Russian Foreign Ministry: We can say with high confidence that al-Baghdadi had been killed

He said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on Thursday, he can say with a high degree of confidence that the organization Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed.

Alliance (38) require the execution of Maliki and his cronies corrupt crime Spyker

June 21, 2017

The Alliance of article 38, civil society organizations, parliamentarians, on Wednesday, collecting 20 thousand signatures in a campaign to collect one million signatures for the perpetrators of the massacre Spyker led by Nouri al-Maliki, noting that dozens of bodies of victims of the massacre existed and did not know their parents so far,

said the Alliance, during a conference held in Baghdad said: "the coalition includes more than 55 humanitarian organization, media", Noting that" during the three days he managed to collect 20 thousand signatures to hold accountable perpetrators of Spyker, "adding that" everyone gather signatures for the perpetrators of the crime ", adding that" will make those signatures to the United Nations.

"said sources confirmed that there are large numbers of victims in Spyker takers secret prisons", calling the incident "accused of participating in gathering signatures for the truth wetbrathm".

His father, said one of the missing called (or Ahmad), during the Conference, the Chairman of the parliamentary security and Defence Committee, Governor of Iraq "promised to get our children against payment of blood money to the kidnappers, saying" massacre contrived by politicians, because some politicians revealed to us that our children are still alive and being hidden from some politicians ", adding that" our children still have clans, where Sheikh Ali Jbara said, "many said "Perpetrators were sentenced to death and haven’t seen anything.

" with female activist and film director Mohamed Al-daradji, during the Conference, many don’t know the truth in this campaign we want exposed ", stating that" our campaign is not difficult and our collection of one million signatures.

"Ashley revealed on" find 830 a body buried in four mass graves in Tikrit ", stating that" there are dozens of bodies found in the city of medicine does not recognize their relatives yet.

"a source revealed The Ministry of health, early this month, preparing the remains brought from mass graves in the Presidential Palace of Tikrit, for the crime of Spyker, pointing to the discovery of a new cemetery in the same location.

the massacre is a massacre took place after Spyker families of air force cadets in the Spyker for air, on 12 June 2014, after the control organization of ISIS on Tikrit, one day after their control of the city of Mosul where captured Iraqi air force student 2000-2200 and taken away to the presidential palaces in Tikrit, and they Kill them there and elsewhere were shot and buried some of them alive.

Efforts to reduce poverty rates in Iraq

6/21/2017 0:00

Baghdad / roar Imad
Preparing the Ministry of Planning to launch a strategy of poverty alleviation (2018 2022) during the next two months, with a view to reducing the rates from 22 to 8 percent, while the ministry is seeking to implement a new survey of poverty, the end of the year Alhala.oukal official ministry spokesman Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi,

in a statement »Sabah»: the strategy of the new poverty alleviation (2018 2022), still in the pipeline, and it is hoped to launch in the next two months, adding that the financial crisis experienced by the country because of the decline in oil prices, the ministry made the resort to rely on international grants in the financing of strategic projects over allocations of pain Public offset.

He added ‘that the main objective of this strategy lies in reducing poverty rates, through the adoption of an economic policy that is consistent with the financial situation of the country, adding that the ministry will strategy to donors and international organizations for support.

Hindawi pointed out that the crisis of displaced people occupied an important where as of the poorest space, highlighting poor areas, to include economic and social development programs in the context of improving the living conditions of individuals, pointing out that the strategy will depend on the base of development projects aimed at improving the living reality and of life generally poor families.

According to a spokesman for the ministry, that according to the latest survey carried out rates of poverty in the country in 2015, the overall rate was 22.5 percent across the country, but the areas controlled by the «Daesh» terrorist gangs in which the rate was 41 percent, adding that the poverty rate in the Kurdistan region amounted to 12 percent, according to the survey.

With regard to poverty in the southern provinces ratios, said Hindawi, it stood at 30 percent, while the center and in the provinces of Kirkuk , Diyala and 17 percent, pointing out that the poverty rate in the capital reached 13 percent.

He explained that poverty rates rose very impressively in the districts of the province of Muthanna as it reached the ratio in which more than 70 percent, pointing at the same time that the ministry aims through the strategy to reduce poverty rates across the country from 22 to 8 percent.

