US Sanctions on PMUs puts Iraq in Tough Spot

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

The conflict between the United States and Iran has taken a new turn toward escalation against the Iranian-backed armed Shiite factions in Iraq. But this step might harm Washington’s interests in Baghdad and engage the Iraqi government in a crisis with the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

While Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is trying to strike a balance to tame armed Shiite factions and earn US support, Washington is seeking to add armed factions affiliated with the PMU to the list of terrorist organizations.

The US House of Representatives introduced a bill in early November called “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017,” which calls for imposing terrorism-related sanctions on Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The bill was referred Nov. 3 to the Foreign Affairs committee.

Before Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba was formed in 2013, the United States designated its leader Akram al-Kaabi as a terrorist in 2008 per Executive Order No. 13438, on the grounds of “causing chaos in Iraq and threatening the stability and security of the alliance forces which were in Iraq before retreating completely in 2011.”

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba was blacklisted less than a month after spokeswoman for the US State Department Heather Nauert described Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the PMU, as a terrorist.

After Muhandis, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq were blacklisted, statements of various US Congress members indicated that the United States intends to designate additional Shiite factions as terrorist organizations.

While a harsher tone is being adopted in Iraqi statements against Washington, member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Hanan al-Fatalawi called on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Nov. 17 to summon the US ambassador to Baghdad to find out the reasons behind “the future US war” on the PMU.

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