Rudaw

Abadi: Where did Hashd leaders get their wealth?

Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s former prime minister, has called for an investigation into how Shiite paramilitia leaders acquired their wealth.

In an interview with state-run al-Iraqiya TV on Thursday night, Abadi said: “I call for probes into the assets of those who name themselves Hashd leaders. It should be made clear how they earned it.”

“Some of them had nothing and have now become rich at the expense of the Hashd fighters,” he added.

Iraq is ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International.

Hashd al-Shaabi is an amalgam of Shiite militias headed by Shiite political parties; many of them part of the Fatih alliance – the second biggest bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

Several of these militias began life fighting against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces alongside Iranian troops in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). Some later joined the insurgency against the US-led occupation after the 2003 invasion.

When the Islamic State group (ISIS) swept northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani called on young Iraqis to take up arms.

The groups that came together under the umbrella of Hashd al-Shaabi later became an official part of the Iraqi security apparatus, funded by the state and officially under the direction of the commander-in-chief – then-PM Abadi.

After retaking territory from ISIS, Hashd units began taking over businesses and infrastructure. In the war-wracked city of Mosul they are even accused of selling scrap from destroyed buildings.

“Go and look at their net worth. Where did they get it?” Abadi asked, without naming specific Hashd leaders. “Did they make it all at war or through business?”

Hashd al-Shaabi became the primary ground force against ISIS in the 2014-17 war. They played a pivotal role in retaking Sunni heartlands in Anbar and Mosul.

The strength of Hashd al-Shaabi is part of Abadi’s legacy as PM. He used the paramilitias to force the Peshmerga out of the disputed territories in October 2017, causing relations between Erbil and Baghdad to sink to their lowest point since the fall of Saddam.

The US and other members of the anti-ISIS coalition have longed called for the Hashd to be dismantled and absorbed into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), fearing it is being used as an Iranian proxy to influence the balance of power in Iraq and Syria and threaten western personnel.

Pentagon officials said Saturday they suspect Iran-backed militias were responsible for the last week’s rocket attack on the Baghdad Green Zone, home to the US embassy compound.

Before a disastrous election result forced from office, Abadi dismissed Falih Alfayyadh, Iraq’s national security adviser, in August 2018, accusing him of involvement in partisan activities – a violation of the constitution that stipulates neutrality of the intelligence and security services.

Alfayyadh — who simultaneously held the positions of National Security advisor, head of the Hashd al-Shaabi commission, and head of the national security apparatus — was sacked from all posts.

Abadi fought the May 2018 election with a pledge to clean up Iraqi politics and clamp down on corruption. However, it is not clear why Abadi chose the present context to attack figures in the Hashd leadership.

Anti-corruption protests led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rocked Najaf last week, bringing the issue back into the public eye.

But Abadi’s comments also come as US-Iranian tensions and divisions in the Shiite political ranks cause fissures in Baghdad.

Pro-Iran parties and militias in Iraq could cause issues for the government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi as tensions between the US an Iran threaten to drag Iraq into a new conflict. Challenging these leaders on corruption could weaken their support base.

Deep divisions between Shiite parties in Baghdad during and after the May 2018 parliamentary election forced the Dawa party from office for the first time in 15 years. These political fractures could potentially deepen if tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf. Source