By Ahmad Salloum
February 10, 2021
Hundreds of members of the so-called Peace Companies, affiliated to the Iran-backed Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, were deployed in several Iraqi governorates including Baghdad, Karbala, and Najaf on Monday and Tuesday this week.
The Iraqi armed faction’s mobilization followed a warning posted on the Twitter account of al-Sadr’s adviser Saleh Muhammad Al-Iraq, in which he spoke of an alleged agreement between “the Ba’ath and ISIS” to carry out attacks on holy Shia shrines.
The movement took place even as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, tweeted on Monday stressing that statecraft in Iraq could not be achieved by “encroaching” on religious and national symbols and sanctities, by strikes on institutions or by blocking roads, but rather through supporting the government.
Eyewitnesses in Baghdad told IranWire that the Peace Companies had been deployed in the areas of Al-Kadhimiya, Al-Azhamiya, and neighborhoods east of the capital, as well as in Najaf, Karbala, and in the south of Babel.
Images obtained by IranWire show members of the armed group amassing in some of these areas, which locals caused terror and panic among civilians.
Amjad Al-Uqabi, an Iraqi MP and member of the Parliamentary Energy Committee, has defended the Peace Companies as “protectors of the nation”, adding in a post on Twitter that “Whoever wants to harm the land of Iraq is delusional”. In support of this, the former deputy of the Shia Sadrist Movement, Hakim Al-Zamili, posted a tweet in which he declared that Iraqi holy sites were a “red line”.
The deployment of the Peach Companies coincides with a wave of local crime targeting activists in several southern governorates. Residents of Najaf have accused the Peace Companies of targeting them against the backdrop of a literary seminar last Friday. Followers of al-Sadr considered the event to be provocative as it commemorated the first anniversary of the “Najaf Massacre”, supporters of the Iran-linked cleric stormed an anti-government protest, killing and wounding dozens of people.