The unfortunate rise of the Khazali network – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise31st August 2018
- Qais al-Khazali, a violent terrorist responsible for the deaths of numerous Americans, is gaining a key role in Iraqi politics and commands 15 seats in the Council of Representatives after Iraq’s fraudulent elections.
- Khazali represents everything the Iraqi people have repeatedly rejected: violence, sectarianism, corruption, and Iranian influence.
- His increasing prominence is symptomatic of the larger, ongoing problems of Iraq.
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You may have never heard of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), also known as the Khazali network, or its leader, Qais al-Khazali. But if you want to understand what is wrong with Iraq, you need to know them both. Khazali and AAH are among the purest symbols of what ails Iraq. And yet, their power continues to grow.
Specifically, AAH is an Iraqi Shi’a paramilitary organization funded by the Iranian Quds force that is connected to the infamous “special groups” responsible for over 6,000 attacks on US and coalition forces.1 While AAH is considered a terrorist group and a part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, their reach is now extending beyond just the battlefield.2 In 2017, they created a political arm of the same name, looking to extend their malign influence into Iraqi politics.3
Two recent events are shining a spotlight on AAH, and what happens as a result will tell us much about Iraq’s future. In the compromised May 12 elections, AAH won 15 seats in the Iraqi parliament, almost entirely by fraud. It will likely end up with one or more ministries as a reward for its crimes.
Moreover, some of its misdeeds are on clearer display than ever, thanks to the release of previously classified interrogation reports from Khazali himself after he was captured by the US-led coalition in Iraq in 2007. These reports, now available on the AEI website,4 provide considerable new details about Khazali’s character, activities, and ties to Iran, as well as the wider network of Iranian-supported Iraqi terrorists and criminals. It is an unsettling view of a man who might soon be a member of the Iraqi cabinet.
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- Marisa Cochrane, “Asaid Ahl al-Haq and the Khazali Special Groups Network,” Institute for the Study of War, January 13, 2008, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/reports/Asaib%20Ahl%20al%20Haq%20and%20the%20Khazali%20Special%20Groups%20Network.pdf.
- Liz Sly, “Pro-Iran Militias’ Success in Iraq Could Undermine U.S.,” Washington Post, February 15, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqs-pro-iranian-shiite-militias-lead-the-war-against-the-islamic-state/2015/02/15/ 5bbb1cf0-ac94-11e4-8876-460b1144cbc1_story.html.
- Stanford University, Mapping Militants Project, “Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq,” https://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/143.
- American Enterprise Institute, “The Qayis al-Khazali Papers,” http://www.aei.org/spotlight/qayis-al-khazali-papers/.
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