December 30, 2020
Iran-backed factions in Iraq are increasing their threats against Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih as the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis draws near.
Soleimani and Muhandis were killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport in January 2020.
The escalation is taking place despite the outward calls for calm by the pro-Iran factions. Their actions, however, belie their words, prompting observers to speculate that they will continue to forge ahead towards a confrontation as long as relations between Washington and Tehran continue to be strained.
Less than a week after the US embassy in Baghdad was struck by a barrage of rockets, the Qassem al-Jabarin Brigade announced on Sunday that it had carried out an attack – the second in days – against a logistic convoy belonging to the international coalition against ISIS in Babylon south of Baghdad.
In a statement on Sunday, the brigade pledged to continue attacks against the “American occupier” in Iraq.
Another faction, the Abu al-Fadel al-Abbas Brigades, went even further and threatened the president and prime minister if they do not release militia members, who were detained for their involvement in past attacks on American interests in Iraq.
An informed source said it is impossible for the armed factions to cease attacks against American positions or even against the government and state institutions.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, it said that the conflict being played out on Iraqi soil is linked to Washington’s relations with Tehran.
“As long as the ties are bad, then Tehran will continue to order its proxies to fight the US. Their clash with the government and Iraqi state is tied to their efforts to maintain gains that were acquired through the force of arms,” it added, predicting more attacks against American interests in the coming days.
Meanwhile, debate continued to rage in Iraq over the arrest of Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants for their involvement in recent attacks on the Green Zone and US embassy in Baghdad.
A leading member of the Kataib Hezbollah militia slammed Kadhimi for his soft stance towards the US and his rejection of the latest attack on its mission.
Military spokesman of the militia, Abou Ali al-Askari, accused the premier of “treachery”, warning him “against testing the patience of the resistance from now on.”
His comments sparked outrage in Iraq over the perceived government and security forces’ leniency in dealing with such “insults” from the militias.