Asaib Ahl al-Haq

Iran provides money, weaponry, training, and operational oversight to Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iraqi Shi’a militia. As a proxy of the Iranian regime, Asaib Ahl al-Haq remains ideologically aligned with Iran’s Islamist political goals, and loyal to its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On January 3, 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. government would designate AAH as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

  • Type of Organization: Militia, political party, religious, social services provider, terrorist, transnational, violent
  • Ideologies and Affiliations: Iranian-sponsored, Islamist, jihadist, Khomeinist, Shi'a
  • Place of Origin: Iraq
  • Year of Origin: 2006
  • Founder(s): Qais al-Khazali
  • Places of Operation: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon

AAH: An Iranian-Backed Militia


Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH)—in English, the “League of the Righteous”—is an Iranian-backed Shi’a militia and political party operating primarily in Iraq, with ancillary operations in Syria and LebanonFormed in 2006 by Qais al-Khazali, AAH has approximately 10,000 members and is one of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’a militias. Until the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, AAH had launched over 6,000 attacks on American and Iraqi forces, including highly sophisticated operations and targeted kidnappings of Westerners. The group seeks to promote Iran’s political and religious influence in Iraq, maintain Shi’a control over Iraq, and oust any remaining Western vestiges from the country.

AAH’s history in Iraq dates back formally to 2006, when the group broke away from the Mahdi Army (JAM)—the militia run by the violent Shi’a cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. In August 2007, the U.S. designated AAH as a “Special Group,” a label given to Iranian-backed Shi’a militias operating in Iraq. AAH is still one of three prominent Iraqi Shi’a militias funded and trained by Iran’s external military wing, the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). AAH overtly displays its loyalty to Iran’s leaders, including the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his predecessor, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The group reportedly operates under the coordination of Iran’s Quds Force.

After the U.S. withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, AAH announced its intention to lay down its weapons and enter Iraqi politics. The group opened a number of political offices and religious schools and offered social services to widows and orphans. According to a Reuters report, AAH modeled its operations after Hezbollah, another Iranian proxy.

Since entering politics, AAH has not fulfilled its vow to halt armed resistance, instead continuing to carry out sectarian violenceexecute homophobic attacksslaughter women alleged to be prostitutes, and threaten the “interests” of Western countries participating in strikes in Syria. The group is one of the militias in Haashid Shaabi, Iraq’s anti-ISIS volunteer forces, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

In the May 2018 elections, AAH won 15 seats in the Iraqi parliament—a significant increase from the one seat it had won in the 2014 elections. Under the newly-formed government, AAH member Abdul-Amir Hamdani was given the position of minister of culture. On July 13, 2018, Iraqi protesters in the country’s south attacked the political offices of AAH and other Iran-backed groups as they called for Iran to withdraw from Iraq.

In January 2020, the U.S. government designated AAH as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The sanctions announcement noted that AAH, led by Qais al-Khazali and Laith al-Khazali, “has claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces since its creation in 2006.”

AAH Ideology: Imported from Iran

AAH is a religiously motivated group with allegiance to Iran. The group is anti-American, sectarian, anti-Kurdish, homophobic, and violent. A former Iraqi MP, Taha al-Lahibi, said that AAH has “actively served as an Iranian arm that oppresses all Iraqis opposed to the Iranian influence by commanding assassination squads to kill them, particularly in the city of Basra.”

Pro-Iranian: AAH seeks to establish an Islamist, Shi’a-controlled Iraq and promote Iranian objectives. While AAH has origins within the Iraqi Sadrist movement, the group is openly loyal to Iranian leaders, most notably the Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei. Similarly, AAH shows deference to the Guardianship of the Jurists (Velayat-e Faqih), a governing structure that serves as one of the cornerstones of Iran’s Islamic Revolution system.

Analysts characterize AAH as a Khomeinist organization that aims “to create a suitable environment for the return of Imam Mahdi through the imposition of strict Shi’a Islamic governance.” This assessment is corroborated by Guardian Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov, who writes that AAH is a “proxy arm of the Revolutionary Guards’ al-Quds Brigades, whose main brief is to export Iran’s 30-year-old Islamic Revolution.” AAH is also ideologically aligned with Iranian proxy Hezbollah, a Shi’a Lebanese terrorist group.

