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The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Friday sanctioned Iraqi military leader Falih al-Fayyadh for alleged human rights abuses that occurred during civilian protests in 2019. As a result of the sanctions, al-Fayyadh’s property interests located in the US are now blocked. The Treasury Secretary has authority to issue sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13818, signed by President Donald Trump in December 2017.
In the fall of 2019, citizens of Iraq took to the streets to protest rising unemployment, government corruption and foreign intervention. The protests were met with military force that killed hundreds of civilians. During the time of the 2019 protests, al-Fayyadh was a ranking member of the Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC). According to a statement on the Treasury Department’s website, the PMC is an organization “created by the Iraqi legislation to bring the Popular Mobilization Committee (PMF) militias under central government control.” The Department maintains that the “crisis cell” headed by al-Fayyadh to quell the protestors was supported by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force (IRGC-QF). IRGC has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department.
Some Iraqis view the blacklisting of al-Fayyadh as a necessary but preliminary step in achieving justice for the unlawful and disproportionate force used by the PMC against the protestors. Others believe that the Treasury Department’s action is the result of ongoing US-Iranian tensions. Last week, an Iraqi court issued an arrest warrant for President Trump in connection with his ordering a drone strike against Iranian general Quassem Soleimani.
Commenting on the newly-issued sanctions, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin stated that “the United States will continue to hold accountable human rights abusers in Iraq who aim to deny the Iraqi people in their efforts to peacefully protest, seek justice, and root out corruption in their country.”