AP: Quds Force’s Ghaani delivers silver rings instead of cash to Iraqi militia
Associated Press - Iraqi militia factions expected the usual cash handout when the new head of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force made his first visit to Baghdad earlier this year, succeeding the slain Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Instead, to their disappointment, Esmail Ghaani brought them silver rings.
For his second visit, Gen. Ghaani had to apply for a visa, something unheard of in Soleimani’s time — a bold step by Baghdad’s new government effectively curtailing Iran’s freedom of movement inside Iraq.
The episodes relayed to The Associated Press by several Iraqi officials, illustrate Iran’s struggles to maintain sway over Iraqi militias six months after America assassinated Soleimani and top militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike. Iran at the same time is grappling with the economic fallout from U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus outbreak.
Without imposing figures like Soleimani and al-Muhandis to unify disparate factions, divisions have emerged in the Popular Mobilization Forces, the umbrella group of mainly Shiite forces.
Their deaths also disrupted a trajectory to institutionalize the militias, which al-Muhandis had been meticulously planning with Soleimani’s blessing.
“With al-Muhandis gone, there is an absence of an anchor around which (PMF) politics revolves,” said Fanar Haddad, an Iraq researcher.