The Iraqi Counterterrorism Service in the first hours after the midnight raided a base where Kataib Hezbollah’s 45th Brigade as part of the PMF was stationed in Al-Dorah neighborhood in the capital Baghdad. The operation, during which 14 members of the popular force were detained, raised speculation about the US role.
Meanwhile, the important point is that according to the Iraqi government’s announcement, the Al-Dorah operation came to “protect the rule of law and sovereignty.” Al-Kadhimi’s government claimed that detained members were planning for an attack on the US embassy and the Green Zone, a heavily-guarded diplomatic area in the capital.
Despite the release of the detainees, the cooperation of al-Kadhimi with the Americans against the PMF, a voluntary force that was founded in 2014 in opposition to the ISIS terrorist group following a fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali al-Sistani, drew serious criticism against the new Iraqi PM.
If by ordering the operation al-Kadhimi sought to undermine the PMF, he has almost cleared his way of the exit from the Green Zone where the PM’s office exists. In fact, if the new PM insists on his pressures on the PMF, also known as Hashd Al-Sha’abi locally, in the near future he will fall victim to the public and the patriotic political parties’ anger.
The US friendship mirage
Just contrary to the government’s rejection, the commanders of the popular force accuse al-Kadhimi of servility to the US. Although the Americans and the so-called international anti-terror coalition have denied that they were involved in the attack, the reality is that the order for the operation against the Kataib Hezbollah as one of the leading forces in the battle against terrorism was a positive signal by al-Kadhimi to Washington. While the US-Iraq strategic negotiations are underway, it appears that the new PM seeks the US backing to stay in power in the Green Zone.
But the field realities and the past experiences should remind the PM and his advisors that this way is nothing but a mirage and at the end of the road they will certainly meet their failure. The best example was the actions of the PM Haider Al-Abadi from 2014 to 2018. Despite having the credit of defeating ISIS and foiling the Kurdistan independence referendum in 2017 in his records, he finally opted out of office by taking stances close to the US and sending positive signals to them. This experience may very well tell al-Kadhimi that he needs to review his movement towards coordinating his policies with the Americans. Otherwise, he should expect the end of his presence in the post of PM.
Perhaps al-Kadhmi was the most agreed-upon figure for the post of PM in the eyes of the political groups. Just against former designate-PMs Adnan al-Zurfi and Tofiq Alawi, he easily won the parliament’s vote of confidence for his cabinet.
It needs to be taken into account that a large part of his success to win the parliamentary confidence is because of his show of a patriotic and moderate character in dealing with the political parties. In the initial days of the assumption of the office, he met with Faleh al-Fayadh and other PMF leaders. In a symbolic move, he wore the PMF uniform, winning even further popularity as the voluntary force enjoys massive social and political support.
After all, the people and a majority of the political forces recognize Hashd al-Sha’abi a national champion beating ISIS and the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate and leaving a golden mark for itself in the country’s history. So any politician appreciating the PMF’s sacrifices will be glorified by the Iraqi people, but if they choose to be antipathetic to the voluntary force, they should expect no prospects but defeat.