Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has announced the arrest of the killers of Hisham Al-Hashimi, an Iraqi researcher who was assassinated nearly a year ago in front of his house in Baghdad.
The move is part of Al-Kadhimi’s long-running battle against armed militias, a challenge that the prime minister knows is risky, and where any mistake could cost him.
His battle with the groups could lead to a bloody civil war among Shiite Iraqis, with the public divided between those who oppose the armed groups, and supporters who they believe were a defense against terrorists. Without them, they believe that Daesh would have taken control of Mosul and other major cities.
Other Iraqis believe that these groups have taken a dangerous turn, becoming a state within the state, harming civil peace and displaying loyalty to third parties, such as Iran.
The gap between these opposing parties is widening, worsened by media confusion and the poor economic, service and health situation, which makes it difficult to initiate dialogue.
This gave rise to the popular youth movement known as the “October Movement,” arguably the largest grassroots mobilization in Iraq, which has been met with severe opposition, excessive use of force, and the assassinations of a group of young activists belonging to the movement.
Al-Kadhimi seeking to woo or neutralize various large militias, many of which come under Iranian influence.
Al-Kadhimi, who took office in May 2020, is well aware of the complexities on the local scene. He also knows that some want to lead him into a direct confrontation with the armed militias, and others who want him to accept a deal with the militias, with whom he will share power while they retain their weapons.
Al-Kadhimi has on more than one occasion reiterated his intention to “enforce the rule of law” and put an end to illegal weapons. However, his critics say he has not taken enough steps to achieve this and that he should be more assertive with pro-Iranian parties.
Those close to Al-Kadhimi point out his background in the Intelligence Service, arguing that he does not want to resort to violence, fearing that his reign will be stained with blood. They claim that he is working on several axes, with the ultimate goal of establishing the “rule of law” and voluntarily pushing the militias to integrate into government forces, or deal with rebel cells that do not comply with orders.
However, there are many security, political and intelligence matters that his government needs to accomplish before this can be achieved.
Internally, Al-Kadhimi is endeavoring to create a wide network of trusted allies and supporters of the state and its institutions, who have public influence.
There are permanent relations with the Najaf authority, namely Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, who ordered his followers in the Popular Mobilization Units to come under the prime minister’s command, asking them to refrain from fighting without government orders or leave Iraq. Most complied with these orders.
The other partner who supports limiting weapons to the state is the head of the “National Wisdom Movement,” Ammar Al-Hakim, who adopted a national political discourse, carefully moving away from Iranian influence, without entering into a clash with Tehran. He envisions a nation distant from regional tensions. He wants to ensure that Baghdad plays the role of mediator between neighboring countries, the same political ideology that Al-Kadhimi believes in.
Muqtada Al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist movement, who recently announced his retreat from the elections, is another party that Al-Khadimi is trying to woo, or at least neutralize, so that he is not opposed to Iraqi government policies.
Al-Khadimi is seeking to establish relations with Al-Sadr because he represents a broad base and has thousands of armed militiamen.
The “Peace Companies” are loyal to Al-Sadr, and could represent a striking force against the pro-Iranian militias.
• Hassan Al-Mustafa is a Saudi writer and researcher interested in Islamic movements, the development of religious discourse
and the relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Iran. Twitter: @Halmustafa For full version, log on to www.arabnews.com/thespace