Iraq
Iraq: 'PMF' Shuts Down Fake Offices, Arrests Commander Who Criticized Iran

 Iraq: 'PMF' Shuts Down Fake Offices, Arrests Commander Who Criticized Iran


Khafajah tribe denounced the arrest of Aws al-Khafaji, leader of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, and demanded his release two days after the "Popular Mobilization Forces" (PMF) arrested him.

The leader of Khafajah tribe, Ameer Ghani Sikban, denounced in a statement the arrest of Aws al-Khafaji, calling on the government to help in releasing him.

Khafaji, a well-known commander at PMF, criticized the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Iraq and his five days stay.

Sources indicate that Khafaji also accused some PMF leaders of exploiting their positions and taking advantage of the real fighters. Some sources also refer to Khafaji’s accusations claiming some militias had killed his cousin, the prominent Iraqi novelist Alaa Mushthoub who was slain in Karbala on Saturday.

For his part, the popular crowd confirmed the arrest of al-Khafaji in the Karrada district, and that his arrest came after he refused to close his office.

Thursday evening, the Forces released a statement saying its fighters had closed four offices “pretending to belong to the PMF” in the Karrada district of central Baghdad.

“This move came after a meeting by security heads of the Popular Mobilization with the municipality of Karrada to close centers claiming to belong to the PMF.”

The statement also indicated that among the offices were two who claimed they belong to the PMF’s 40th Brigade and the headquarters of the so-called Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas Brigade administered by Sheikh Aws al-Khafaji located in the center of Karrada.

The group noted that its security unit “tried to shut down the unauthorized office, but those who were present there stopped us from doing so, and disciplinary action had to be taken against them.”

PMF Directorate called on all citizens to "inform the Directorate of any harassment of those who claim to belong to the PMF, to take legal action against them."

According to an Iraqi source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat, the arrest process took place fundamentally after Khafaji refused to comply with the order issued by Baghdad operations and the PMF.

He explained that the Forces want to unify the offices and identify their affiliations, which will include other centers claiming to be part of the group’s security system. He noted that the action taken was organizational and does not bear any political consequences and is not related to Khafaji’s position of this party or that country.

Following the 2014 rise of ISIS, Aws al-Khafaji founded Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas Brigades, a group of several Shiite factions that fought in Syria.

Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas Brigades first fought as part of the PMF, but later announced the dissolution of the fighting force after the announcement of ISIS’ defeat in December 2017, while its office remained in Baghdad until it was closed by the PMF.

Hezbollah has been mediating to bridge differences among its allies, an act that would pave way for comprise solutions by the government on the electricity crisis and rampant corruption.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah is expected to hold a meeting with the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, to coordinate on several issues that would be put on the new cabinet’s agenda.

The Shiite party is considered a go-between to settle differences among its allies - the FPM, the Amal Movement of Speaker Nabih Berri and the Marada Movement, which is headed by Suleiman Franjieh.

“Hezbollah has launched an initiative to calm tension among these parties because it needs to make achievements on issues that require ministerial solidarity,” the sources said.

The cabinet is expected to vote on important matters such as providing 24-hour electricity and fighting corruption.

Amal, Hezbollah and other Lebanese parties agree that the government needs to be productive and avoid quarrels.

“We were the first to call for limiting tension because the situation can no longer bear more crises,” Amal official Deputy Ali Khreiss told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Marada sources agree that the cabinet should be productive.

“There is a need to stop corruption,” they told Asharq Al-Awsat.

According to former minister Ghattas Khoury, who is close to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the government is invited to work because the country can no longer tolerate a further deterioration in the situation.

“Hezbollah is a principle part of Lebanon. There are two ways to deal with the party: Either appease or launch an attack against it. But, we choose appeasement and protecting civil peace.”

Benny Gantz, whose new Resilience party is gaining ground against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in the April 9 general election, considered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a security issue that can be settled.

In his first bold interview since entering politics, the former top general denied that the Israeli presence in the West Bank is an “occupation,” rejecting the use of such a terminology.

“The central question is a security question. We need to ensure the State of Israel’s security. Now, we have here a question of interests – and even Bibi [Netanyahu] said this at his Bar Ilan address [in 2009] – that we don’t want to rule over anyone else. We need to find a way for us not to be governing other people,” he said.

The latest Israeli poll has shown that Gantz is capable of defeating Netanyahu in the election. It indicated that a united Gantz-Lapid list would win 36 of parliament’s 120 seats, ahead of Likud with 32.

The poll showed the New Right getting nine seats and the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, getting six each, while Labor would get only five seats and Meretz and Gesher would fail to cross the electoral threshold.

Running separately, the same poll found that Gantz’s Israel Resilience would get 24 seats and Lapid would get 10. However, Meretz would get four seats. In this scenario, Likud would get 32 seats, the New Right would get nine, the Joint (Arab) List seven, lawmaker Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al would get six, Shas, UTJ, Jewish Home and Labor would each get five. Israel Beytenu and Kulanu would get four each. Gesher would still fall below the threshold.

Asked who they preferred to see as prime minister, 48 percent of pollsters chose Netanyahu, 35 percent Gantz and 17 percent did not know.