Will Baghdad Get a Pro-Iranian Prime Minister?
A major push is underway to have Adal Abdel Mahdi, commander of the Shiite Badr Force militia, appointed prime minister in Baghdad. It has been launched, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iraq sources report, by Iranian intelligence agents in Iraq and the big Shiite party SCIRI’s leader Abdul Aziz Hakim.
The Badr Force has its roots in Tehran.
Formerly known as the Badr Brigade, the force started out as a ragtag militia made up of Iraqi Shiite dissidents and soldiers Iran captured in its 1980-1989 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards took the force under its wing and provided its funding, training and equipment. By 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq, the Badr Brigade, which now called itself the Badr Organization of Reconstruction and Development, was 10,000-strong.
It is now the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, SCIRI, which too was founded by opposition groups in Tehran in 1982, and has now emerged as a leading force in Iraqi politics.
Its leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, has denied his party is tied to Iran. In an interview on Nov. 27 with the Washington Post, he also dismissed charges that the Badr Organization practiced torture or persecuted Sunni Arabs, especially in Baghdad.
However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources report that, notwithstanding those denials, the Badr Organization is still funded from Tehran and its commander General Mahdi is tied to Iran through a special secret mechanism set up by Iranian intelligence in Iraq.
So aggressive are Hakim and Tehran in their drive to place the general in the prime minister’s seat that they are openly demanding the ouster of the Shiite prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari at the price of dividing the main Shiite bloc in parliament. Hakim has even promised Sunni Muslim leaders far-reaching benefits for endorsing Mahdi’s bid, although they regard him as one of their foremost enemies. Hakim has signaled former prime minister Iyad Allawi that his faction’s support would be worth the powerful interior portfolio, which would put him in the driving seat of internal security.
US ambassador in Baghdad Salmay Khalilzad reported to Washington this week that he does not believe there is any way he can prevent the Badr commander from attaining the premiership.