Over the weekend, the US Treasury Department imposed a new round of sanctions against Faleh Fayyadh, the head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a government umbrella of Shi’ite militia organizations. Fayyadh is also the leader of the Ataa Movement.
The US has long vilified the PMF, and killed a previous leader in a January airstrike against the Baghdad airport last year. The Iraqi government isn’t accepting these new sanctions well, however, condemning them as unacceptable interference in internal affairs.
The Foreign Ministry said they were surprised by the US move, and President Salih warned that nations mustn’t interfere, and should respect Iraqi sovereignty. All agreed this was unacceptable.
In practice, the US has treated the PMF as an Iranian proxy, and sanctions its figures as though they are targeting Iranians. In reality, however, the PMF is part of the Iraqi government and its military.
This is hardly the first time the US has sanctioned a PMF figure, but the timing is particularly ill-considered, coming around the anniversary of last January’s assassination of a PMF chief and Iran’s General Soleimani. Many resent that US action, and these sanctions underscore that US policy remains roughly the same, and remains a problem.
Some of this may be Trump Administration hostility toward Iran, and may calm down after the inauguration. Still, there is clearly effort ongoing to try to provoke a reaction that can be used as an excuse for further measures.