US sanctions Iraq's PMU chair Falih al-Fayadh

Fayadh chaired Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units as the forces killed hundreds of unarmed pro-democracy protesters.

al-monitor Falih al-Fayadh, then a candidate for Iraq's interior minister, arrives at the parliament in the capital Baghdad Oct. 24, 2018, prior to a vote on the proposed cabinet. Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images.

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us-iraqi relations, magnitsky act, us sanctions, popular mobilization units, pmu, falih al-fayadh

Jan 8, 2021

The US Treasury Department announced sanctions today against Falih al-Fayadh, the chair of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (known variously as Hashd al-Shaabi, PMU and PMC), for his alleged role in violent repression of anti-corruption protests in 2019.

“During protests beginning in October 2019, Iran-aligned PMC forces attacked Iraqi civilians protesting against corruption, unemployment, economic stagnation, poor public services and Iranian interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press release.

Fayadh “was the head of the PMC when its forces fired live ammunition at protesters resulting in the deaths of Iraqi civilians,” Pompeo said.

In a separate statement, 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.”

Fayadh has been sanctioned under an executive order building on the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the United States to sanction figures abroad accused of human rights abuses.

The Iraqi official, who served as national security adviser to former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is the most influential Shiite Iraqi official ever sanctioned by the United States.

Kadhimi replaced Fayadh as head of the country’s National Security Agency in July 2020 amid a US-backed push to isolate the influence of the PMU and Iran-linked figures, but he has remained chair of the PMU.

On Friday the United States accused Fayadh of being a member of “crisis cells” supported by the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with Qais al-Khazali and Hussein Falah al-Lami, both of whom were previously sanctioned.

Last year the Trump administration slapped a terrorist designation on Khazali, who founded the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haqq and played a leading role in the violent insurgency against the US occupation of Iraq.

The US military killed former Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport last January along with the de facto head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

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