Hindawi pointed out that the ministry is seeking to launch a new survey to see the poverty rate in the country after the completion of the liberalization of land operations of the gangs «Daesh», is likely to be implemented before the end of this year to find out the real indicators.

Efforts to develop new plans by the International Monetary

6/21/2017 0:00

Baghdad / agencies
newspaper Nikkei reported that the Japanese characteristic of the new IMF plan it does not require structural reforms , such as the last costly rescue programs.

The newspaper pointed out that " the International Monetary Fund formally adopt this new framework during a meeting of the whole leadership by the end of the month, has begun talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries (ASEAN)" in this regard, noting in return that the fund "does not intend to hold talks with China, which has huge cash reserves in dollars. "

The new system aims mainly to address the risk of collapse as a result of his intensive escape of capital. The return of funds under the plan to the United States, at a time when the US Federal Reserve began tightening its monetary policy, boosting the attractiveness of the dollar.

A collapse of the currency can cause financial crises with the growing foreign debt burden on the State concerned, the situation was getting more dangerous in the event of the intervention of speculators to benefit from these conditions.

In the face of such a situation, the countries concerned have to directly intervene in exchange markets to support its currency by buying dollars and selling operations.

The new mechanism that IMF works to put these countries are supposed to help to borrow in dollars, so mainly through the near – term loans not exceeding one year.

The newspaper pointed out that the fund "will evaluate potential borrowers in normal conditions," and that " the loans will be limited in the light of several factors, including the contribution of each country in the Fund."

The newspaper said the monetary crisis experienced by Asian countries in 1997, pointing out that the International Monetary Fund has supported Indonesia at the time, but imposed strict conditions in return, forcing them to leave the country banks facing difficulties.

The Nikkei pointed out that the crisis provoked shock among ASEAN countries, and left the hostility of the Fund.

Despite the progress that has been achieved since the global financial crisis in 2008, markets remain vulnerable to destabilize , if embarked on other central banks like the European Central Bank to adopt fiscal tightening policy.

Iran’s first vice-president put forward a proposal to lift visa requirements for the Iranian and Iraqi travelers, and also called for trade exchanges between the two countries using their own currencies, namely rial and dinar.

Addressing a meeting of high-ranking delegations from Iran and Iraq, attended by the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and held in Tehran on Tuesday, Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri called for the expansion of banking cooperation between the two neighbors by removing the trade obstacles.

To that end, he proposed, Iran and Iraq can begin to trade using their national currencies.

Jahangiri then noted that the political, economic and security cooperation between Iran and Iraq has reached such a high level that they need to formulate a “comprehensive document on trade and economic cooperation.”

The vice president also pointed to the huge number of Iranian pilgrims traveling to Iraq every year, suggesting that Tehran and Baghdad should sign an agreement to lift the visa restrictions.

For his part, the visiting Iraqi prime minister voiced Baghdad’s readiness to boost relations with Tehran in all fields.

Iraq and Iran are in the same front in the fight against terrorism, Abadi added, saying the Takfiri terrorist groups in the Arab country are on the brink of destruction.

Heading a delegation, Abadi arrived in Tehran on Tuesday and held meetings with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As violence escalated in Baghdad over the past few days, with several areas being targeted by bomb-rigged vehicles, members of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have called for the capital’s security dossier to be handed over to them.

In late May, a series of explosions targeted civilians in Baghdad. Most notably, a car bomb attack targeted an ice cream shop on May 29 in Karrada district, killing 11 people and wounding 47.

According to UN statistics, 86 civilians were killed and 226 others were wounded in Baghdad as a result of terrorist attacks and armed clashes in May.

On May 30, Kazem al-Sayadi, a member of parliament from the State of Law Coalition led by Nouri al-Maliki (who claims he established the PMU), called on “referring the entire security system in Baghdad to the courts and dismissing security officers, as well as suspending the Baghdad Operations Command and handing over the capital’s security dossier to the PMU.”

Hassan Salem, a member of parliament from al-Sadiqoun bloc affiliated with Asaib Ahl al-Haq, said there was a need to involve the PMU in the work of the Baghdad Operations Command to help protect the capital, especially in popular markets and crowded areas.

