Iraq’s hopes of reforms are derailed by series of attacks blamed at pro-Iranian groups

Iraq

Iraq wants to launch reforms and come out of the battered economy after years of war but all efforts are being derailed by series of attacks that are blamed at ghost pro-Iranian groups. When in May Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Khadimi took office he had vowed to control the rogue militia in the country, tackle corruption and kick-start the development and restructuring of country after being battered through years of war and insurrection and rebellion. But all the efforts by his government are stymied by constant new links emerging as pro-Iranian.

A senior government official said, “Every time these groups see us getting close to their military or economic interests, they either launch rockets or propaganda campaigns to distract us.” Even before Kadhimi traveled last month to US to meet President Donald Trump, the violence was on rise in Iraq. Now after President Trump announced on Wednesday that more US troops would be withdrawn from Iraq the situation has escalated even more.

On Tuesday a bomb had hit supply convoy moving to Iraqi base where US troops are deployed. The bomb killed one Iraqi security forces personnel. On September 3 also Baghdad headquarters of British-American security company G4S was attacked by a drone that had dropped an explosive charge on the site. Though no faction claimed responsibility but it is believed to be by Tehran backed groups who had accused G4S of killing Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani in January’s US drone strike in Baghdad.

Few days earlier a UN worker was injured when an explosive device detonated below an aid convoy in Mosul. A faction which called itself “Islamic resistance”, a common phrase for all pro-Iran groups, has taken responsibility for the attack. The group has accused UN of transporting American spies in its convoy. The group posted online “Your vehicles will burn in the streets of Iraq.”

Many such threats have been recently made under the banner of “Islamic resistance”. An Iraqi intelligence officer said, “Five groups, including Kataeb Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and others are behind the recent instability across the country.” These groups are members of Hased Al-Shaabi, Iraq sponsored network which is dominated by factions that are close to Iran and wary of US.

The Islamic Resistance groups have been accused by US as real planners and executioners of rocket attacks on American installations and sites in Iraq. These groups have accused Kadhemi of conspiring against Soleimani when he was Iraq’s intelligence official.

These groups have also started pressurizing through media outlets in a rather unconventional way. Anonymous publishing taunt warnings of attacks before they happen. They have also targeted Iraqi television channels who are critical of Iran. Dijla TV was burnt down last week and Sunni-owned UTV has received threats.

Government says its not intending to confront these groups directly but are aiming at drying up their funding resources. But officials ae aware that this can be a dangerous road. When PM started anti-corruption campaign with weak and porous Iraqi borders, the officials were prepared for worst. “They will blackmail officials, threaten their families, mobilize the tribes and maybe even commit assassinations.”

Khademi has recently built an anti-corruption council which will authorize Counter-Terrorism Service troops to arrest officials who are considered too powerful to touch. Iraqi security expert Fadel Abou Raghif called situation very dangerous. He said, “Ultimately, Khademi should open a real dialogue with the spiritual leaders of these groups to avoid a clash.”

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