Ahmed al-Asadi, who recently resigned as spokesman for the Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) to become spokesman of what some are calling the Mujahedeen Coalition, addressed a news conference in Baghdad, Al-Monitor website reported.
As the Iraqi parliamentary elections set for May draw nearer, many Iraqis are concerned about the potential participation of a coalition of pro-Iran political and military movements.
Ahmed al-Asadi, secretary-general of Kata'ib Jund al-Imam (affiliated to IMIS terrorists), announced Nov. 28 the launch of the Mujahedeen Coalition.
The alliance comprises the main political factions whose volunteers and leaders helped form IMIS. Asadi also announced he was resigning as IMIS spokesman to instead serve as the Mujahedeen Coalition's spokesman.
He said the coalition includes “political figures who will defend the Iraqis in the political process by selecting popular cadres" that helped defeat ISIS.
This comes despite Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's recent statement that representatives of armed groups won't be allowed to participate in the elections. To conform to that requirement, or as some believe, to skirt the rule, some IMIS military leaders such as Asadi have been resigning their positions to enter politics.
Naim al-Abudi, a spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, said the names of some of the forces participating in this coalition. In addition to his group, the coalition is to include major IMIS factions such as the Badr Organization and the Hezbollah Brigades.
Media reports also say numerous other factions close to Iran have joined the coalition.
In addition, Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the IMIS faction Saraya al-Salam, in April banned his fighters from participating in the parliamentary and local elections out of fear the men would “waste their efforts in the abominable political arena.” Sadr has become more independent of Iranian influence.
There are clear differences among the various forces expected to form this coalition, and this is perhaps reflected in their difficulty in simply agreeing on a name.
Though Asadi had publicly referred to the Mujahedeen Coalition, Karim al-Nuri, leader of the Badr Organization, strongly criticized the name in a statement published Dec. 1.
"Jihad and mujahedeen are great titles that cannot be involved in political movements ... and they cannot be exploited for political purposes surrounded by interests and corruption,” Nuri said.
Some reports suggest the group might take the name IMIS Coalition. Abudi said no final decision has been reached, but added, “There is no way the coalition will be named the Mujahedeen Coalition.” Meanwhile, others are sensitive about the use of the IMIS and its name as a card in the electoral contest.
The commander of the IMIS' Abbas Combat Division, Maitham al-Zaidi, launched an attack on those who would use the IMIS in the elections. He said in a TV interview Dec. 17, “There are politicians who are seeking to use IMIS to make calculated gains.”
Despite some military leaders' resignations from IMIS, many opponents fear the leaders will retain their influence with IMIS military factions.
On the other hand, some of these groups have sought to avoid some potential sensitivities; Abudi said that the coalition doesn't intend to compete for the post of prime minister. “This coalition does not have its eye on the premiership but will be part of other coalitions that have an influential opinion in the choice of prime minister,” he said.
In sum, the forces close to Iran are seeking to establish a political presence in Iraq despite many reservations about their performance. Should these groups win the elections, Iran’s influence in Iraq will significantly increase.