Such calls were expected from Sayadi and Salem, both of whom are members the Shiite National Alliance, which includes all PMU leaders and factions. However, Christian member of parliament Emad Youhanna surprised everyone May 30 when he called for suspending the Baghdad Operations Command and handing over the security dossier to the PMU, especially since he had previously accused the PMU of seizing the houses of Christians in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Emad Allow, a retired general and adviser to the European Center for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, told Al-Monitor, “The request to hand over Baghdad’s security dossier to the PMU has been suggested several times. Yet I do not believe the PMU will be able to handle this mission because Baghdad’s security requires efforts on the police and intelligence levels, not the military one.”

He added, “The PMU is organized in a semi-military manner and it is not trained to maintain security within cities. In addition, taking over this dossier may raise some sectarian and political issues.”

However, Allow agrees with the statements made by Salem on the need for the PMU to coordinate with the Baghdad Operations Command to exchange intelligence information because “the Interior Ministry is unable to control security by itself.”

There seems to be an attempt by the predominantly Shiite National Alliance that has the majority in parliament to dismantle the Baghdad Operations Command, founded in 2007, so the PMU can take full charge of the security dossier or give the Interior Ministry the power to handle it.

On May 31, a member of parliament from the National Alliance, Faleh al-Khazali, called on the commander in chief of the armed forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, to dissolve the Baghdad Operations Command and hand over the security dossier to the Interior Ministry.

On May 8, before these calls were made, the Baghdad Operations Command had added the PMU’s slogan to a banner that includes the slogan of each security agency working under the command’s umbrella. This shows that the PMU was going to be participating in maintaining security in the Iraqi capital.

The National Alliance is pressing the government by trying to replace the Baghdad Operations Command with the PMU, but it seems that its main demand is for the capital’s dossier to be handed to the Interior Ministry and give the interior minister, who will one way or another be affiliated to the PMU, greater powers.

There is a fear that handing over Baghdad’s security dossier to the PMU would result in society’s militarization. However, Mohamed al-Sayhoud, a member of parliament for the State of Law Coalition, believes otherwise and wants to give the PMU the responsibility for Baghdad’s security.

On May 30, Sayhoud said in a press statement, “The PMU has the expertise to maintain security in Baghdad, as it is an official force affiliated with the commander in chief of the armed forces.”

The PMU is a great force with the ability to fight on the military battlefield, but it may not be able to control the situation inside Baghdad in terms of maintaining its security and dealing with citizens, especially since the PMU essentially is of one sectarian color (Shiite Muslim); this is why local and international human rights organizations will be keeping a close eye on PMU actions in the capital.

Also, no one can guarantee that the PMU will not be used by a certain party to impose its own military or political influence within the capital. The majority of the PMU’s leaders claim to be working under the Iraqi state’s umbrella, but they believe in doctrines that go beyond the borders of the Iraqi state, and some are directly affiliated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In a nutshell, the PMU should be calmly dealt with during the post-Islamic State (IS) phase without provoking it. If the PMU is not allowed to control the security situation in Baghdad, it will carry on with its armed action in the capital, which will put the Iraqi security services in a pickle. On the other hand, if the PMU takes over the security dossier in the capital, it could easily use this authority to impose its political influence over Baghdad.

Successor «Baghdadi» after his death?

6/20/2017 0:00

Baghdad / morning despite denials from the hawks cell news reported by the media recently about the killing of the leader of the «Daesh» terrorist called «Abu Bakr al -Baghdadi», but it comes to mind, the successor to the name of «Baghdadi».

is ironic that dozens of names that have guessed intelligence monitoring and analysis sites security circles, killed in Iraqi air strikes or at the hands of security forces in the fighting or raids in the international coalition.

The most recent strike carried out by the Russian aircraft a few days ago against one of the dens «Daesh» in tenderness that led to the killing of 300 terrorists and 30 of their top leaders, Moscow and suggested the killing of «Baghdadi», shrinking the names put forward to heal the fragmentation experienced by «Aldoaash»

Options and approaching their end – at least in Iraq and Syria -, it is among the names of Moscow confirmed the killing of the strike during the tenderness meeting target: Prince of tenderness «Abu Hajji Egyptian» and the Emir of areas of tenderness to Sokhna «Ibrahim Naev Haj», the head of the security organization «Suleiman tourists».

