Iraq: Hamas prepares to open office in Baghdad amid government support for Palestinian cause

Iraq: Hamas prepares to open office in Baghdad amid government support for Palestinian cause

The Palestinian Sunni Islamist movement Hamas could soon open a media and relations office in Baghdad, subject to authorization from the Iraqi Shiite government, supported by parties and political leaders considered very close to Iran. This is reported by the “Shafaq” news agency, citing a source considered “reliable.” An official presence of the Islamist group in Iraq would be a particularly indicative signal in the context of the Baghdad government’s support for the Palestinian cause, as well as the rejection of the Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip, reiterated several times by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia . ‘ al Sudani since On October 7, 2023, the conflict between Israel and Hamas began.

According to the source cited by “Shafaq”, the issue would be limited “exclusively to a relations and media office”, and therefore not to the transfer of the Islamist political headquarters from Qatar. However, in recent days, the Iraqi Shiite militia Kataib al Imam Ali had reported via Telegram the opening of an “office of the political wing of Hamas” in Iraq. In this regard, a ceremony was held in the presence of Yaqoub al Zaidim, deputy general secretary of Kataib al Imam Ali. Iraqi sources told “Agenzia Nova” that the office in question is located in the Al Ridwaniyah neighborhood, located in the western part of Baghdad, near the international airport. The presence of Hamas, however, was met with general discontent and various criticisms on Iraqi social networks.

The Kataib al Imam Ali group is an Iraqi militia that, according to the American research center The Washington Institute, “is closer to the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah than to other Iraqi groups supported by Iran.” Founded in June 2014 and led by Shibl Mohsen Obaid al Zaydi, the group primarily focuses on “social and economic operations” but has also contributed to military operations against US forces in the Middle East region. According to the US think tank’s analysis, Kataib al Imam Ali threatened to carry out anti-Israel operations abroad and was also involved in attacks against US forces in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Following the Hamas attack on the Jewish state on October 7 and the subsequent military response by the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip, American targets came under attack by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an Iraqi militia group under the umbrella of Iran, such as Kataib Hezbollah al Nujaba, Asaib Ahl al Haq and Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada. The attacks ceased after the murder, in late January, of three US soldiers at a base on the border between Jordan and Syria, after which Washington responded by launching a series of incursions into Iraqi and Syrian territory.

The Islamic Resistance militias had announced the end of their operations against US forces, explaining that they did not want to “embarrass the Iraqi government” and thus began a “temporarily passive” defensive phase. Last week, an informed political source told “Shafaq,” the coalition of militias under the umbrella of Iran gave Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia’ al Sudani a maximum deadline of 40 days to resolve the issue of the “expulsion.” “. of US forces from the country, otherwise threatening to resume attacks against US targets. At the beginning of the year, Baghdad and Washington began a series of meetings, as a joint military-technical committee, to plan a gradual end to the mission of the International Coalition in Iraq against the Islamic State – led by the United States – and evaluate the current level of threat from the terrorist organization, which after having taken control of vast areas in 2014 suffered enormous defeats in the following years, until the loss in 2019 of all the most important territories conquered. Although the Islamic State’s military capabilities have been reduced, the terrorist organization continues to operate at low intensity, predominantly in rural areas, where small cells are still based, according to a report published by the United Nations. Iraq’s need to reduce the Coalition’s mission against IS arose after the US bombings against pro-Iran militias in Iraqi territory after the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip. The Baghdad government’s goal is to conclude the international mission at the end of its mandate.

Talks between Iraq and the United States regarding the Palestinian issue also continue. In this regard, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iraqi Prime Minister Al Sudani held talks on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Emergency Conference on the Humanitarian Response for Gaza hosted by Jordan. During the meeting, Blinken thanked the head of the Baghdad Government for his support of the United Nations Security Council resolution on the ceasefire in the Strip, approved this week with general consensus, with the exception of Russia, which abstained. . Al Sudani, for his part, highlighted the need for a “clear position” from Washington on Israel’s military operations, noting that the international community’s response has been “weak.” Earlier, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “We welcome the decision of the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, support for the complete withdrawal of Zionist occupation forces and the safe return of displaced Palestinian citizens to their homes. houses in various areas of the Strip.”

And it is precisely in the context of the Iraqi government’s support for the population of Gaza, and against Israel, that Hamas’s alleged decision to open its office in Baghdad could be placed. According to sources from the “Agenzia Nova”, it cannot be ruled out that the pro-Iran Shiite militias in Iraq are trying to “feel the situation” in the country by trying to open “a small office, even if symbolic, for Hamas.” . A headquarters of the Palestinian Islamist movement in the Arab country with a Shiite majority also takes on special importance in light of rumors that Qatar has threatened to expel Hamas in the event of rejection of the ceasefire agreement proposed by the United States in the negotiations. . currently underway in the Gaza Strip. As reported about a month ago by the American newspaper “Wall Street Journal”, Hamas leaders are considering the possibility of moving their political base out of Qatar and have already established contacts with two other countries in the region, one of which is Oman. . Sources from the “Agenzia Nova” confirm that Hamas could find its “new home” in Iraq. The Islamist movement, for its part, has always denied to date the possible transfer of its political headquarters from Doha.

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