US labels deputy head of Iraq’s PMU a terrorist

The United States accused Abu Fadak of involvement in kidnappings and of attempting to align Iraq's security institution's with Iran's foreign policy.

al-monitor Iraqis pay respects by the grave of slain commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the Wadi al-Salam ("Valley of Peace") cemetery, one of the world's biggest, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, on Jan. 2, 2021, on the eve of the first anniversary of his killing alongside Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike. The US Treasury Department blacklisted Muhandis' successor Wednesday. Photo by ALI NAJAFI/AFP via Getty Images.

Jan 13, 2021

The United States labeled the chief of staff of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units a designated global terrorist Wednesday in the outgoing Trump administration’s latest attempt to isolate Iran’s foreign proxies before leaving office.

Abdul Aziz al-Muhammadawi, also known as Abu Fadak, serves as the deputy head of the PMU. The organization officially lies under the authority of the federal government in Baghdad; however, many of the PMU militias receive support from Iran and have ties to the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Abu Fadak is one of them, the US State Department said Wednesday. The influential Shiite official was once secretary-general of Kataib Hezbollah, which the United States designated a terrorist organization in 2009.

The influential Shiite militia conducted ambushes on American forces during the US occupation of Iraq and has claimed a number of other violent attacks since. Washington says the group was key to violently suppressing pro-democracy protests across Iraq last year and does the bidding of Iran.

The State Department accused Abu Fadak on Wednesday of working with the Quds Force to “reshape official Iraqi state security institutions” to “support Iran’s malign activities, including the defense of the Assad regime in Syria.

The department also accused him of involvement in “abductions of hundreds of men” in areas liberated from the Islamic State (IS). “These individuals remain missing to this day,” the State Department statement read.

In a separate statement Wednesday, the US Treasury Department appeared to accuse Abu Fadak of links with IS. A spokesperson for the Treasury did not immediately return Al-Monitor’s request for comment.

The United States also unveiled sanctions Wednesday on two financial organizations it said were controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: the Astan Quds Razavi and Execution of Imam Kohmeini’s Order. The State Department said the ostensibly charitable organizations control major swaths of the Iranian economy.

Earlier this week the Trump administration sanctioned the chairman of Iraq’s PMU, Faleh al-Fayadh, under an addendum to the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the United States to sanction foreign figures based on allegations of human rights abuses.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin accused Fayadh of “directing and supervising the murder of peaceful Iraqi demonstrators” and “waging a violent campaign against Iraqi democracy and civil society.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi ousted Fayadh as Iraq’s national security adviser last year.

The Trump administration assassinated former Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a Baghdad drone strike in January 2020. Also killed was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy PMU chief whom Abu Fadak has succeeded.

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