Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) condemned the US Treasury’s decision to blacklist a number of its leaders.
These leaders included Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Iran-backed militia and his brother Laith al-Khazali, another leader of the group, according to a statement from the US Treasury Department.
They also target Hussein Falih al-Lami, security chief for the PMF, Iraq’s state umbrella group of paramilitary factions, which is dominated by groups backed by Iran, including Asaib.
An offshoot PMF coalition released a statement saying that the group is being subject to pressure to step down from certain “goals and rights.”
“We strongly condemn the US Treasury’s decision to impose so-called sanctions on a group of PMF leaders and symbols of Islamic resistance,” the statement said.
“This decision does not affect the resistance project and its ability to confront the arrogant scheme, whose features have begun to become clear in chaos, desolation and destruction,” it added in reference to Iraq’s anti-government protests.
It also reaffirmed that the “Islamic resistance” faces enormous pressure to give up protecting social freedoms from “foreign schemes,” and that protecting the resistance is a “duty no less sacred than protecting borders and the sovereignty of the homeland.”
The Treasury Department said in its statement that groups led by the three paramilitary leaders “opened fire on peaceful protests, killing dozens of innocent civilians.”
Iraqi paramilitary groups deny any role in the deaths of protesters, who have demonstrated against the government for more than two months. Security forces have killed more than 400 mostly unarmed protesters, police and medics say.
The new sanctions also targeted Iraqi businessman Khamis al-Khanjar for alleged corruption, the statement said.