Monday, December 23, 2019

Hezbollah Helping Iran Negotiate New Premier For Iraq

Hezbollah's Kawtharani has been in Iraq coordinating with Iran to pick a new prime minister (Long War Journal)


As the Iraqi parliament is deadlocked over deciding who should be the next prime minister, Iran is applying a full court press to make sure the candidate is favorable to it. That includes deploying its Hezbollah ally in the form of Mohammed Kawtharani. He has been assisting Iranian Revolutionary Guards Qods Force Commander General Qassim Soleimani in lobbying Iraqi leaders.

Al Hurra reported that Kawtharani has been making his rounds with Iraqi politicians. He had talks with Hadi Amiri of the Badr Organization and head of the Fatah bloc as well as Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, Speaker Mohammed Halbusi and his deputy Ahmed al-Jabouri. Kawtharani also went to Qom to ask for Moqtada al-Sadr’s support. Tehran and Hezbollah are pushing Higher Education Minister Qusay al-Suhail from Dawa and State of Law to replace resigned Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. Iran has always been a major force in the government formation process in Iraq. Now that the United States is largely disengaged it has even more influence. It has also used Hezbollah as a proxy in Iraq since 2003.

Kawtharani has a long history in Iraq. He was a former student of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, and the liaison between Hezbollah and the Shiite opposition during the Saddam era. During the U.S. occupation, Kawtharani funneled money, arms and other support to militias. Right after the American invasion, Hezbollah sent agents into Iraq to assist Iran, and operated under General Soleimani. They provided training to Shiite fighters both inside Iraq, and in Iran and Lebanon. Ali Musa Daqduq was its main operative working in Iraq until his capture in 2007. Kawtharani helped secure his release in 2012. The next year, the U.S. sanctioned Kawtharani for his activities in Iraq along with assisting the Assad regime when the Syrian war began. In 2018 and 2019, Kawtharani has been involved in helping Tehran form Iraqi governments. They were instrumental in getting Abdul Mahdi into office last year. Together they hope to pick the next Iraqi leader as well.

SOURCES

Al Hurra, “Presidency of the Government of Iraq .. A Hezbollah man markets Iran’s candidate in Qom and last-minute deals,” 12/19/19

Joffre, Tzvi, “Hezbollah helping Iran’s Soleimani find new Iraqi PM – report,” Jerusalem Post, 12/5/19

Knights, Michael, “Punishing Iran’s Triggermen in Iraq: Opening Moves in a Long Campaign,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 12/6/19

Long War Journal, “Treasury designates 4 members of Hezbollah’s leadership,” 8/22/13

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Hezbollah official in Iraq to discuss upcoming government,” Iraqi News, 6/28/18

Munoz, Carlo, “New US sanctions target Hezbollah in Yemen Syria and Iraq,” The Hill, 8/22/13

Rayburn, Joel, Iraq After America, Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance, Hoover Institution Press: Stanford, 2014

U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Treasury Sanctions Key Hizballah, IRGC-QF Networks in Iraq,” 11/13/18

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