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The American "National Interest" magazine said that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi needs to move beyondthe strategy of political containment to economic containment, in order to be able to confront the pro-Iranian militias in the country. According to an article by Webster, an analyst at Low Beek International and an expert specializing in the Popular Mobilization Units and their place in building the Iraqi state, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi made restoring Iraqi sovereignty a major priority in his agenda for the country.
Political containment and
Abizaid: This included his attempt to curb the powerful Iranian-backed militia factions of the PMU, which threaten to prolong insecurity in the country.He went on to say: Al-Kazemi launched a strategy of political containment to achieve this end, which seeks to mobilize various political and religious actors against these militias to isolate them politically.He noted that the results of this strategy mean that containing the Popular Mobilization Units is slightly better than it was before Al-Kazemi came to power. He continued: But the limits of this approach are that it ignores the economic basis on which militias can buy weapons, recruit members, and launch attacks independent of their Iranian patrons.
And Abizaid: To combat this, Al-Kazemi must launch an economic containment strategy consistent with the political containment approach that he follows if he wants to reduce the influence of militias and improve Iraq's security. According to the writer, through the repeated attacks of missiles and IEDs on bases and convoys of the Iraqi army and coalition forces, the powerful pro-Iranian PMF units such as Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization had operational freedom that allowed them to act with effective impunity. And Abizaid: Al-Kazemi made it clear from the beginning of his term that Iraq will no longer tolerate the impunity enjoyed by the militias, and he has sought to curb the militias through a gradual policy that eliminates
their capabilities and popular legitimacy.
He went on to say: He tried to do so by building a political alliance, by bringing together actors from all over the country's political and religious landscape, to form a cross-sectarian front against the pro-Iranian militias. He continued: For example, Al-Kazemi was able to mobilize many of the Sadrist movement, Ali al-Sistani, his followers, tribal leaders, the overwhelming majority of the Sunni community, the Kurds, and Ammar al-Hakim, the new Iraqi coalition behind his policy of containing Iranian-backed militias.He indicated that this cruel alliance feeds the energy of the Shiite demonstrators who are demanding an end to the militia presence. He added, however, that the pro-Iranian militias took advantage of weaknesses in the economic sphere.
he explained that in areas regained from ISIS, the formal economy had been destroyed, encouraging the explosive growth of illegal economic activity. He continued: The pro-Iranian militias were able to bribe local officials in collusion with them, effectively extracting revenues from the control of informal economies in exchange for a guarantee of protection. He added: The lack of central control over the governorates, along with low salaries in the public sector, made these illicit networks attractive to local officials and to cooperate with militias.
Oil smuggling and
Abizaid: In the border areas, pro-Iranian militias have taken control of ancient oil smuggling routes to Iran, Syria and Turkey, often without interference from the Iraqi Oil Ministry. According to the writer, the illegal tolls imposed on civilians at checkpoints along these roads are another source of money that is not centrally located, but managed by individual militias.
Popular Mobilization Forces members during training
For example, in Diyala governorate, Asaib Ahl al-Haq was once said to make around $ 300,000 a day through checkpoint fees alone.
regulations Illegal customs regulations imposed by the militias taxes on goods transported between Kurdish and Arab Iraq, which at one time generated between 12 and 15 million dollars per month for the Badr Organization. At the same time, he continued, militia units are known to evade customs on taxable goods at the border with Iran by bribing border guards. And he added: In Basra, militia leaders form a kleptocratic class of elites affiliated with local officials, similar to the mafia. This ensures that a large part of the profits from the country's most productive oil region falls into the pocket of the ruling local oligarchy rather than making its way into the state coffers.
Collusion with officials and
continued: The entrenchment of pro-Iranian militias in regional economies in collusion with local officials leaves them financially independent at the local level, as they are backed by a network of collaborators with the state, corrupt officials, non-governmental agents, smugglers and followers. These agents continue to benefit from activities such as smuggling and extortion that shape the political economy of modern Iraq.
