The long-delayed confrontation between pro-Iran Iraqi militias and the Iraqi state, represented by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, seems to be drawing near, if it has not started already.
Militias such as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), headed by Qais Khazali, Saraya al-Khorasani, headed by Hamid al-Jazaery, who was recently captured and arrested by Popular Mobilization Forces leaders, and of course, the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah, the closest arm of Iranian influence, led by Abu Fadak “The Uncle” al-Mohammadawi, have engaged in sustained offensive operations.
These Iranian militias have succeeded in humiliating the Iraqi state by striking foreign embassies in the Green Zone with Iranian-made missiles as well as assassinating activists and journalists, both male and female, not to mention carrying out dozens of kidnappings, beatings and threats.
This poses a major challenge for the Iraqi government, whose prime minister promised to restore the country's status, ensure security and peace, and restore normal relations between Iraq and its neighbors.
The truth is that Iraq’s main “bad neighbor” is Iran to the east, followed by Turkey to the north, and lastly Syria to the west. Iran backs the sectarian militias occupying Iraq and usurping its public money, funneling billions of dollars into their leaders' pockets as well as towards the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah of course. These Iran-backed groups are also behind the sale of Iraqi oil at a low price, benefitting Iran and Hezbollah, in addition to the PMF.
The shocking details of these operations were exposed by the late Iraqi hero and investigative journalist, Hisham al-Hashemi, who paid the ultimate price and was killed by these groups right outside his home, in front of his family and neighbors.
The missile strike against the US embassy two months ago, which killed seven Iraqi civilians in the vicinity, has forced al-Kadhimi and his government to act. Iraqi security forces were quick to apprehend some of the perpetrators, sparking the anger of the Asa'ib militia who responded with a video threatening al-Kadhimi. After special forces were deployed to maintain security in Baghdad, a new video threat against al-Kadhimi was released by the PMO, the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah, depicting the highly ranked Abu Ali al-Askari calling al-Kadhimi a traitor.
The spokesman for the Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces confirmed that there are 1.8 million members of the military within the government forces under the direct orders of Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Al Arabiya sources inside Iraq said that the Iraqi government's patience with regard to the recent actions of militias has worn out, and that Iran will be the biggest loser if clashes break out.
The head of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, Muhammad Rida Haidar, told Al Arabiya that the militia’s violations have reached a tipping point, citing “assassinations and abuses in public places, a lack of respect for people, and even a disrespect for the traffic police.”
Populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr tweeted that “Beloved Iraq has fallen victim to the US-Iranian conflict.” Of course, al-Sadr's position is hard to pin down, as it has shifted in the past, and perhaps, as some believe, he has been “entrusted” with representing such positions.
We are facing an Iraqi moment of truth that is long overdue.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.