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Why did Iran’s Basij Force commander hold a high-level meeting in Iraq?

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English News
English News

Al Arabiya, 8 April 2018 - The commander of Iran’s paramilitary Basij Force Gholamhossein Gheybparvar held a meeting with Iraqi political figures in Baghdad this week under shrouded circumstances.

The meeting was attended by the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, as well as members of the Fatah Alliance - a political coalition in Iraq formed to contest the 2018 general election. The main components of the alliance are former groups involved in the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units.

According to a source speaking to Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity, they discussed Ahmad al-Asadi, one of the candidates in Iraq’s upcoming election with strong paramilitary ties.

An elected member of parliament from Baghdad and former spokesman for the PMU, Asadi cut his ties with the force before launching his re-election bid — a requirement by the governing body overseeing the May vote.

The source told Al Arabiya that the meeting discussed ways to pressure Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Asadi’s return to the PMU.

The source added that the meeting resulted in an agreement to appoint Asadi as media advisor to the PMU in the event that Abadi accepts his return, despite electoral laws that disallow military candidates to run.

Political analyst Ahmad al-Khafaji told Al Arabiya that "the presence of Gheybparvar and the Iranian ambassador in such meetings confirm that Iran has plans to interfere further in Iraqi politics."

Khafaji said that Iranian pressure on Abadi has gone beyond the Asadi issue, and has “reached to the extent of interference in Iraqi domestic and foreign policies, but Abadi and his team have refused intervention on several occasions and deal with Iran as required by Iraq's interests.”