While some intelligence reports indicate that «Baghdadi» is still alive and that he was in hiding during the Russian strike in the desert between tenderness and Mosul with only two of his bodyguards in a small truck «pickup», while other reports indicate his presence in the countryside tenderness .

The names that were previously a candidate to succeed «Baghdadi» was killed, is a spokesman for the organization «Abu Mohammad al-Adnani» , a Syrian Taha peasant , who signed a grip of US forces in Anbar in 2005 but was released after being detained for days under a false identity on behalf of Yasser Khalaf Hussein Nazzal the narrator,

and killed also, the second man in command of «Daesh», which is known as «Abu Ala Afri» named Abdul Rahman Mustafa Alqadola, Iraqi nationality , a Turkmen, also known as «Abu Ali Alonbara- Abu Alaa Afri – Abu Iman», eye «Baghdadi» after the death of his deputy , Colonel Samir Khleifawi nicknamed «Haji Bakr», «Afri» killed an air strike coalition forces mid 2016.

Although the «Baghdadi» did not appoint a successor, but two of his closest aides at noon potential successors to him after the loss of the previous leadership names, the two «Iyad al – Obeidi» Defense Minister of the terrorist organization, and Iyad Jumaili in charge of security, and the latter have already been killed in an air strike in the month of April 2016 based on the border of Iraq with Syria.

Thus, «Obeidi» is the most likely successor to «Baghdadi», and above all of the «Jumaili» and »Obeidi» work as officers of the Special Security Service , which was supervised by the defunct Qusay son of the former regime of Saddam, and with the exception of some Arab and foreign leaders ,

and some terrorists Salafi from Iraq, the rest of the senior leadership in the organization is composed of military and intelligence officials of the defunct Saddam era.

Politicians and researchers: Iraq has passed the most difficult stages

6/20/2017 0:00

Baghdad / Muhannad Abdul Wahab
Iraq stands in front of the task of the beginning of the stage after the elimination and restoration of
regions and cities that usurped those groups, after the terrorist groups ,security forces have made popular and crowd exceptional successes dazzled the world, and fought a war very difficult cities could not the armies of advanced countries fought.

And in front of those successes, the country has seen an organized media campaigns aimed at stopping military operations and the impact on the morale of the officers and soldiers, the most prominent of which was the goal to reduce the size of the Iraqi victories and the marginalization of those achievements.

Complete victory MP for the province of Nineveh , Nora Albjara said in a statement »Sabah», « the importance to be preparations at the highest levels in order to restore stability to areas raped gangs« Daesh »terrorist, to complete the victory of the people of Iraq from the military and support forces him«

She drew Albjara to «steps that victory is very close and need as fomenting building, to be a complete victory over terrorism has been fully achieved, and culminating in the stability of the liberated areas in Nineveh and return of displaced persons to their areas and the return of life to the city«.

The MP pointed to « the importance of speeding up the steps to the final victory over terrorism through the rehabilitation of infrastructure, and the imposition of the prestige of the state and the law and the rehabilitation of young people and the elimination of terrorist thought and consolidate the national spirit and belonging to the homeland and give priority to the public interest«.

Address the problems in the same context, stresses MP from Anbar province and a member of the security and defense committee Hamid al – Mutlaq «the importance of the adoption of the solution of the Iraqi and national labor to deal with all the dilemmas in the country, and not to allow third parties to intervene»,

adding »Perhaps what was brought by the occupation of the destruction and chaos and violence, It brought the country to this case, so we must be united in front of all the challenges that can stand by way of building the country and its development and not paying attention to the cacophony of voices that are trying to block the wheel Iraqi successes ».

The MP pointed out al – Mutlaq that «security and stability require steps government and popular, and be the will of the Iraqi people above all wills and important sort words for deeds and the fact of intentions, the fact that the liberated areas of terrorism need real to implement steps beyond the last stage and consolidate the national spirit humanity and impose state authority law »,

stressing that« the need for the presence of the right people who have the prestige of sound and vision for the future of personal power and, in appropriate places, especially during the next phase, with the importance of moving away from the interests and influences trying to spread corruption ».

