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Iraq removes military commander who defeated ISIS

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Iraq removes military commander who defeated ISIS

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:34 pm

Iraq removes military
commander who defeated ISIS


After he liberated Mosul and defeated the Islamic State (ISIS) on the ground in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi was removed from his position as commander of Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces (ICTS) on Friday by order of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi who transferred Saadi to the Defense Ministry

The decision shocked Saadi and angered Iraqis, who rallied to support him on social media.

Being relegated to the sidelines is a “humiliation to my military history,” Saadi said in an interview with Iraqi TV channel iNews.

“I received the decision with huge surprise, and I consider this decision as punishment and of course humiliating,” he said, adding that he refuses to end his military career in this way.

Saadi, 56, hails from Amara city, Misan province in southern Iraq. He entered the military after studying physics at the University of Mosul.

He was one of the commanders leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq, especially during the Mosul operation in 2016 and 2017. Saadi took the lead in many key anti-ISIS operations: he and his forces liberated the first oil refineries from ISIS control in Baiji city in 2015; he also led Iraqi forces during liberation operations in Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit.

Saadi told iNews he will not obey Abdul-Mahdi’s order that effectively freezes his military career and is ready to go to jail, if it comes to that.

“I have been on the frontlines against ISIS during the anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and have never hesitated in my duties,” Saadi said. “I have also been offered to be Iraq’s Defense Minister, but refused because I am and will always be a ground commander.”

Iraqis have tremendous respect and love for Saadi who is known for greeting with hugs families fleeing Mosul during the military operation to oust ISIS militants from the northern Iraqi city. The Iraqi public reacted with anger to Abdul-Mahdi’s order and started a campaign to support the respected commander. A widely spread hashtag (كلنا_عبد_الوهاب_الساعدي) means “we are all al-Saadi.”

Iraqi activists and military experts have also criticized the prime minister’s decision.

Husham al-Hashimi, a member of the Iraq Advisory Council (IAC) and researcher in extremism and terrorism affairs, warned in a social media post: “Iraq is still at war with ISIS extremists and terrorists, and such a decision will definitely affect the fight of Iraq against ISIS remnants, and will empower the will of the terrorist groups.”

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who was at the helm during the war against ISIS, also slammed the move: “This is not how states reward its fighters who defended the nation. It is fine to make changes within the Iraqi military system, but [the state] should consider those who made sacrifices for the country during hard times and not lose them. Does the selling of high positions in Iraq reach the military?”

Saadi has positive relations with American troops in Iraq and he visited the United States in October 2018 to speak about the battle against ISIS and how the so-called caliphate was defeated at Special Operations Command headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

Many Iraqis are blaming the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, known as Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic), accusing the paramilitaries of playing a role in removing the commander because of his “neutral ideology” and close relations with US military advisors and trainers.

Saadi is not the first of Iraq’s military brass to be removed from his post under Abdul-Mahdi. In 2018, the prime minister issued an order retiring several senior commanders including such as Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, Lt. Gen. Sami al-Ardhi, and Lt. Gen. Manaf al-Tamimi. All three had leadership roles in defeating ISIS in Iraq.

Abdul-Mahdi is under pressure from Washington to curb the activities of Iran-affiliated groups after some factions within the PMF carried out several attacks on US military and economic interests in Iraq.

The prime minister is conversely being pressured by Tehran to expel US troops from Iraqi soil. Many military experts and parliamentarians have warned against such a move, saying that ISIS could take advantage of the security vacuums that the removal of US forces would create. Most PMF leaders, however, have sided with Tehran and are demanding an American withdrawal.

The almost entirely Shiite PMF were formed in 2014 on a fatwa (religious decree) by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the highest Shiite authority in Iraq, as ISIS came uncomfortably close to Baghdad. They were formally incorporated into Iraq’s armed forces in 2016.

While many of the PMF’s soldiers are individuals who joined up in response to the ISIS threat, others fought against US forces during America’s occupation of Iraq and some received Iranian training and funding.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/28092019
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Iraq removes military commander who defeated ISIS

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