Declassified interrogation reports of Qais al-Khazali, AAH’s founder, underscore the breadth and depth of the relationship between Shi’a militias and Iran. Al-Khazali described multiple trips to Tehran with Muqtada al-Sadr, beginning in 1989 with the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini, where he met with representatives of the Iranian government. These meetings continued over the next decade, where al-Khazali met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and other senior leaders.

During questioning in 2007, Al-Khazali emphasized that while Iran did not order the militias to attack specific targets in Iraq, Iranian officials “suggested” the militias concentrate their efforts on British troops in Basra and American troops “to force a withdrawal.” Al-Khazali also spoke at length of generous Iranian provisions of explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) and their role in the slaughter of American troops. According to one report, “[d]etainee said that anyone can receive EFP training and Iran does not care who gets it… this is because of the availability and low cost of EFPs.”

AAH is also present in Syria. The Iraqi militia coordinates its activities at the Iraq-Syria border with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). They secure critical transshipment hubs. In particular, the IRGC has a major presence along the western side of the Euphrates River in Syria, extending north from the Abu Kamal border crossing. An unidentified drone struck Iran-backed militias stationed in Abu Kamal in September 2021. It was not entirely clear who carried out the attack, but al-Khazali threatened the Iraqi government in response.

In addition to fighting in Syria at Iran’s behest, recent reporting shows that Iran-backed militiamen, including from AAH, are also being offered stipends to fight in Ukraine in support of Russia. In March 2022, an individual with AAH expressed interest in the offer of $400 a week to fight with the Russian military against “imperialism.”

An Iraqi militia group, Ashab Ahl Kahf, thought to be linked to AAH, claimed a missile attack against Israel at the height of the May 2021 Gaza conflict. Qais Khazali visited the Lebanese-Israel border in December 2017, vowing “to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause” against “Israeli occupation.” He was subsequently banned from visiting the country again by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Furthermore, a March 2022 report suggests that the IRGC may be planning on dispatching a large number of fighters from its Iraqi militias to Yemen, where the Iran-backed Houthis have suffered major losses. The report explicitly states that fighters from AAH would be included.

There is also reason to believe that Iran is losing its control over AAH. AAH is an armed faction within al-Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of primarily-Shi’a militias, many of which hold their loyalty to the Supreme Leader of Iran. While officially integrated within the government, al-Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), seldom obeys the commands of ranking Iraqi officials, nor do the factions within it always act in unison. The following statement made by a member of the Political Bureau of AAH demonstrates the group’s insubordination: “al-Hashd al-Shaabi is a security system that follows the orders issued by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, while the resistance factions [i.e., AAH] are the ones that reject the American presence on Iraqi soil.”

Under the command of the late Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, the Shi’a elements in the PMF loyal to Iran exhibited more cohesion. Since his death, though, Iran’s command and control over the militias that it formed has weakened. The current commander of the IRGC-Quds Force, Esmail Qaani, does not exert the same degree of influence over the Iraqi militias.

The General-Secretary of AAH made this change obvious when on November 19, 2020, after an AAH rocket attack was carried out on the day of Qaani’s visit to Baghdad, he said, “I sent a clear and frank message to Mr. Esmail Qaani … the Americans occupy our country not yours, those martyred in Qaim were our sons … then the matter is related to us, regardless of other calculations, so please from now on if someone came to you, embarrassed you, please no one talks to us and we won’t listen… our motives are national 100%…” These statements by AAH indicate its increasing defiance: not only does the group disregard the orders of the Iraqi civilian leadership, but it has also been more willing to challenge Iranian oversight. 

