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US Congress finalizes bill on sanctioning Iranian-backed militias in Iraq

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The US Congress completed a draft bill late on Tuesday to counteract the growing influence of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, The National reported.

The bill sets out to sanction "Iranian persons that threaten the peace or stability of Iraq or the government of Iraq".

Asaib Ahl Al Huq (AAH) and Harakat Hezbollah Al Nujaba militias, that are funded by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, will be subjected to the sanctions, and their funds frozen.

The two groups are part of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), known in Arabic as Hashed Al Shaabi, that fought alongside the Iraqis against ISIS. They were formally integrated into the security forces last year after helping the military defeat the insurgents in 2017.

The bill states: "The president [Donald Trump] shall impose sanctions to any foreign person that the president determines knowingly commits a significant act of violence that has the direct purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq, undermining the democratic process in Iraq."

AAH was founded in 2006, while Nujaba is a faction affiliated to both AAH and Kata'ib Hezbollah, an organization established in 2013 and designated by the US as a terrorist group.

The chief of AAH, Qais Khazali has pledged allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Khazali is believed to be the prime planner behind the kidnapping and execution of four American soldiers in Karbala in 2007.

According to the bill, the Senate must also approve the draft before it is sent to the White House.

The bill also called on President Trump to identify individuals and groups in Iraq that should be included in the list of terrorist organizations to impose sanctions on them.

Among other things, the bill calls on the State Department to publish and maintain a list of armed groups receiving assistance from the IRGC.

It will pave the way for sanctions against all Afghan and Pakistani factions fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Al Assad’s regime, which is partly funded by Iran.

Tehran touts itself as the leader of the so-called “Axis of Resistance”, by supporting the Syrian government, Shiite militias in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shiite rebels in Yemen known as the Houthis.

It comes as Khazali called on the Iraqi government to provide a more formal, long-term border protection role for the militias.

“Securing Iraq’s borders with Syria is among the most important duties of the Popular Mobilisation Forces right now,” he said.
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