Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

US Blacklists Iran-backed Iraqi Militia Leaders

US Blacklists Iran-backed Iraqi Militia Leaders

Saturday, 7 December, 2019 - 07:15
Members of the Iraqi security and anti-government protesters gather in front of a concrete barrier on al-Rasheed street in the capital Baghdad. AFP

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on three Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary leaders and a businessmen over a deadly crackdown on protests in the country.

"The Iraqi people want their country back. They are calling for genuine reform and accountability and for trustworthy leaders who will put Iraq's national interests first," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

David Schenker, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US is “encouraging neighbors not to meddle and undermine the constitution” of Iraq.

In his turn, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “Iran’s attempts to suppress the legitimate demands of the Iraqi people for reform of their government through the slaughter of peaceful demonstrators is appalling.”

“Peaceful public dissent and protest are fundamental elements of all democracies. The United States stands with the Iraqi people in their efforts to root out corruption.  We will hold accountable the perpetrators of human rights abuse and corruption in Iraq.”

Some 430 people have died across Iraq as security forces and paramilitaries cracked down on two months of protests triggered by concerns over unemployment and corruption.

The State Department announced sanctions on four Iraqis. Among them are Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Iran-backed militia and his brother Laith al-Khazali, another leader of the group.

The sanctions also target Hussein Falih al-Lami, security chief for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is dominated by groups backed by Iran, including Asaib.

Iraqi businessman Khamis al-Khanjar is also targeted by the sanctions for alleged corruption.

The sanctions freeze any US assets held by the leaders and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.

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