ANALYSIS: Are Iraq death squads awaiting the return of Nouri al-Maliki?

Tony Duheaume
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Since the invasion of Iraq by Coalition troops to bring down Saddam Hussein, the Iranians have been infiltrating Iraq’s political system, its security services, and all its government institutions, both national and local, to turn the country into a virtual satellite state of the Iranian regime.

With the situation in both Syria and Iraq the way they are right now, with Iran having a powerful presence in each, through both its conventional armed forces, and those of its proxy forces such as Hezbollah and various militia groups – plus the aid of its newly acquired ally Russia which is also looking for a foothold in the area – the Iranian regime’s hegemonic desires for regional control are now well on track.


Since the emergence of ISIS, the death squads of Iraq’s former prime minister Nouri Maliki have now been completely revived by the Iranian regime to aid Iraqi troops in their fight against ISIS. Amalgamated with similar Shiite militia groups, under the collective name of the Popular Mobilisation Units, they have been deployed to counteract the incompetence of the Iraqi army, which had virtually capitulated during the early days of the fight against ISIS.

It was in June 2014, when ISIS militants overran Mosul, Iraq’s ill-trained, badly equipped and undisciplined regular army, had not only failed to hold its ground against the invading force, it had also in many areas, dumped its weapons and taken to its heels.

Conveniently for the Iranians, this came at a time when Obama had stated there would be no American boots on the ground, and with US forces only backing the Iraqis in an advisory role and with air strikes, the Iranians were invited to step in by the Iraqi administration to coordinate ground operations, which was begrudgingly approved by Washington.

The Popular Mobilization Units were created by a secretive branch of the Iraqi government known as the Popular Mobilisation Committee or Hashd Shaabi, and to Iran’s advantage, many of its number had received training from the Iranian IRGC Qods Force.

Their chosen leader was Jamal Jaafar Mohammad, aka: Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, the one-time commander of the secretive Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah (KH), who was also a former Badr Brigade commander, known to be linked to several deadly terror attacks, and as a pointer toward his true allegiance. Mohandis is also a close confidant of Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who eventually began to integrate these militia groups into the Iraqi army, giving its commanders full control over regular units.

Loyalty to the regime

Mostly led by Sunni-hating fanatics, whose loyalty is toward the Tehran regime, these Shiite militias are once again wreaking havoc. On several occasions, as ISIS was advancing rapidly toward Baghdad, these groups used the opportunity of the “fog of war” to commit atrocities against Sunnis.

During January 2014, with Nouri Maliki at the helm, ISIS had taken Fallujah, and things were beginning to look bleak for the Iraqi administration, as after launching a full-scale attack against Anbar Province, IS militia forces fast took control of Anbar’s regional capital Ramadi.

As the situation worsened, ISIS seemed to be invincible in its onslaught, and Iraqi government forces, struck with reckless abandonment, began dropping barrel bombs on civilian areas, targeting houses, mosques and markets, killing at least 22 people. It was during this assault that mortar shells and rockets were used against Fallujah General Hospital, with the building suffering severe damage.

Even after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had become prime minister in September 2014, a man who had spent much of his life living in exile in Britain, and was seen by many as a moderate, these types of appalling atrocities continued.

Just in the same way as they had done with Assad, the Iranian regime had backed Maliki to the hilt, and although they have appeared to have done much the same with his predecessor Abadi, the new prime minister has proven to be more resistant to Iranian influence, for fear of being tarred as a puppet of the Iranian regime.

With the Americans already favoring Abadi over his belligerent predecessor Maliki, they have offered future military assistance in the form of having US and Coalition troops remain in the country, although in public, Abadi seems to be rejecting the idea.

Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) allied with Iraqi forces carry their weapons as they prepare to attack Tikrit in the Iraqi town of Ouja on March 26, 2015. (Reuters)
Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) allied with Iraqi forces carry their weapons as they prepare to attack Tikrit in the Iraqi town of Ouja on March 26, 2015. (Reuters)

Acts of terror

But as far as the acts of terror being committed by the Popular Mobilization Units are concerned, they cannot claim them to have just simply committed in the heat of battle, as their past history suggests otherwise. But considering some of these atrocities had taken place under the tenure of the more moderate Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi what would the prospects for future peace efforts be, should Nouri Maliki return to power any time soon.

Because the next time around, Maliki would be implementing his divisive, and pernicious racial policies, using a military fully controlled by Popular Mobilisation Unit commanders, with an agenda of ridding Iraq of any form of Sunni control. All of this backed by the Iranian administration, who are desperate to see a Shiite Islamic republic in Iraq, modelled after their own, and fully controlled from Tehran by their Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Sadly, such a prospect might not be too far in the distant future as Maliki is now campaigning to get his old job back and running neck-and-neck with the present incumbent prime minister. Should Tehran’s man Maliki win, Iraq would most certainly be returning to the dark old days when rampant death squads roamed the streets, a time when badly mutilated bodies turned up in profusion, dumped in ditches after being tortured in the secret dungeons spread across Iraq, set up by National Intelligence Service.

So, the death squads that had caused so much havoc for coalition troops during their occupation of Iraq, have now found themselves fighting alongside Iraqi troops, not only hitting back at advancing ISIS forces, but also responsible for committing atrocities against the innocent Sunni population.

With these militias better armed than before, with more control than ever, they are no doubt readying themselves to once again be pitted against civilians in the role of death squads, should their revered leader Nouri al-Maliki once more become prime minister.

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