Iran’s attempt to control Iraq may include hit squads – Struan Stevenson

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi's attempts to appoint an Iranian-backed Interior Minister have led to walkouts in parliament (Picture: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi's attempts to appoint an Iranian-backed Interior Minister have led to walkouts in parliament (Picture: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images)
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Twice last month, the Iraqi parliament blocked the appointment of key ministerial posts by Iraq’s new Prime Minister Dr Adel Abdul Mahdi. The main sticking point with certain party blocs in the parliament has been Mahdi’s insistence on the appointment of Faleh al-Fayadh as Interior Minister.

Major blocs like Saairun, supported by the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have walked out of the parliament, leaving it un-quorate each time Mahdi has tabled Faleh al-Fayadh’s nomination. The issue has left the government in stalemate since the elections in May, with many politicians accusing Mahdi of backtracking on his pledge to appoint a cabinet of independent technocrats.

Opposition to al-Fayadh is not surprising. He was the brutal security advisor to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and masterminded the military assaults on the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, killing 168 defenceless men and women and wounding a further 1,700. His record of atrocities has earned him the accolade of an indictment by the Spanish Courts for crimes against humanity, limiting his ability to travel in Europe. Predictably, the venally corrupt and sectarian Maliki has openly rejected the Iraqi parliament’s refusal to nominate al-Fayadh as Interior Minister and has thrown his support behind the pro-Iranian blocs in the dispute. Like his former boss Maliki, Fayadh is a puppet of the Iranian regime. On the orders of the mullahs in Tehran he led the ruthless Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces during the campaign to oust Daesh (Isis) from Iraq, overseeing the almost complete destruction of the ancient cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in the process and the genocidal ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population. Last Saturday he visited Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

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Determined to see their candidate installed as Interior Minister, the mullahs have now sent the terrorist commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force on a diplomatic mission to Iraq to press for his appointment. The sinister General Qasem Soleimani visited Baghdad to take tea with the Mufti and to order the Iraqi Parliament’s Speaker, Mohamed al-Halbousi, to ensure the vote in favour of Fayadh was passed. The message that Tehran insisted on Fayadh’s appointment was apparently also delivered to the Prime Minister. General Soleimani then flew to Erbil in Northern Iraq, to pressurise the Kurds into backing al-Fayadh. According to British security officials that are in Baghdad to train the Iraqi military, Soleimani has also directed Iranian hit squads to assassinate critics of the mullah’s regime and opponents of al-Fayadh.

The Iranian mullahs’ malign interference in the internal affairs of Iraq has added to the growing crisis in the country, where there have been on-going public protests against the corruption of the political elite and the resulting unemployment and lack of public services. Rampant power cuts have left many Iraqi towns and cities with only a few hours of electricity daily. Water and sewerage infrastructure, destroyed during the US invasion, has never been re-built, despite Iraq’s burgeoning income from oil and gas. The country has been ranked as the 12th most corrupt in the world, according to Transparency International, with billions being pillaged annually by the criminal political class.

READ MORE: Struan Stevenson: Iran’s people are crying out for democracy

The turmoil over al-Fayadh’s appointment has paralysed the Iraqi government, where eight key posts remain unfilled. The international community must persuade Mahdi to dump the terrorist Fayadh and revert to the plan of appointing a cabinet composed on independent technocrats. Iranian interference in Iraq has cost the country dear. The blood-soaked sectarian legacy of Nouri al-Maliki and his henchman al-Fayadh should be a stark reminder that the mullah’s influence in Iraq has only ever been malevolent.

Struan Stevenson is coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).