Lineup Iraqis while you see a political science professor at the University of Mesopotamia researcher Noor Qais, said that «Iraq confronted a wave of violence not seen in recent history since the establishment of the state in 1921, and wills and agendas and plans a regional divide, and targeted by neighboring countries»,

stressing that «Lula lining Iraqis united and courageously led the response to that attack, and the sacrifices of the martyrs of the security forces, because their situation
was more miserable and the tragedy of the center of the imposition of extremist ideas.

» Qais indicated in a statement »Sabah» «that the sons of Mesopotamia were able to eliminate the monsters Daesh and expel evil and killing thousands of Almertezkin coming from all countries of the world, and after all that, unfortunately, political claims of the establishment of the regions and the division of areas appear,

without paying attention to the importance of unifying the country and estimate the blood spilled on its soil, and help shelter the displaced and abandoned and displaced from his area and his home «.

She added «that the current minute and you need to handle and manage a special face, where targeting media and raise non – existent issues or aims to fabricate a problem, including trying to steal what has been achieved military progress, which makes Iraq a strong country with its weight and back international influence«.

She noted «that this situation imposes a stronger government, says implements, and their actions reflect the confidence and respect for its citizens, and can overcome differences and obstacles experienced by the country, especially confusion and disinformation campaigns«.

By Kamal Chomani for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

After decades of waiting, the Kurds are finally set to hold a referendum on independence in the fall. Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, met June 7 with Kurdish political parties to discuss the referendum. Though the Gorran party (Movement for Change) and Kurdistan Islamic Group refused to attend the meeting, participants scheduled the referendum for Sept. 25.

The decision came soon after Barzani’s son, Masrour Barzani, unexpectedly arrived June 4 in Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, though the men did not talk about the independence referendum, according to Abadi’s office. Masrour Barzani is chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, a hard-liner toward Baghdad and an outspoken supporter of the referendum who calls for “divorce from Baghdad.” A memo from Abadi’s office said they discussed military coordination to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State (IS).

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), especially the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani, supposedly favors holding the referendum, though some skeptics doubt Barzani’s true intentions. Hoshyar Abdullah, a member of the Gorran faction in the Iraqi parliament, told Al-Monitor that the referendum is “a political card” — leverage toward winning from the KDP the oil fields west of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He said the referendum also is a tool “to distract the Kurdish people from the KRG’s failures and allow the KDP to regain positions lost in Baghdad.”

When IS advanced to Kirkuk in 2014, the KDP deployed two peshmerga brigades to protect the western oil fields. When the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) became suspicious about the KDP’s intentions, the PUK deployed its forces in June 2014 to the oil fields north of the city to block further KDP advances. Since then, there have been tensions between the KDP and the PUK over the future of the oil fields, oil exportation and the resulting income.

Burhan Haji Sulaiman, the editor-in-chief of the leading Kirkuk weekly Hawal, a pro-PUK outlet, told Al-Monitor that deploying the peshmerga in the western oil fields amounted to “occupation.” He said that the decision reflected “the strong alliance existing between the KDP” and Abadi. “The referendum is merely for strengthening a certain political party [the KDP], and the people of Kirkuk refer to the export of their oil as ‘looting,’” Haji Sulaiman stressed.

In March, a PUK unit known as the Black Force stormed the North Oil Company pumping station to try to put pressure on Baghdad and Erbil, the Kurdistan Region capital, to build an oil refinery in Kirkuk. The move led Massoud Barzani to deploy more peshmerga forces to secure the oil fields.

A high-profile political source in Kirkuk who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue told Al-Monitor that Massoud Barzani supports an independence referendum so he will have “strong leverage against the Iraqi government to win the oil fields west of Kirkuk during negotiations on the future of KRG-Baghdad relations.” In 2014, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani announced KRG’s strategy of economic self-sufficiency; however, it failed due to the fall in oil prices, the war on IS and Baghdad cutting the KRG budget. In addition, Abdullah believes the KDP does not want to give Baghdad control of the oil, “as the KDP has a deep strategic plan, which is controlling energy so as to successfully continue its quest for hegemony” and political power in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

Aso Mamand, the head of the PUK in Kirkuk and a member of the PUK’s political bureau, told Al-Monitor that the Iraqi government may not accept the peshmerga’s presence in Kirkuk once IS is defeated in Mosul and Hawijah. Mamand has suggested certain multiparty guarantees for Kirkuk’s future, saying, “We have suggested reaching an agreement with Baghdad, the Global Coalition to Counter IS and the Kurdistan Region.”