AAH was the first group to break a ceasefire that a number of Iran-backed militias had agreed to in mid-October 2020 on the condition that Iraq’s government create a timetable for the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops. Militia Spotlight, a program at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies that was created to track militia activities in Iraq and Syria, determined that AAH undertook two rocket attacks on the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad at the end of 2020. Again, in February 2021, Militia Spotlight assessed that AAH was responsible for rocket attacks on the U.S. military base in Erbil, which is part of Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The attack was claimed by a group that goes by the name of “Awliyaa al-Dam,” but U.S. and Iraqi officials said that this group is merely a front. Even Kataib Hezbollah, another radical Iran-backed militia in Iraq, complied with the ceasefire and criticized AAH for breaking it.

An unknown terrorist group attempted to assassinate Iraq’s prime minister in a drone strike. AAH claimed that the attack was “fabricated,” but Reuters reported in November 2021 that two Iraqi security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the attack was carried out by both Kataib Hezbollah and AAH. One of the officials noted that the drone was designed in the same way as other Iranian-made drones that were used to attack U.S. forces in Iraq earlier in the year, as a “quadcopter” carrying one projectile with high explosives. It is unclear whether the Iranians directed the attack, but the statements of these officials indicate that Iran probably supplied the weapons, and some reports suggest Tehran may have had foreknowledge. The Iranians condemned the assassination attempt, and some ask whether the attack is an indication that Iran is “losing some of its grip on Shi’a militias in Iraq.” Other experts, such as Nathan Sales of the Counter Extremism Project, claim that the failed drone strike on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi “appears to have Tehran’s fingerprints all over it.” The prime minister was not harmed in the attack, but many Iraqis fear that the attack was politically motivated and could portend a broader civil conflict.

Anti-American: AAH is also virulently anti-American, a stance that has not abated since the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011. In March 2015, for example, AAH boycotted the PMF attack against ISIS in Tikrit because AAH rejected U.S. airpower support. By the end of the month, AAH only agreed to rejoin the battle against ISIS after then Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised that the United States would stop its airstrikes. AAH Spokesman Naim al-Aboudi said that the Prime Minister “realized this battle can’t be finished” without AAH and other militias, demonstrating AAH’s continued prioritizing of its anti-American position above its other goals.

In 2018, Qais al-Khazali framed AAH’s anti-Americanism as a political rather than ideological struggle. As al-Khazali told reporters, “[i]deologically, we do not consider the U.S. an infidel or its people enemies. The only thing that happened is a phase of American occupation, and it is normal for people to resist occupation.” Yet this convenient rebranding of AAH came on the heels of the U.S. Congress’ attempts to sanction AAH as a terrorist organization.

On May 1, 2019, AAH militants fired rockets at U.S. contractors working in Taji. Local security forces arrested two AAH militants shortly after. The U.S. struck the Iraq-Syria border in June 2021, and Khazali vowed to retaliate against American forces in Iraq. The leader went on Iraqi television and claimed that the U.S. was responsible for escalating hostilities. However, the U.S. strikes at the border were a response to drone strikes carried out by Iran-backed militias on U.S. forces. In the televised speech broadcast on the group’s satellite television channel, al-Ahed, Khazali said: “We are not seeking blood… however the American treacherous enemy is the one who started wasting lives and moved the battle to this level.”

Also, in June 2021, Khazali announced on Iraqi television an escalation in drone operations against U.S. assets: “The truce is over…now its war…except for the American embassy…and Balad base…any U.S. military presence is targetable by the fasiqil [armed groups] of the Iraqi muqawama, and the decision is to escalate the operations in terms of quantity and quality.”

Sectarian: As a Shiite, Iranian-backed group, AAH also follows and implements a sectarian ideology that has deepened the fault lines between Sunnis and Shiites. According to Martin Chulov, AAH leader Qais al-Khazali’s speeches have galvanized “thousands” of Iraqi Shiites to fight for Assad’s regime in Syria, worrying many Iraqi communities about “a sectarian conflict that increasingly respects no border.” In August 2012, AAH militants reportedly bombed the Sunni Sabatayn Mosque in Iraq, an attack that stirred a new wave of sectarian tensions in the country. Since then, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous AAH attacks on Sunnis in Iraq in which AAH militants target Sunni mosques or towns.

