Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s decommissioning of Lieutenant General Abdul Wahhab al-Saadi, who had served as head of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, continued to reverberate in the country.
Baghdad authorities took down a monument in one of Mosul’s cities which had been erected by locals in honor of Saadi’s role in helping defeat ISIS. Locals were barred from unveiling the tribute which was built by sculptor, Omar al-Khafaf and funded by civilian families and activists.
Local activists, on Sunday, had decided to unveil the sculpture in protest to Saadi’s dismissal and transfer to the Defense Ministry, but security authorities cordoned off the spot and prevented the event.
Being relegated to the sidelines is a “humiliation to my military history,” Saadi had said in an interview with an Iraqi TV channel, after the decision to remove him had angered Iraqis.
“Saadi’s monument, around three meters tall, was locally funded and sculpted by Omar al-Khafaf,” civil rights activist Ayman Al-Araji told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the public was shocked when authorities took it down.
“The people of Mosul love Saadi and appreciate his great role in fighting ISIS, so they wanted to honor him. But everyone was very disappointed after the statue was removed and felt helpless and unable to do anything,” Araji added.
Araji goes on to explain that the decisions to decommission Saadi and uproot the statue were probably influenced by Iran’s allies in Iraq in order to curb the growing popularity of a non-sectarian military leader.
“I wonder why authorities, despite the public’s reservations, allow putting up posters and pictures of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and religious clerics while they take down a monument of a national leader who is treasured by the people,” Araji said in an oblique hint at Tehran’s unfavorable influence in the country.
US-based political analyst Hareth Hassan noted that Saadi’s history of mounting tough anti-ISIS operations while retaining humility has molded him into a people's hero.