“Confessions made by Qassem Musleh al-Khafaji, one of commanders of Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in al-Anbar governorate, unveiled planning and targeting of several activists, demonstrators, and journalists,” al-Hadas TV reported on June 4 based on details provided by security sources.
Musleh had been detained by security forces a week earlier. He was the West al-Anbar Operations commander. According to sources familiar with the issue, influential officials attempted to have him released. However, judiciary authorities insisted on his crimes, describing an ‘obvious abuse of power.’
During the interrogations, Musleh revealed a 20-member group that was assassinating Iraqi protesters. “There are some snipers among these people. They had entered Iraq under the command of an officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Najaf airport on October 3, 2020,” Musleh admitted.
Since 2017, Musleh was the West al-Anbar Operations commander. He had also been the commander of Brigade 13, which called al-Tofouf, affiliated with Iran-backed militias.
According to sources, Musleh used to attend a ‘war room’ for suppressing the October protests. The war room was managed by militia commanders and officials closed to Iran.
Further investigations exposed that Musleh was protecting Iranian weapons and missiles which were transferred through Iraq to Syria. Since the beginning of Syrian protests in 2011, the IRGC has supplied Iranian and Afghani paramilitary groups in Syria to keep Bashar al-Assad in power.
On the other hand, Musleh was involved in smuggling of narcotics, essential cargoes, and families of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL/ISIS). In his confessions, Musleh unveiled a great embezzlement, and how an armed network affiliated with high-ranking military commanders controls sensitive service centers and facilities. “This network had influenced Iraqi security organizations and ensured its positions within them,” al-Hadas quoted Musleh as saying.
These confessions prompted Iraqis’ anger unprecedentedly. Observers describe them as a ‘black box’ and the tip of the iceberg, which gradually leaked outlaw and dangerous performances of militias.
Iran-backed parties like Asaeb Ahl-e Haq severely condemned Iraqi forces’ operation. “The administration of Mostafa Kazemi follows clear policies, which cause to the establishment of a police state,” said Qais al-Khazali, the founder and leader of Asaeb Ahl-e Haq who was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2019 for human rights abuses.
“Some detainees, who are accused of financial corruption cases, have been forced to making confessions against elite politicians of Iraq,” Khazali said, adding, “Musleh had been exposed to attack and invasion in custody.”
Notably, in October 2019, hundreds of thousands of people flooded onto the streets protesting systematic corruption and unbridled influence of Iran-backed militias and parties in the entire political and judicial system. At the time, the Iranian government did its best to keep the government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi, one of its allies, in power.
The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei personally interfered advising the people of Iraq to prioritize security over their livelihood grievances. “The U.S. and Western intelligence services, which are supported by regional dogmatic states’ finance, most of all are making chaos around the world. This is the worse adversary and the most dangerous grudge against a nation. I advise compassionates of Iraq and Lebanon to follow their grievances in legal paths,” Fars news agency quoted Khamenei as saying on October 30, 2019.
At the time, Reuters revealed that Iran had intervened to prevent ousting of Iraqi prime minister in an exclusive report. “In a secret meeting in Baghdad on October 30, Qassem Soleimani intervened. Soleimani asked [Badr Organization’s chief Hadi] al-Amiri and his militia leaders to keep supporting Abdul Mahdi, according to five sources with knowledge of the meeting,” Reuters wrote on October 31.
However, Iraqi protesters finally pushed back Iran-aligned Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi despite the militias’ harrowing crimes and suppression. As one of their main slogans, demonstrators condemned Khamenei, Soleimani, and other Iran-backed parties and militias, demanding their expulsion from Iraq.
Currently, confessions made by Qassem Musleh is a key part of the puzzle of Iran’s influence and malign behavior in neighboring countries. In their protests, Iraqi citizens from different walks of life once again called on the government to expose all details and hold criminal militias accountable.