Alwaght- While the US lives chaotic days after the November 3 presidential election and the closing days of presidency of the neo-Bonapartist and authoritarian US President Donald Trump are arriving, the US Department of Treasury added to its blacklist the commander of the Iraqi anti-terror Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Falih al-Fayyadh under the excuse of rights violations.
Sanctioning the head of the PMF, also called Hashd al-Shaabi locally, comes as he recently in a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the two “leaders of victory” General Qassem Soleimani of Iran and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis of Iraq in Basra had said that the US exit from Iraq will give the country genuine independence, and “our response to the martyrdom of the two commanders is the expulsion of the foreign forces.”
Actually, blacklisting al-Fayyadh is read by many as marking the last possible steps the Trump administration has taken in its antagonism towards the Axis of Resistance.
But it should be taken into account that imposing sanction on the PMF’s commander does not represent blacklisting a single individual but means targeting a specific thought that is against Washington's destabilizing agenda in the region.
The move faced strong reactions from the Iraqi government and the political parties. Two points are worth saying regarding the reasons behind the measure.
Widespread pro-Fayyadh support wave
The US administration's illegal move drew responses from the Baghdad government and political factions. In initial hours, the PMF press center in a Twitter post said: “We congratulate the friend of the two martyrs Professor Falih al-Fayyadh the commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi for joining the ranks of the great people the US calls enemy.”
The highest level of reaction came from the cabinet of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi strongly denounced designating an official Iraqi figure by the US Department of Treasury. National Security Advisor Qassem al-Aaraji on Saturday tweeted that Baghdad urges the Department of Treasury to correct its mistake of imposing sanctions on an Iraqi state character. “It is inappropriate to add [this state figure] to the sanctions list,” he went on.
Iraq's foreign ministry also expressed its surprise with the move of the Americans against one of the country's anti-terror figures.
“This is quite surprising and unacceptable and we, with full diligence, discuss the moves taken by the US Department of Treasury against Iraqi characters with the current and next government to avoid the consequences,” the ministry stated.
Hashem al-Mousawi, a member of the Nujaba Movement of Iraq, also addressed the designation, saying that the inclusion of the commander al-Fayyadh on the US sanctions list is expressive of the American despair. The Americans have failed to disband Hashd al-Shaabi and that is why they sanctioned Falih al-Fayyadh."
Fadhel Jaber, a member of the Fatah parliamentary bloc, on Saturday criticized the Iraqi prime minister’s silence in the face of the US action, asserting that adding al-Fayyadh to the US blackest is part of Washington program to target the Hashd, which was formed in 2014 in response to the emergence of the ISIS terrorist group and lightning capture of vast parts of the country.
In addition to Iraqi politicians, academics also reacted. Ali al-Tamimi, a prominent law expert, said the US restrictions against Iraqi figures under Magnitsky Act breach articles 1, 2, and 3 of the United Nations Charter that cherishes the sovereignty of the states and bans intervention in their home affairs. “All Washington can do under this act is banning their entry to the US, denying them visas, and freezing their possible assets on the American soil,” al-Tamimi clarified.
A complex of these reactions shows that the Iraqi government and people are more than ever unified and grateful to Hashd’s role in defending the country and preserving its sovereignty and unity. Actually, all now agree that the voluntary forces, as patriotic guardians of the country, are an inseparable part of the national sovereignty and political and military structure of the country.
Figuring out the reasons behind the al-Fayyadh designation
As an important development, sanctioning the PMF chief contains a couple of key messages:
US admission of defeat against the Resistance camp
When the Iraqi parliament two days after the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force Commander General Soleimani and Iraq’s PMF Deputy Commander al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020, approved the foreign force expulsion bill, the leading advocate of the law was the Hashd and its subunits.
To show that it was not intimidated by the assassination of the great anti-terror commanders and would not evacuate the field, along with following the bill politically the PMF hatched up its attacks on the American occupying forces’ bases and military convoys as it had the legal grounds to declare as “aggressors” the American troops. The attacks stripped the Americans of comfortable breath, forcing them to evacuate some of their bases and relocate northward, where the Kurds are in control, as they lived the despair of how to deal with the escalation and new conditions.
The US was hopeful that through its influence in parts of the Iraqi government it can hamper the pursuit of the assassination case and the expulsion law.
But sanctioning the PMF, which is mainly aimed at terrifying other Iraqi figures and officials in connection to the implementation of the expulsion bill, shows that Washington's hope with its internal elements has run into disappointment and the White House itself should step in the field.
Undermining Hashd, more Iraq instability, and ISIS revival
Sanctioning al-Fayyadh also seeks to crack the ranks of the voluntary organization. In the past year, Washington put to work every trick at its disposal to sow division and confrontation between the PMF and the grand Shiite clergy in Iraq, all to find its plots going nowhere.
By the recent ban, the Americans intend to prepare the ground for further instability and revival of terrorist groups in Iraq. A proof of this is the growing activities of ISIS terrorists in Syria Desert, also called Badiya, near the Iraqi borders in recent days and threats posed by the remnants of the terrorist group.