More recently, AAH and the Badr Organization went on a sectarian “killing spree” in a majority-Sunni town in Diyala province in revenge for an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attack on October 26, 2021. This incident underscores how these radical groups take vengeance on innocent civilians.

Sectarian fears are undoubtedly exacerbated by the government formation process. Many of the Shiite Muslim groups, including the political wing of AAH, known as al-Sadiqun, vying for political power in the upcoming formation of a government, command paramilitary branches, and could lash out if they do not accomplish their political objectives. Already AAH, along with its political allies in the Fatah coalition, took to the streets in protest of the results of the October 2021 parliamentary elections in which they lost handily to the predominantly-Shi’a political bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr.

These heightened sectarian tensions are playing out against the backdrop of economic turmoil. After all, the parliamentary elections were held a year early due to wide-spread protests against corruption and incompetence. Many of them Shiites opposed Iran’s interference in domestic matters. The protestors demanded jobs and basic public services such as electricity and clean water. Over 600 of them were killed by the security forces, which are dominated by Iran-backed militias, including AAH. Others were killed in targeted assassinations. 

In line with this sectarian strife, AAH members have reportedly appropriated the derogatory term rafidah (a pejorative meaning “rejecters” that some Sunnis use for Shiites) as a badge of honor and “self-identity.” A January 2014 Foreign Policy piece reported that on an AAH linked-webpage, AAH proudly identified its fighters as rafidah “as a sign of mocking defiance against their foes.”

Anti-Kurdish: AAH leaders frequently demonize and alienate Iraqi Kurds. In 2015, AAH’s leader Qais al-Khazali said on live television, “The problem is that the Kurds are operating right now like leeches, which feed on the host’s body—sucking more and more of its blood—in an effort to grow in size.”

Homophobic: Members of AAH have committed numerous acts of violence targeting gays in Iraq. In May 2014, AAH members published a list of 24 “wanted” individuals, the vast majority of whom were accused of carrying out “homosexual acts.” Two months later, AAH members beheaded two teenagers believed to be gay, and threw their heads into the garbage. According to police anecdotes, these types of attacks and intimidation are whole.

Violent: AAH operates as a militia, with ancillary operations as a political party. The group does not eschew violence in pursuit of its objectives, which include the establishment of an Islamist Iranian-inspired Shi’a state.

AAH’s Organizational Structure: A Group that Answers to Iran

AAH is led by its founder, Qais al-Khazali, who broke off from the Mahdi Army (a.k.a. Jaysh al-Mahdi or JAM), a Sadrist militia, in 2006. According to a 2012 report by analyst Sam Wyer, al-Khazali sits on AAH’s five-person board of trustees along with two deputies. As an Iranian proxy, AAH coordinates with senior Iranian commanders, notably the late IRGC-Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani.

AAH first began as a military unit within JAM. With the 2003 Iraq War, AAH reorganized into battalions assigned to four sectors: Baghdad, Maysan, Najaf, and Samarra. When al-Khazali made AAH an independent group in 2006, he retained this structure. AAH’s military arrangement is thought to be based on fellow Shi’a militant group Hezbollah, with which the group has close ties.

Since the United States withdrew its forces from Iraq in December 2011, AAH has expanded significantly into politics, “opening a string of political offices” throughout Iraq, according to the Washington Post. AAH runs two political offices in Baghdad, and others in the Iraqi cities of Basra, Najaf, Hillah, al-Kalis, and Tal Afar. AAH has also sent political representatives to the southern Iraqi provinces of Dhi Qar, al-Muthanna, and Maysan to meet with tribal and minority leaders. The group’s political bloc is called al-Sadiqun (the Honest Ones), and in the May 2018 parliamentary elections, AAH ran in alliance with Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah Coalition. Outside Iraq, AAH has maintained political representation in Beirut, Lebanon, since early 2011. As of early 2011, Sheikh Ammar al-Delphi headed AAH‘s political offices in Beirut. In the April 30, 2014, parliamentary elections, AAH ran in alliance with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s Dawlat al-Qanoon (State of Law).