Hoisting the Kurdistan Region flag in Kirkuk led to conflicts between the Kurds and Turkmens. Kurdish leaders, in particular a group of PUK leaders of Kirkuk, have tried to reassure Arab and Turkmen leaders that they have “a special project” that will “prioritize Kirkuk and Kirkukis,” rather than Baghdad or Erbil.

“We want Kirkuk [governorate] to be a semi-[autonomous] region annexed with the Kurdistan Region with all its decentralized authorities that all the other components will agree on. Kirkuk’s oil should belong to Kirkuk, and the Kirkuk semi-region should have control over its oil,” Mamand said.

He added, “If it was not for the Kirkuk oil, the KRG would not have been able even to pay the half salaries that KRG employees are receiving. The people of Kurdistan are paying the price” for ill-considered KRG oil policies, he said.

Mamand noted, “We would like to hold a referendum in Kirkuk, but there [need to be] two referendums: first, to determine whether the Kirkukis want to incorporate into the Kurdistan Region or not, and then the referendum for the independence of Kurdistan.”

Al-Monitor talked to Nahwi Saeed, an independent researcher who wrote his doctoral thesis on Kirkuk’s conflicts and future prospects. Saeed said that incorporating Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Region is considered a “red line by the Arabs and Turkmens.”

“Any unilateral attempt by the Kurdistan Region to cross this red line” will lead to violence, Saeed said. Imposing the will of one party or state on others in a deeply divided city like Kirkuk will lead to bloodshed and few solutions, he noted.

Saeed argues that the best scenario is the application of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. The people of Kirkuk should decide upon the future of their governorate, and their decision should be respected regardless of which option they go for. However, he said, “Such a referendum is highly unlikely now. Therefore, the future of the Kirkuk governorate is truly caught in a catch-22 situation.”

Luay al-Khatteeb, Iraq’s Energy Institute director, told Al-Monitor the Iraqi government will claim the western oil fields after Hawijah and Mosul are liberated, as Iraq considers these oil fields to be its property and not the KRG’s.

“Baghdad turned a blind eye to the KRG exporting oil from those fields, as they didn’t want to be involved in Kirkuk conflicts and clashes,” Khatteeb said. “My advice for the whole of Iraq is for Kirkuk to declare its own region, or merge with Sulaimaniyah [city] and combine resources. Kirkuk has the richest oil fields but lacks good corridors. To secure a reliable and sustainable corridor for oil exports, there could be pipelines through Baghdad or Mosul, so Kirkuk could have a better chance to meet its local demand.”

According to Mamand, the KRG has not been committed to transparency, and Kirkuk’s share is not determined appropriately by either the KRG or the Iraqi government. The KRG exports more than 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to Turkey, and if the Khormala gas turbine power plant’s output is included, that figure will exceed 400,000 bpd. This is in addition to the 60,000 bpd from the North Oil Company going through the KRG.

Mamand concluded, “The economic independence the KRG was claiming was through oil, and the KRG Natural Resources Ministry was aiming for 1 million bpd by the end of 2015 — however, it failed. So, I don’t know if the Iraqi government will accept taking Kirkuk’s oil forever. … Still, Kirkuk is part of Iraq and its oil is controlled by the Iraqi government. This has made us concerned.”

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi government’s next big problem is coming into view: The group of powerful Shiite Muslim militias loyal to Iran seem to want to keep the country enmeshed in regional turmoil.

As the extremist group known as the Islamic State is driven out of the country, the Iraqi government is facing up to a new threat to its authority – this comes from the Shiite Muslim militias, once volunteers who came together to defend their towns against the Islamic State but who have since turned into a formidable, quasi-official fighting force.

The Shiite Muslim militias themselves are divided into three main groups, with some professing loyalty to the Iraqi government and the Shiite Muslim religious authorities in Najaf, while others openly admit they take orders from neighbouring Iran and Iranian clerics. A third group is affiliated with the Iraqi clerics, Muqtada al-Sadr or Ammar al-Hakim.

The factions loyal to Iran differ from the others in that they are the most well-armed and more powerful than the others. They are called the Walaei militias – the word means “loyal” – and they say that they prefer to obey Iran’s spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and that they see Iraq and Syria as one military front, where they will continue to fight even after the Islamic State, or IS, group has been expelled.

