Shafaq News/ It seems conceivable that the incumbent prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi launched his premiership with reinstating, and promoting the well-respected general Abd el-Wahab al-Saadi to the head the state's elite counter-terrorism forces.
Al-Saadi spearheaded the Iraqi campaign against ISIS following the group’s invasion of Iraq in 2014. As second in command of the Iraqi special operations forces, he led his commandos to decisive victories over ISIS in the Battles of Baiji, Tikrit, Fallujah and Mosul. This historic conquest cemented al-Saadi’s status as a war hero and Iraqi cultural icon.
However, many Iraqi generals and warlords managed to enamor on the battlefield during the three-year campaign against ISIS.
So why Al-Saadi?
There are two aspects that outlines Al-Saadi’s stigma.
First, the lieutenant demonstrated the man of attitude he is when he, back in September, found himself being demoted and transferred to an administrative job in the Iraqi Defense Ministry. Despite insisting that, "there is no place" for him in the ministry of defense but in the field, he later complied to the orders of the supreme commander of the armed forces. Decommissioning al-Saadi was one of the major triggers sparking demonstrations that grew into mass protests against the political system.
The new PM's decision to bring back the revered general to the Iraqi special operations forces (ISOF) came as a positive indication of al-kadhimi's push towards systematic change in the Iraqi scene. Just as Al-Saadi was the right man in the right place in the struggle against terrorism years ago, it is only appropriate for him to be in the right place again.
The second aspect is al-Saadi’s unique ability to poise the American–Iranian rivalry that characterized much of the anti-ISIS effort. Even though Iran and the U.S. were fighting in the same trench, both side refused to cooperate. This persistent failure to compromise complicated the scene for Iraqi forces relying on either American or Iranian patronage, given that these fighters went into battle side-by-side. Al-Saadi was able to ease the friction by oiling the cogwheels of the two parties rendering the operation run smoothly ensuring there is no primacy to a side over the other.
Therefore, it was not strange to be accused of being “close to the Americans”, while others accused him of being “close to the Iranians”. Although his role was to be a compromise between them, the former government’s decision to suddenly sack him reinforced the accusations of him being close to America.
Despite commanding a force designed and trained by the U.S., al-Saadi avoided aligning with the U.S. side. In fact, he often expressed his frustration with American militants; during his bid to liberate Fallujah, al-Saadi expostulated the American air forces for rarely launching airstrikes when he asked to. On the other hand, the general rejected an Iranian of support when he was taking charge of the attack against ISIS forces infiltrating Baiji as he cleared himself to associated press.
Al-Saadi was hailed across the entire political Iraqi spectrum as an effective, nonpartisan commander. He sets a rare feature of an Iraqi cultural icon without subjecting himself to the sectarian spoils system that stigmatizes Iraq’s military and politics. In addition, unlike most Iraqi generals and politicians, the general did not side any of the Iranian or the American outrights. For his part, al-Saadi served under successive Iraqi governments without tying himself to a particular faction. Iraqis saw him as a war hero, not a Sunni or a Shia.
As a matter of fact, al-Saadi was devoted to the military struggle and showed no interest in politics. Reports from the archive demonstrates he overlooked recommendations to take over the ministry of defense's portfolio for him being preoccupied with battles against terrorism.
Al-Kadhimi views Al-Saadi as the right man in this particular moment of Iraq’s history. As al-Kadhimi's government channeled through a clear American-Iranian compromise, al-Saadi is a clear sign of the new prime minister's endeavor to downtempo the heave and extending outreaches between Washington and Tehran.
Al-Saadi strengthens Al-Kadhimi’s team in processing sensitive files.
Besides his substantial role in the war against terrorism that reoccupies the scene in Iraq, al-Saadi will be holding an essential string in al-kadhimi's tug-of-war game of balancing between the inevitability of the relationship with Tehran and the weights of the relationship with Washington.
The new government's era takes on with two flags looming over the horizon; The fate of the PMF and the future of the American military presence in Iraq. With both topics scheduled to be discussed first hand in the planned strategic dialogue meetings between Baghdad and Washington.
Since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, tensions between the two foes, Washington and Tehran, continued to spill over into Iraq with both sides taking offensive stances and exchanging harsh jabs. Al-Kadhimi is aware about the consequences of this squabble, and clearly called out the two sides to avoid settling scores in Iraq. Al-Saadi is an important key at this moment, to ease potential tensions through the convergence channel that he will provide without being subjected to political criticism for being biased, as he stands on the same distance from both sides.
Al-Saadi was sought after by all parties; Muqtada Al-Sadr, for example, expressed his anger at Al-Saadi’s sudden dismissal last September. Ammar Al-Hakim, leader of the “national wisdom movement”, among other political figures criticized the decision and asked the former government for an explanation, as he tweeted, "when such a procedure substitutes reward and appreciation, it sends a false message not only on the mechanisms of managing the security file accordingly, but also on the administration of the state in general."
The Iraqi street's dissatisfaction was not less prominent. As thousands of demonstrators marched the streets as an act of protest against the dismissal and hashtags condemning the former government decision trended on Twitter. Already frustrated by the Iraqi's successive governments failure to cease corruption, generate employment and offer services, it seemed that al-Saadi's demotion as the final straw. One month later, the demonstrations drew hundreds of thousands.
Trapped between the U.S.’s bid to maintain a sphere of hegemony in the Middle East and Iran’s pursuit of establishing itself as a regional antagonist, Iraq needs a public figure who can bridge this gap. Al-Saadi will be a vital axe in balancing Iraq’s needs with the realities of the American–Iranian competition. The exact same role he mastered - along with other important factors – in the battle against ISIS.
Al-Saadi’s track record shows he possesses the unique character, the public support, military experience, and the political capital essential to untangle and curb the international crisis eclipsing Iraq. These traits make his return to the public scene substantial to the state's benefit. His actions will be a crucial determinant to Iraq's strategy on the light of the ongoing American–Iranian conflict, that few other Iraqi public figures enjoy.
Similarly, it is believed that Al-Saadi also maintains good relations with the military leaders in Kurdistan. This can be important in the light of the current situation, since the files of Baghdad and Erbil relations are too urgent to be procrastinated, especially in the security files as terrorist activity sembles to resurge in the disputed on areas. Al-Saadi at the head of the Iraqi special operations forces certainly better serves the joint battle against ISIS, which is a cooperation imposed by challenges, geography and common destiny.
Who is Abd Al-Wahab Al-Saadi?
According to Shafaq News agency, Al-Saadi was born in Sadr City in 1963.
He obtained a Bachelor degree in Physics and the rank of Lieutenant in the Army from the Iraqi Military College, before studying at the Iraqi Staff College from which he graduated in 1996. Al-Saadi rose through the military ranks until he was transferred to the Iraqi special operations forces, where he supervised and trained many of the agency's soldiers and officers.
He led the liberation operations of several areas occupied by ISIS, including Baiji (the largest Iraqi oil refinery), Fallujah and Mosul.
Al-Saadi turned into an Iraqi war hero in after he orchestrated the war that led to the elimination the terrorist organization.
Iraqis still remember the kid, that appeared in a video that went viral on social media, tearfully searching for Al-Saadi in one of Mosul's alleys, to thank him for liberating the city from ISIS, only for al-Saadi to embrace her with fatherly warmth.
this scene that showed the heart-warming affection of the soldier, who spent years combating death, only for the life of the kids of his country.