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Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq secretary-general says movement currently in ‘pause’

BAGHDAD – Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement, said on Tuesday that his movement is currently pausing from resistance activities but has not retired. The involvement in military operations is subject to assessment, considering the current size of the American presence in Iraq. Al-Khazali highlighted the sufficient and blessed efforts of resistance factions and AAH’s current responsibility to support the government as paramount.

In an interview with journalist Thaer Jiyad on the sidelines of the Rafidain Dialogue Forum in Baghdad, al-Khazali shared views on various topics.

On American withdrawal and presence

Al-Khazali reiterated the call for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces, notably American and Turkish forces in northern Iraq. He said the withdrawal of U.S. forces would significantly impact the stability of Iraq and the region, marking an important victory that might require sacrifices due to American political and economic pressures.

On Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s position within the resistance axis

He clarified that the movement has not retired from resistance activities against foreign troops but is assessing its participation based on military needs. The current focus is supporting the government, he said, with resistance activities continuing as necessary but not publicly announced for strategic reasons.

On coordination meetings and operations

Al-Khazali noted that coordination meetings among resistance factions have paused. He highlighted that not all recent operations were conducted by known factions, suggesting a broader range of resistance activities.

On military readiness and government support

He affirmed AAH’s full military readiness to respond to developments in Iraq or the region and emphasized the importance of supporting the government without weakening it or causing diplomatic embarrassments.

On Sinjar agreement

Al-Khazali criticized the Sinjar Agreement, negotiated during former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s tenure, as impractical and not reflective of the realities on the ground. The Sinjar Agreement aimed to stabilize the Yezidi-majority area by establishing a new local administration, expelling unauthorized armed groups from the region, and transferring security responsibilities to local security forces.

On PMF chief Falih al-Fayyadh

Commenting on the controversial meeting between the head of the Popular Mobilization Forces al-Fayyadh and Sunni tribal sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman, al-Khazali said statements from some MPs criticizing al-Fayyadh over the meeting with Hatem were not directed by AAH. He said forgiveness of Suleiman’s past should be contingent on an apology from him to the people.

The AAH leader claimed that he was not pushing for the removal of al-Fayyadh from his position as the PMF chief, saying he preferred al-Fayyadh to continue in roles such as vice president due to his deep thinking and dialogue capabilities. He dismissed rumors of having a candidate for the PMF leadership from within AAH, stating, “By God, I don’t have anyone in mind for this position from within Asa’ib. There is more than one name I’m considering, but not from Asa’ib, should we reach that stage.”

On relations with neighboring countries

Al-Khazali disclosed that during the transition to Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s government, there was mediated communication with the United Arab Emirates. This interaction was prompted by concerns over alleged drone activities. He emphasized his role in alleviating fears and providing assurances to the UAE leaders. The AAH leader supported Prime Minister Al-Sudani’s diplomatic outreach to Gulf countries, Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE, stating that while AAH does not have private relations with these states, they do maintain general relations with some of them.