Ex-Hizbullah Brigades Senior Member Heads Party Competing In Upcoming Iraqi Elections

Iraqi parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 10, 2021. The elections were moved forward from May 2022, following a popular protest that erupted in 2019, which led to the resignation of the government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

In these elections, for the first time, a “rights movement” party will run for power. Known as Harakat Huqouq (Rights Movement), it is headed by Hussein Muanis Faraj Al-Muhammadawi, a former senior member of the Hizbullah Brigades, a Shi’ite militia with close ties to Iran which has perpetrated many terror attacks against the American forces in Iraq. It is not unlikely that this party was established at the behest of Iran, in an attempt to further strengthen its influence in the Iraqi corridors of power.

Despite repeated assurances from both Al-Muhammadawi and the Hizbullah Brigades that there is no connection between the two, the creation of the party marks the entry of the Hizbullah Brigades into the Iraqi political arena. As such, it joins other Shi’ite militias which are represented in the Iraqi Parliament, such as the Badr Organization headed by Hadi Al-Amiri, and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, headed by Qais Al-Khazali, which operate in the Parliament under the umbrella of the Al-Fatah Alliance, which is headed by Hadi Al-Amiri.

The efforts of the Shi’ite militias in Iraq to enter the political arena follow the Hizbullah-Lebanon model, which is based on the understanding that in order to control, or at least to influence, a country, one must use not only force, but should also penetrate the corridors of power.

The following is a brief review of the new Harakat Huqouq political party:

The party list comprises 31 candidates, seven of whom are women, from various districts, while most of the candidates are running in the Baghdad district.

Party chairman Hussein Muanis a married father of three. He holds a BA in Electrical Engineering and an MA in Law and is one of the founders of the Hizbullah Brigades. He was imprisoned by the Americans from 2008 to 2012 because of his activity in the Brigades. He was a member of its Shura council and held positions in the organization’s law and information departments.

Muanis takes pains to stress that he is no longer a member of the Hizbullah Brigades and that he officially resigned from his positions within the organization so that he could participate in the establishment of the party. He claims that in the 2018 election campaign he opposed the entrance of the Hizbullah Brigades into the political arena, “but today I believe that we should be there,”[1] and so he resigned.

A popular theory held by many people in Iraq is that Muanis is actually Abu Ali Al-Askari, the security spokesman of the Brigades, however, he vehemently denies this. In an interview with the Lebanese Al Mayadeen TV channel he said, “I am currently the chairman of a rights movement. There is a separation between the two things… I have a letter from the security apparatuses according to which there is no connection between me and Abu Ali Al-Askari.”[2]

The Party Platform

Although the party presents itself as an “independent party,” which has no connection to other bodies, the fact that its leader was a senior member of the Hizbullah Brigades overshadows this claim. Furthermore, the Hizbullah Brigades has not denied its support for the party, while noting that such support does not imply that it would not support other “trustworthy” parties.

An October 2, 2021 post on Abu Ali Al-Askari’s Telegram channel reads: “Hizbullah stands with the trustworthy bodies and will assist in every way it can to bring them to a decision-making position, with its assistance varying among the different lists… Our support for the Rights Movement does not imply a lack of support for other trustworthy lists.”[3]

In an attempt to recruit the support of the masses, the party seeks to integrate a social platform with a political platform that opposes the American presence in Iraq.

The party asserts that it, “Highlights issues which are relevant to the citizen and the Iraqi homeland… The movement unites in its ranks resistance fighters, academics, dignitaries, clerks, and workers.” According to the party website, its political platform is based on two central elements: the right and the power, where “the right is the constitutional and moral force, and the power is the necessary condition for the achievement of the rights.” The movement’s slogan is based on these two elements: “[Rights are] taken, not given.”[4]

In its election campaign, the party accentuates the issue of government corruption and vows to take action to ensure the rights of the Iraqi people in the spheres of employment, water, electricity, education, and housing.

Alongside the social issues, which the party promises to target, it also presents demands to expel the American forces from Iraq and to protect the status of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) as an independent organization, and to allow the resistance factions to retain their weapons.

At the party’s first convention, Chairman Muanis said, “We in the party are discussing today what the situation in Iraq will be after the American [forces] leave. The withdrawal of the occupier is a sure thing which will occur sooner and not later.”[5] Party member Sa’id Al-Sarai said, “The expulsion of the American forces from the land of Iraq is an inescapable necessity. We will oppose anyone who tries to delay it.”[6]

Regarding the PMU and the resistance factions, the homepage of the party website notes that one of the goals of the party is “the preservation of the unity of the military and security establishment and all its departments, and support for the PMU institution as a barrier which protects against attack from terrorist organizations or the occupation forces.”[7]

Party Chairman Muanisi said, “We will not allow a comparison to be made between weapons which defended, liberated, and protected the cities of Iraq, and weapons which harm the Iraqi [social] fabric.”[8] Sa’id Al-Sarai made similar statements, “The PMU is one of the issues on our priority list. Our goal is to obey the law [according to which it operates] and not to harm it. We will work to strengthen it as much as we can.”[9]

Connections with Parties That Represent Other Shi’ite Militias

According to a survey conducted by the Iraqi Al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies, which was published on September 30, 2021, the movement would receive 0.81% of all the votes and Al-Muhammadawi would garner 42% of the votes in Baghdad.[10]

There are those in Iraq who believe that the establishment of this party marks a turning point in the balance of power among the parties that represent the pro-Iranian militias in Parliament, and that it constitutes a challenge to the leadership of Hadi Al-Amiri.[11]

Al-Muhammadawi indirectly criticized the conduct of the Al-Fatah Alliance, when he said that his party is taking it upon itself to fill the political vacuum in Iraq and working to integrate the political and the military activity.[12] On another occasion he said, “The Al-Fatah Alliance [members] are our brothers but our demands are greater.”[13]

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