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

Iraq’s PM Gives up Middlemen in PMF Negotiations

Iraq’s PM Gives up Middlemen in PMF Negotiations

Thursday, 24 June, 2021 - 07:00
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, AP

In 45 days, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is slated to take up an invitation to visit Iran and meet with the cleric-led country’s newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi.

The month-and-a-half window is supposed to allow Kadhimi to settle turbulences arising from some hardline Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) factions trying to topple his government.

These extremists are believed to have been bringing drone-borne missiles into Iraq, which shifted dynamics in the country’s field and political scene.

“Kadhimi plans to draw solid lines for separating Tehran’s policy from the dangerous activities conducted by groups claiming they are allies of Iran,” a senior political source, who requested anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“New Iranian messages have been received,” the source added, noting that Tehran’s new direction has altered the equations for conflict in the region.

Kadhimi’s scheduled meeting with Raisi is significant because the latter’s election constitutes a remarkable power change inside Iran.

Raisi taking over the country’s top administrative office reflects the extent of the sovereign influence Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei enjoys.

“Kadhimi’s visit will take place after the Iranian government finishes the procedures for handing over power to the new administration,” a high-ranking government source confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Iraqi prime minister is trying hard to maintain his policy on Iran, which is anchored in the notion of “not having enmity towards a neighboring country.”

Nevertheless, his policy stumbles when faced with “Iranian behavior that harms Iraq’s sovereignty and shared interests,” they revealed.

Kadhimi barely got away with having authorized the arrest of the leader of the Iran-backed PMF operations in Anbar, who was arrested on suspicion of terrorism and in connection with the targeted killing of civil society activists and protesters.

Politically speaking, Kadhimi managed to escape the sticky situation by “shaming traditional Shiite leaders for failing to contain the scene post the storming of the Green Zone in Baghdad.”

Prominent Shiite leaders offered “political mediation” to calm down the tiff between Kadhimi and opposing armed factions, but their initiative was met with utter failure.

However, the prime minister eventually managed to reach a direct understanding with the PMF on his own.

“Kadhimi was faced with a new power scheme in which the voice of traditional PMF leadership was waning as radicals in the umbrella organization were gaining more traction,” a political source explained.

In Iraq, traditional PMF leadership always played a flip role in local crises. They try to protect their political influence in government while integrating the PMF’s agenda as a core part of their overall strategy.

Today, Kadhimi “excluded these leaders from settlement understandings,” the source revealed, adding that those officials are now aware of the prime minister’s plan to confront the other party to the conflict without mediation directly.

“Senior leadership in Iran, especially in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, have noticed the shift in Kadhimi’s approach,” a chief PMF politician noted.

According to Iraqi political activists, the coming weeks will greatly aid Kadhimi in determining the future of his plan with the new Iranian president.

Editor Picks