AAH: Financed by Iran

AAH has received training, arms, and financial support from Iran, particularly through Iran’s external military branch, the IRGC-Quds Force, as well as from Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. Col. Rick Welch, a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer, said that during the 2007 U.S. surge in Iraq, Iran was giving AAH “$20 million a month or some outrageous figure like that” in order to train AAH fighters. After U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, the financial pipeline from Iran continued. As of 2012, Iran was giving AAH $5 million in cash and weapons per month, according to an Iraqi close to the group. As of March 2014, the group was receiving an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million a month from Iran.

Recruitment Tactics and Messaging: AAH as the Protector of Shiites in Iraq

AAH recruitment focuses on two strategies: traditional propaganda efforts to raise the group’s profile, and a comprehensive religious system aimed to indoctrinate and recruit members. AAH has also emulated groups like ISIS by using social media to expand recruitment throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and the West.

One of the main ways AAH draws recruits is by advertising itself as a protector of the Shiite community within Iraq and abroad. AAH uses posters and issues calls for recruits on Iraqi television stations, often emphasizing its connection with Iran and Hezbollah. One AAH member said that he was drawn to AAH because it was “protecting the Shi’a community inside Iraq and abroad as well.” In the past, the most important galvanizing point for Iraqis to join AAH and go to Syria to fight alongside Assad forces was the defense of the Sayeda Zenab shrine, a Shi’a holy site in a Damascus suburb.

AAH has seized homes and offices in Baghdad in order to establish recruiting centers where would-be volunteers could go to join other Shiites fighting in Syria. In southern Iraq, posters urge men to join the fight in Syria with other Iraqi Shiites and provide a hotline number to call. In August 2012, AAH distributed over 20,000 posters with AAH’s logo; a photograph of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; and a photograph of the late Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr. The posters were plastered on buildings and billboards and also used in street demonstrations.

AAH’s second, but perhaps most comprehensive, recruitment strategy is a religious activism and education system. The group uses two mosques in particular, the Sabatayn mosque in Baghdad and the Abdullah al-Radiya mosque in al-Khalis, as hubs for recruitment. AAH leaders give sermons at these mosques, advocating social and religious reform in Iraq in an attempt to entice attendees into joining, financing, or otherwise contributing to AAH’s mission.

AAH has expanded its reach through a network of religious schools known as the “Seal of the Apostles.” These schools, spread throughout Iraq, serve as propaganda and recruitment facilities for the group. As with its military and political structures, AAH also appears to be emulating Hezbollah by launching social services programs for widows and orphans. AAH’s recruitment efforts are funded in large part by Iran.

AAH also disseminates propaganda that features its violence. The group uses Telegram—a free instant messaging service that can be used across different platforms—to publicize their attacks and recruit new members. Videos of attacks and other uploaded propaganda are difficult to trace on this application because it provides encrypted file sharing. AAH balances its interest in publicly taking credit for attacks for propaganda purposes and covering up its involvement.

The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point produced a report, relying heavily on an investigation conducted by the Militia Spotlight into Telegram and other open-source information, that explained how these propaganda efforts work: militia leaders “want to individually brand attacks and claim credit in a way that is discernable to their inner circles and followers” but not easily discernable by Iraqi security personnel or U.S. forces. To that end, they set up front groups. The report states that AAH uses Ashab al-Kahf, Liwa Khaibar, and Quwwat Dhu al-Faqar to claim its attacks.

Training: Emulating Iran’s Hezbollah Proxy

Iran’s IRGC–Quds Force trains AAH in addition to funding and arming the group. AAH’s training program reportedly resembles that of Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. In the past, AAH militants have received training from Lebanese Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq. The Quds Force placed Ali Mussa Daqduq in charge of overseeing training for Iraqi Shi’a militants in the region, including AAH fighters.

In June 2014, following calls for volunteer fighters from the Iraqi government and Iraq’s highest Shi’a religious authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, there was a surge in Shi’a volunteers to join the fight against ISIS. Many found their way through AAH recruiting centers in Iraq. According to an Iraqi source from 2014, AAH recruits aiming to join Assad forces in Syria are sent to Iran for approximately two weeks of training before going off to fight.

