BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – The United States has sanctioned the chairman of Iraq’s powerful Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi.
In line with Washington’s policy to ramps up pressure on the popular anti-terror forces, the U.S. Treasury Department made the interventionist announcement in a statement on Friday.
The Treasury Department accused 64-year-old Falih al-Fayyadh of being responsible for a crackdown by security forces on anti-government demonstrations in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and later in several other cities in late 2019.
The rallies erupted as a result of public anger at mass unemployment and failing public services. Reports say some 550 people were killed and 30,000 injured as the anti-government rallies took a violent turn.
Then Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi pledged to address demonstrators’ grievances by reshuffling his cabinet and delivering a package of reforms.
The moves did little to quell the demonstrators, however, and the protests caused Abdul Mahdi’s resignation.
In reaction to U.S. sanctions, Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement said the measure against Al-Fayyadh is a ‘medal of honor’, stressing that the real reason behind the American move was the Iraqi official’s stance of the U.S. occupation.
"The U.S. had assassinated (last year), Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Hashd Shaabi Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in an attack that is a crime par excellence,” Hezbollah’s Media Relations Office said in a statement.
"It’s not strange to know that the U.S. Treasury has now imposed sanctions on the Head of the Hashd Sha’abi Falih Al-Fayyadh,” Hezbollah said noting that the sanctions "are added to U.S.’ series of crimes against Iraq and its people.
The Lebanese Resistance group lashed out at the US, describing claims by the U.S. Treasury to justify the sanctions as "ridiculous,” especially after the "scandalous killing of U.S. protesters” near the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.
A leader of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement, whose group is part of the PMU, has dismissed Washington’s sanctions on Fayyadh as "a sign of failure of U.S. conspiracies against the forces.”
"The action against Falih al-Fayyadh follows U.S. inability to dissolve Hashd al-Sha’abi, and conspiracies against the forces are a failed American project,” Hashim al-Moussawi said.
He added, "The inclusion of the PMU chairman in the Treasury’s sanctions list is a sign of U.S. frustration, and does not deserve a response.”
The sanctions against Fayyadh come as he recently warned against certain attempts to tarnish the image of the PMU forces.