Iran’s Supreme Leader with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Tehran, April 6, 2019
Iran’s military commander Gen. Qassim Soleimani allegedly intervened to prevent the removal of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, amid mass protests in Baghdad and across Iraq.
Citing “sources close to” both Soleiman and Abdul Mahdi, Reuters says Soleimani — the commander of the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards branch operating outside Iran — pulled back Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr from his demand this week that Abdul Mahdi call an early election.
Sadr had urged Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of Iran-backed militias, to join him in the ouster of the Prime Minister.
But according to Reuters’ sources, Soleimani convened a secret meeting in Baghdad on Wednesday, asking Amiri and militia leaders to maintain support of Abdul Mahdi.
An Iranian security official said Soleimani was at the meeting to “give advice”: “[Iraq’s] security is important for us and we have helped them in the past.”
On Tuesday night, Amiri had issued a public statement agreeing to “work together” with Sadr, but after the Wednesday meeting, he concluded removing Abdul Mahdi would cause more chaos and threaten stability, according to “a politician close to Sadr”.
Sadr reacted with a chiding of Amiri, “I will never enter into alliances with you after today.”
Soleimani in Charge?
According to “two senior Iraqi officials”, Soleimani arrived on a late-night flight in Baghdad on the day after protests resurged in early October. He reportedly chaired a meeting, in place of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi, of top security officials.
In an implicit reference to the Iranian regime’s suppression of mass demonstrations after the disputed 2009 Presidential election, Soleimani said, “We in Iran know how to deal with protests. This happened in Iran and we got it under control.”
However, the demonstrations have grown despite the killing of more than 250 people, challenging the Government over corruption, unemployment, and poor public services. Marchers have also chanted against Iran’s influence in Iraq.
Tehran has stepped up its rhetoric, with calls for the takeover of the US Embassy in Iraq and the Supreme Leader pronouncing that US and Western “spy services” are behind the protests.