During Ashura, a major Muslim date in the Islamic calendar, one of the main leaders of the Shia-dominated Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) announced that the recapture of Mosul would be “vengeance and retribution against the killers of Hussein”. This astoundingly sectarian rhetoric was largely ignored by the Western media and governments who are now seeking to topple Daesh’s rule over the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
The fact that Qais Al-Khaz’ali, cleric and leader of the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH) militia that is directly backed by Iran, made his comments on Ashura has not been lost on observers who are already concerned about Iran-stoked sectarianism in the country. Ashura is observed by Sunnis through fasting as a means of thanks for God rescuing Moses from the Pharaoh, but for Shias it is seen as a day of mourning for the death of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who died at the Battle of Karbala 1,400 years ago. Radical Shias blame historical Sunni figures for his death and call for vengeance against them even though they have been dead for over a thousand years.
So where do these extremist Shias direct their desire for vengeance? At modern day Sunnis, no less, who have nothing to do with those tragic events over a millennium ago. In a recent speech where he reasserts the PMF’s participation in the upcoming Mosul operation, Al-Khaz’ali suggests that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and the Sunni former Governor of Ninawa Atheel Al-Nujaifi are the grandsons of “Yazid and Muawiyyah”. Yazid and Muawiyyah are historical figures – the latter of whom is deeply beloved by Sunnis as a Companion of the Prophet – that Al-Khaz’ali and other radical Shias blame for the death of Hussein.
Why has this barely been covered and placed into its proper context? Does the world not realise that Al-Khaz’ali and his ilk are going to participate in the battle for Mosul, where any number between 1.2 to 1.5 million Sunnis live? Do people not realise that the “Great Satan”, the United States, is actually lending its military might in aid of a sectarian agenda produced, marketed and sold by Iran via its terrorist proxies, of which AAH is one of many? Are people blind to the fact that this could mean that the US is indirectly culpable for any atrocities, war crimes and human rights abuses that the PMF will definitely – and not simply may – commit in Mosul?
The PMF and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have been guilty of vast, horrifying and innumerable war crimes and crimes against humanity already. In Tikrit, footage emerged (later blocked by social media companies such as Twitter, but not before it was reported) that showed two beheaded Sunni men splayed out on top of a Humvee used by a militia, and being skinned by people who can only be described as terrorists.
In fighting over the oil refinery town of Baiji in Iraq’s north, the Shia militiaman who was lionised by the Western media for fighting Daesh, Abu Azrael, was videoed using a sword to slice strips of flesh off of a charred and burning corpse of another Sunni “like a shawarma”.
More recently, in the operation to recapture Fallujah, the PMF and ISF rounded up Sunnis, who were then beaten, tortured and subjected to horrific abuses such as witnessing fellow prisoners being slaughtered and were then forced to drink their blood.
Does the world need any further proof that the PMF will be committing war crimes and atrocities in Mosul? While US President Obama is busy doing his best to make nuclear deals with Iran and to rehabilitate the mullah regime of Tehran in the eyes of the international community, he turns a blind-eye to what his new buddies are perpetrating through their terrorist militias in Iraq, and all in the name of the fight against Daesh.
Iran itself has openly declared that it has launched a so-called “Shia Liberation Army” (SLA) that has the Arab world as its operational area of responsibility and is directly under the authority of the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier-General Qassem Soleimani. According to comments made by General Mohammad Ali Falaki, released by semi-official Iranian news agencies, the SLA is already active across three fronts in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
Soleimani is also the most active, high-ranking Iranian operative in the region that has been described as the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today” by former CIA officials, and it is easy to see why. As commander of the IRGC, he is responsible for Iran’s extraterritorial military operations, including maintaining Iran’s vast network of terrorist organisations, stretching from Iraq, to Syria, to Lebanon and beyond. This includes Hezbollah, now neck-deep in the blood of innocent Syrians, and groups like AAH in Iraq.
With this potent and toxic sectarian cocktail soon to be unleashed on Mosul, I will not be surprised when people look on in awe and disgust at something they should have seen coming as the writing has been on the wall for ages – the continuation of the genocide against the Sunni community in Iraq through the devastation of Mosul.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.