Abizaid: When the extent of these activities is considered, the pro-Iranian militias begin to appear as a quasistate rather than a security force due to the depth of their economic entrenchment, and this is the dynamic that Al-Kazemi must realize in the policy of containing the militias. According to the writer, focusing only on the political and security stronghold of the pro-Iranian militias ignores their ability to maintain an economic lifeline independent of the state or Iranian support. He continued: Nevertheless, and given that the militia's economic rent strategy depends on the links and higher networks developed by the Al-Fateh coalition in parliament, the economic containment of the PMUs must go hand in hand with the continued depoliticization of Iraqi ministries and institutions such as the police and regional provincial administrations.
He added: If Al-Kazemi wants to erode the militia base in order to persuade them to reform, he will have to separate the intimate relationship between economic possession and local political influence. According to the writer, because too much pressure on the militias may ignite them, such a policy should work slowly towards stifling the militias' ability to make money. He went on to say: The raid and closure of the economic offices run by the Popular Mobilization Units throughout the country for the purpose of profiting operations may lead to the outbreak of a violent fire, which is the last thing Iraq needs. He continued: Nevertheless, Al-Kazemi can extend his control over his public sector, and specifically over the links and communications through which the pro-Iranian militias were able to gain an economic foothold. He noted that regularly rotating local administrative officials and increasing the salaries of these officials would reduce their tendency to cooperate with militias.
At the same time, measures aimed at increasing financial accountability and reporting, as well as overseeing regional economies, will go some way in formalizing the informal economy and preventing corruption from officials. He added: Realistically, Al-Kazemi cannot achieve anything drastic in the economic field. The best he can hope for is to gradually devour the economic base of the militias by the time of the next elections, in the hope that the parties affiliated with the pro-Iranian militias will suffer at the ballot box. He noted that if that happens, the next Iraqi prime minister will be able to pass the wide-ranging economic reforms needed to put the country on a long-term path to economic growth, which could be a way to lure militiamen into formal private sector employment. He concluded by saying: A policy that takes into account the overlap of political exploitation and economic corruption will eliminate the economic stronghold of the militias, and limit their ability to buy weapons, bribe officials and carry out violence.
A state within a state
According to several US reports, including a report by the Washington Post, the most difficult challenge that AlKazemi faces is controlling these militias, which threaten to become a state within a state - in the same way Hezbollah operates in Lebanon. In defiance of these militias, Al-Kazemi is taking courageous steps by curbing their influence and roles inside Iraq. According to the American newspaper, Al-Kazemi is trying to create a different model in this country, which has been a victim of American military failure and Iranian interference by affirming his country's sovereignty, combating corruption and developing a sustainable military training relationship with Washington.
The American presence
Al-Kazemi confirmed in a previous interview with the newspaper that the Iranian-backed militias feel that their legitimacy stems from the American presence in Iraq, but he warned that this does not give the militias the right to attack the American forces in Iraq, stressing that the state must have a monopoly on arms, considering that any An organization possessing weapons outside the country is considered outlaw. Iraqi parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place next June. Al-Kazemi assumed his position as transitional prime minister, without a strong sectarian or party base, but he has a chance to retain power if he can harness the political energy of young street protesters who are tired of traditional parties and politicians. Iraqi youth see Al-Kazemi as politically supportive of their position and demands, whether related to the need to end Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs, cleanse the joints of the state who owe allegiance to Iran, or address corruption.
Al-Kazemi's determination to confront the Iranian-backed militia file became clear, with the Iraqi government in July of this year taking a decision to disarm political parties and tribal leaders in some Iraqi provinces, and in his attempt to effectively extend his control over the border crossings with Iran.
Militias affiliated with Iran threaten to prolong insecurity in the country.
Illegal customs regulations between Kurdish and Arab Iraq imposed the factions controlling oil smuggling routes with Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
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