One of the around 20 different groups associated with the Walaei militias is the Khorasani Brigade, who are closely associated with Iranian General Hamid Taghavi, a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who was killed fighting the IS group in northern Iraq in late 2014. Alongside pictures of Taghavi, the faction has idolizing pictures of Khamenei in its headquarters and on their military vehicles.

“I can openly say that we do not take our orders from the Iraqi government,” says Abu Hassan al-Atabi, one of the members of the brigade, speaking to NIQASH on the phone. “We fought in Iraq during these difficult times and we have fought to prevent the fall of Baghdad [to the IS group]. We will be present even after the extremists have been pushed out. The IS group is just one of our challenges,” he continued. “The conflict in the Middle East continues and we are ready to fight in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, or any other country where there are terrorists.”

These kinds of ambitions mean that pro-Iranian militias are becoming more and more of a problem for the Iraqi government. At the end of last month, Iranian loyalist militias almost connected with the Syrian army and pro-Iranian militia groups in Syria, on the Iraqi-Syrian border. There were some fears that when the two sides met, they would open a land corridor, that would, as the Washington Post reported, “give Tehran control of a large swath of the Syrian-Iraqi border, securing a land route through Iraq and across southern Syria to its proxy, ­Hezbollah, in Lebanon”. Coalition aircraft flew overhead and dropped leaflets asking the militias to leave the border area.

In a mid-May speech, Qais al-Khazali, head of the pro-Iranian League of the Righteous militia, said that, “we will reach the borders with Syria and our brothers in Syria are getting closer to the borders too. In this way, we, the Shiite Muslim militias, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthi movement [of Yemen] are going to establish the Shiite crescent”.

In March this year, another pro-Iranian militia, Harakat al-Nujaba, announced they were forming a special unit called the Golan Heights Liberation brigade. This refers to the Golan Heights, which belonged to Syria until 1967, after which Israel took control of the area. The Iraqi militia said it was willing and able to take back the Syrian territory from Israel.

“The Iraqi government is in an embarrassing position because of the pro-Iranian faction,” a senior government official told NIQASH, off the record. “The US spoke directly with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and urged him to maintain control of these factions and to try and keep them away from Iranian influences. But that is very hard to do.”

It had been proposed that the volunteer militias be absorbed into the regular Iraqi army and police but this is far from happening in reality. Pro-Iranian factions are very popular and influential in Iraq at the moment, particularly in Baghdad and in southern provinces. They have large offices that are similar to regional police stations and if the regular army and police are not busy trying to avoid any contact with the groups, then they are likely to be currying favour with their leaders in order to avoid any kind of neighbourhood conflict.

The pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq actually date back to 2003, and the US-led invasion of Iraq that removed Saddam Hussein from power. Back then, Iraq’s supreme Shiite Muslim religious authority, Ali al-Sistani, resisted pressure to tell the Iraqi people to fight US forces in the country. Instead he asked them to remain neutral. It was then that Iran took advantage of another influential, and much younger, cleric’s desire to fight the US. That was Muqtada al-Sadr, who benefitted from Iranian influence and largesse with the creation of the Mahdi army, basically an army of followers of the cleric and his family that is now known as the Sadrist movement.

The Mahdi army is the spiritual ancestor of the Shiite Muslim factions who are loyal to Iran to this day, says Hamid al-Taei, a cleric who teaches in a Najaf religious school, adding that, “this conflict dates back to al-Sadr choosing to fight the US troops, and receiving military aid from Iran to do so.”

When al-Sadr decided it was time for the Mahdi army to put down its weapons and chose to publicly distance himself from Iranian influence, some of his senior aides defected and formed another militia of those who wished to continue fighting. One of these was the League of the Righteous, headed by al-Khazali today. Since 2014, the number of militias who have pledged allegiance to Iranian religious authorities, rather than Iraqi ones has grown, al-Taei explains.

After Iraqi religious authority Ali al-Sistani called for volunteers to fight against the IS group in mid-2014, al-Taei says that the pro-Iranian factions basically executed a sort of coup against al-Sistani, taking advantage of that call to form more military units that they would be able to continue to influence.