In December 2017, al-Khazali joined Hezbollah on a tour of Lebanon’s border with Israel. During the visit, he proclaimed, “[w]e declare our full readiness to stand united with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause in the face of the Israeli occupation,” Al-Khazali’s trip signaled the transnational nature of Iran’s nurturing of Shi’a militias.

AAH in Iraqi Politics: Selection of a President

Iraqi parliamentary elections were held on October 10, 2021. At 41 percent turn-out, they had the lowest citizen participation rate of any election since 2005. The Sairoon alliance, created by Muqtada al Sadr in the run up to the 2018 parliamentary elections, won 73 of the 329 seats in the house, the most of any political bloc. Sadr, a populist and a nationalist, has long been viewed as a “counterweight” against Iranian influence in Iraq, and as such, someone who may be willing to cooperate with the U.S. Opposed to him was the Fatah coalition, which is closely associated with the Iran-backed militias of the PMF. Given their loses, the Fatah coalition formed an alliance with the State of Law party, which is led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Their newly-formed alliance is known as the Coordination Framework, and it controls 59 seats.

Almost half a year later, the parliament had not yet selected a president, a role that requires the votes of two-thirds of the house’s 329 seats, carries less executive authority than the prime minister’s office, and is typically reserved for a member of Iraq’s Kurdish minority. Formally, though, the role is important, because the president names the prime minister, who must be backed by a majority in the parliament. In turn, the prime minister names the members of his Council of Ministers. The Iraqi parliament failed for the third time on March 30, 2022 to elect a new president.

As the leader of one of the most powerful militias in the PMF, Khazali is a prominent figure in the political bloc opposed to the Sadrist movement. The political wing of AAH, al-Sadiqun, joined the Fatah coalition in rejecting the October 2021 parliamentary election results and boycotting the parliamentary process of voting on a president. Only 178 lawmakers showed up for the vote on March 30, far short of the two-thirds required. Even though they have since admitted that the elections were legitimate, the Coordination Framework boycotted the selection process, as they did in previous votes, because they feared a majority government led by Sadr, who could ally with Sunnis and Kurds. More specifically, they fear that they will be shut out of the process of forming the government and have, therefore, gone on the defensive.

Representing the voice of powerful Shi’a militias in the PMF, as opposed to the broader Shi’a community (which is increasingly averse to Iranian influence in the country), Khazali argued that Sadr’s plans would undermine the right of the Shi’a community to have a say in the government. Evidently, a meeting on December 2, 2021, between Sadr, Khazali, Maliki, and the leader of the Fatah coalition (who is also the leader of the powerful Iraqi militia, the Badr Organization), Hadi al-Amiri, failed to break to deadlock.

Khazali has made his opposition to the Sadrist movement clear. First, he rejected the results of the parliamentary elections. On November 9, 2021, Khazali said that the parliamentary elections, which empowered his political opponents and served as the basis for forming a government, must be held again; and that he would “completely boycott the political process” to select a president. Then, he accused the current prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, of engaging in anti-democratic practices, including political violence. He asserted that the Kadhimi government arrested people “illegally” and committed “hideous acts of torture against detainees.” These accusations undermine the legitimate authority of the state, and could be used to motivate and justify acts of political violence.

Later, Khazali accepted the Supreme Court ruling that the parliamentary elections were fair. Some analysts say that the change in position was motivated by Iran as part of a soft-power campaign against Sadr and his parliamentary bloc. Khazali’s conciliatory tone on March 3, 2022, could be understood in this context. But his comments are not backed up by action, as the Coordination Framework did boycott the president selection process. A senior researcher at the National Endowment for Democracy, Rahmah al-Jubouri, said that “the Shiite Coordination Framework may have accepted the election results… [but] should Sadr take control of the government and the state in general, he will likely face a dangerous confrontation with the armed factions—something that he does not want.”

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