling him out.For many years the US has sought to find Iraqi politicians it could work with to fulfill the US dream of a strong, prosperous, unified and sovereign Iraq. This came in the context of the US invading and then trying to rebuild Iraq, and eventually seeking to leave Iraq and at least not have it decline into chaos.Under the Obama administration, and as part of an overall shift toward a policy more amenable to Iran’s role in the region, pro-Iranian strongman Nouri al-Maliki was welcomed as leader of Iraq. Even though he was a sectarian who alienated Sunni Arabs and Kurds and wrecked the Iraqi security forces, he was seen as Iraq’s hope for the future. Instead, his rule led to the rise of ISIS and collapse of Iraq.Maliki also worked closely with Amiri, who became transport minister of Iraq from 2010 to 2014. Amiri visited Washington in 2011. The Washington Times accused him at the time of having played a role in a 1996 attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans. Fox News also reported at the time that Amiri played a role in Iraq in 2006 when he met with the Quds Force in Iraq, and that elements meeting with Amiri were detained briefly by US forces.Amiri’s increasing role in Iraq was evident when he spoke with the publication Foreign Policy in 2014 at his “villa” inside the Green Zone. He said at the time he was transitioning back into fatigues for a role as a commander of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). He was among the most powerful figures in Iraq by that time. According to Eli Lake at Bloomberg, Amiri was even giving orders to Iraqi Army units, and he regularly met with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qasem Soleimani.After Maliki, the US believed that prime minister Haider al-Abadi was the future of Iraq. It invested in him during the war on ISIS, empowering him to crack down on the Kurdistan region.AdvertisementHowever, Abadi helped to cement the role of pro-Iranian militias like Kataib Hezbollah in Iraqi security circles. He made the PMU, which includes the Badr Organization, Kataib Hezbollah and other militias, an official force.Human Rights Watch warned that these militias were abusing civilians in 2016, and again in operations in Fallujah in 2016 and in Hawija in 2017. In 2015, Human Rights Watch named Amiri specifically for threatening civilians in the town of Muqdadiya in Diyala province. He denied the charges.Abadi told US secretary of state Rex Tillerson that the PMU was the hope of the future of Iraq in 2017. Yet the PMU militias were closely linked to Iran, and the US sees several of their leaders as terrorists. This includes US designations against Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s leader and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. What that means is that Washington has increasingly labeled large parts of the Iraqi security forces as directly linked to Iran’s IRGC.Badr was accused of shooting protesters in 2018 and of abductions of protesters this year. Amiri condemned US President Donald Trump’s 2018 visit to Iraq. He also slammed Tillerson and said he was working on a bill to expel US forces from Iraq.The PMU is not secretive about the allegiance of many of its members to Iran’s Soleimani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During the attack on the US Embassy, they scrawled slogans about Soleimani on the embassy compound walls. Now Pompeo has called them out.“The attack today was orchestrated by terrorists, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qais Khazali, and abetted by Iranian proxies Hadi al-Amiri and Falih al-Fayyad. All are pictured outside our embassy.”While Khazali and Muhandis have already been targeted by the US – Khazali was held by the US after attacks in 2007, and the US carried out airstrikes on Muhandis’s Kataib Hezbollah on December 29, 2019, Amiri is now being held to account. He fought alongside the IRGC in the 1980s with Iran. He rose to make Badr the key player in the PMU with numerous armed brigades, and he infiltrated Badr into the Interior Ministry in Iraq, so that its cadres play a key role in the Federal Police and other units.Amiri is on track to make the PMU the Iraqi version of the IRGC and to make other parts of Iraq beholden to it. During the protests from October to December it was PMU members, such as the Khorasani unit, that killed up to 500 protesters. Amiri worked closely with Iran to advise the government how to defeat the protests.Amiri is now in the spotlight because of his importance in Iraq. With 48 seats in parliament and the second-largest party, he will help choose the next Iraqi prime minister. He also has power over the Interior Ministry and PMU, which means that he controls not only a block in parliament, but also armed forces. This makes him more powerful than Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon.When pro-Iranian protesters and members of the PMU in fatigues attacked the US Embassy on Tuesday and Wednesday, it was Amiri that paved the way for them to the Green Zone.Pompeo has now put him on notice that the US knows that Amiri and the Fatah Alliance are part of Iran’s proxy network in Iraq.Protesters in Iraq, the ones who have been protesting since October, know this. They have burned numerous offices linked to Badr, and they have been shot by snipers affiliated with Badr.Amiri has vowed vengeance against the protesters and has threatened both the US and Israel. He is now Iraq’s most important figure, as the country deals with the current crisis over the US role in Iraq.
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