The Iraqi military is training a former commander of the Iran-allied Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) to become a high-ranking officer, the Reuters news agency reported on November 26, citing Iraqi government, security and militia officials.
The commander Hussein Falih Aziz, also known as Abu Zainab al-Lami, was the head of the PMU security branch. He was recently sanctioned by the U.S. for “killing Iraqi protesters.”
According to Reuters, al-Lami was sent to Egypt along with Iraqi officers for a year-long training. The agency reviewed an Iraqi defense document showing the commander’s name, with the rank Major General, on a list of officers attending the training in Egypt.
Iraqi sources said the recruitment of al-Lami as a senior officer in the military is a part of a wider plan to dilute the power of the PMU and Iran-allied armed groups in Iraq.
“The plan is to bring onside PMF leaders who are not seen as totally loyal to Iran and to ready them through this military training for positions inside the military and security apparatus,” a security official told Reuters. “Lami will be given a senior position when training is completed.”
The plan, which is apparently backed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, was described as a “risky gambit” by some critics as it will install Iran-affiliated figures in sensitive posts.
The U.S. has been in a covert war with pro-Iran Shiite groups in Iraq since the assassination of Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Deputy-Commander of the PMU in Baghdad earlier this year.
The plan to weaken the PMU will not likely be a success as similar tactics were followed by the U.S. and its Iraqi allies in the past, to no avail.
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