Airstrike Ignites Chaos Within Iraq
Assassination of Militia Leaders Sparks Fears of Reprisal Attacks
01/03/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on January 2, 2020, an airstrike targeted senior Iranian and Iraqi leaders within the vicinity of Baghdad’s airport. General Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, and Iraq’s Paramilitary Chief, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were both killed.
Local media reported on the following day, January 3, that two Iraqi militia leaders supported by Iran were arrested: Hadi al-Ameri, commander of the Badr Brigade, and Qais Khazaali, commander of Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Iran has long had an ingrained influence within Iraq. However, this influence grew through the reliance upon Iranian-backed militias, collectively referred to as the PMF, to defeat the Islamic State. These militias have failed to relinquish reconquered territories and have developed a reputation of significant corruption and human rights abuses. Within Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, they have taken the place of ISIS in the persecution of Christians.
“I am not happy by the murdering of al-Muhandis and Soleimani because I know every action has [a] reaction,” an Iraqi Christian shared with ICC. “There are political results for the incident and all will be in Iraq. Iraqis will suffer from the possible war between [the] US and Iran targeting each other. I hope I don’t lose more friends, relatives due to war.”
Another Iraqi Christian added, “That’s supposed to have been done years ago. I know the US waited a long time to have a good reason to target them. The US could never have done that unless they targeted the embassy. [But] we must consider the amount of guns those militias have before doing a big crime like that. The militia will be angry and use their guns to take revenge from anyone related, but there will be more victims or innocent people killed.”
“I am expecting a hard reaction from the Iranian side,” added an Iraqi Christian previously a member of an Iranian-backed militia. “I also heard of the fleeing of Rayan al-Kadani because he was part of the protesting at the US Embassy last week.”
“God will forgive the sinner if (s)he repented, but those who insist on hurting others will have the same end. That’s why all those militia leaders hurt people, and displaced hundreds of thousands on the area, and now the US stopped them,” added another.
Militia violence in the early 2000s prompted the first wave of Christian immigration from Iraq. Last year proved an extremely tenuous one for the militias. The United States issued Global Magnitsky sanctions against senior leadership. In October, protests erupted in the Central Government, and the demonstrators were specifically asking for an end to foreign military involvement within Iraq. The militias violently attacked the protesters, and eventually the American embassy. The situation has only escalated since then.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The assassination of these two men is a significant opening of a new decade for the Middle East. The regional consequences are substantial and felt everywhere. For Iraqi Christians who have already felt the weight of militia aggression, the implications of these attacks spark mixed emotions. Many await with fearful anticipation to see what the future now holds.”