By INU Staff
INU - With Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi’s appointing the Iranian-friendly commander, Lieutenant General Ali Fadhil Imran, to lead the newly created “Kirkuk Operations Command” on October 28, 2017, it appears that Iran is consolidating military control in Kirkuk.
Imran is the former head of the Iranian-influenced 5th Iraqi Army (IA) Division, which is based in Diyala, Iraq. Jordanian media and a Facebook page linked with Imran show photos of him in Iraqi, closely coordinating with Iranian proxy Badr Organization leader Hadi al Ameri in 2015.
The Dijla Operations Command (DOC), of which the 5th IA Division is a component, is responsible for security in Iraq’s Diyala Province along the Iraq-Iran border.
According to an article by Omer Kassim with Jennifer Cafarella, and Zachary Goulet for the Institute for the Study of War, “Iran’s influence over the DOC’s leadership is a template for how the security structure in Kirkuk will likely evolve. Iran’s proxies have disproportionate influence over the DOC.”
Vice News publisher a video in February 2015 that shows the former head of the DOC, Abdul Amir al Zaydi, taking direct orders from Ameri.
Kassim, Cafarella, and Goulet write that, “Imran will likely provide a durable conduit for Iran’s proxies to dominate Kirkuk’s security structure similar to their role in Diyala.”
On October 18, Abadi demanded that that the Iranian proxy-dominated Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) withdraw from Kirkuk, thereby handing control of security to the Counterterrorism Services (CTS) and local police. The PMF did not comply. Prime Minister Abadi’s attempt to constrain armed group in Kirkuk failed.
On November 5th, a double suicide vest attack, said to have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), targeted a location near the Kirkuk city headquarters of Saraya al Salam – an armed group affiliated with nationalist Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Allegedly, Sadr then ordered Saraya al Salam to withdraw, but the presence of his unit on November 5th appears to demonstrate that he initially ignored Prime Minister Abadi’s withdrawal order.
Apparently, Iran’s proxy group Asa’ib Ahl al Haq (AAH) also retains presence in the city. Iraqi Kurdish media indicated in unconfirmed reports that the ISIS attack targeted AAH in addition to Saraya al Salam.
Additionally, Rebwar Taha, the head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council also accused AAH of occupying his home in Kirkuk during a press conference on October 20.
According to Kassim, Cafarella, and Goulet, “Iran’s proxies also continue to dominate the areas around Kirkuk Province. The Iranian proxy Badr Organization’s Turkmen unit, also known as the 16th PMF Brigade, retains a strong presence south of Kirkuk City and is now deployed in the northern Kirkuk countryside up to the outskirts of Altun Kupri district, about 50 kilometers south of Arbil City. Abadi’s decision to appoint Imran as the head of the Kirkuk operations command reflects a concession to Iran’s proxies and a recognition that he cannot constrain them.”