Leader of Major Iraqi Party Fears UAE May Rig Elections to Spark Normalization of Ties With Tel Aviv

© AFP 2022 / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALIAn Iraqi fighter of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) stands guard outside the militia's headquarters on May 18, 2015 in the Iraqi mainly Shiite southern city of Basra
An Iraqi fighter of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) stands guard outside the militia's headquarters on May 18, 2015 in the Iraqi mainly Shiite southern city of Basra - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.10.2021
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Iraqis will go to the polls on Sunday to elect all 329 members of the council of representatives. The parliament will in turn elect the country’s president, and confirm its prime minister. In July, Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced that his powerful Sadrist Movement would boycott the vote, with Iraq’s Communist Party following suit.
Qais Khazali, leader of Iraqi Shia political party and militant group Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, also known as the Khazali Network, has alleged that the United Arab Emirates may try to rig Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections in order to bring reformist politicians to power who will work to normalize relations with Israel.
“Electronic manipulations lead to fraudulent results, and it is the UAE that has the ability to do so,” al-Khazali said, speaking to Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen news network.
“They can manipulate the results with ease, and it is in the UAE’s interest that individuals supporting normalization win. Therefore, we will disregard the electronic results if they do not match the [paper] results,” the politician warned.
Al-Khazali suggested that Iraq is at a crossroads, and that the country needs politicians capable of taking independent decisions and not be guided by Washington’s dictates. Iraq has the resources and capabilities to play a major role in the Middle East, he stressed.
The politician’s comments come in the wake of assurances by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Tuesday that intensive security measures have been taken to prevent any interference in the country’s electoral process.
US Troops’ Days in Iraq Numbered
In his interview with al-Mayadeen, Al-Khazali said he believes that the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is just a matter of time, but emphasized that the pullout won’t be accompanied by the type of chaos recently witnessed in Afghanistan, and that the Iraqi government will not fall as a result of the withdrawal. He warned that the country’s resistance forces are prepared to force US forces out of Iraq if necessary.

Al-Khazali went on to suggest that in addition to possible meddling by the Emiratis, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Israel have sought to interfere in Iraq’s politics to “disband” Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias (of which the Khazali Network is a part). The politician alleged that “hundreds of millions of dollars” have been spent in an effort to weaken the force by foreign powers. He stressed that the PMF must not be allowed to dissolved, and that “any complacency on the issue of the Popular Mobilization Forces will mean that we surrender our necks to slaughter.”

The PMF was created in 2014 to battle Daesh (ISIS)* after wide swathes of western and northern Iraq fell to the terrorists. These forces fought alongside the Iraqi army and the US-led coalition, but simultaneously expressed hostility to the continued presence of American forces in the country, particularly after Daesh was defeated in 2017, and even more so after the unprovoked drone strike assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani alongside a senior PMF leader in Baghdad in January of 2020.
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The Khazali Network has been classified as a terrorist group by the US State Department, notwithstanding its role in the fight against Daesh, and the presence of 15 of the party’s lawmakers in the current parliament. In addition to its political activities, the group is estimated to have about 10,000 militiamen under its wing, making it one of the PMF’s strongest factions.
Iraqis will go to the polls on Sunday for national elections. Despite calls for active participation by al-Khazali, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi and others, some of the country’s other powerful political forces, including Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sadrist Movement and Iraq’s Communist Party, have announced a boycott, citing corruption and the potential for voter fraud. Louis Raphael I Sako, patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, has called on Iraqi Christians to boycott the vote, saying he did not expect them to be “transparent and fair.”
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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