US sanctions 4 Iraqis for rights abuses, corruption
By Faris al-Omran
The US on Thursday (July 18th) sanctioned two Iraqi militia leaders and two former governors for human rights abuses and corruption.
The sanctions target any property they own or have an interest in that is within the US or under the control of "US persons", as well as "any entities" in which they have a 50% or greater stake, the Treasury Department said.
Ahmed al-Juburi, the former governor of Iraq's Salaheddine province and current MP, was sanctioned over corruption and has also "been known to protect his personal interests by accommodating Iran-backed proxies", the Treasury said in a statement.
Former Ninawa governor Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan, or Nawfal al-Akoub, has been accused of bribery, profiteering, misuse of power, waste of public money and negligence, the statement said.
The Iraqi parliament voted to sack al-Akoub after an overloaded riverboat capsized in March, leaving 100 people dead, most of them women and children.
Iraq's anti-corruption Integrity Commission said earlier this year that officials "close to al-Akoub" had embezzled a total of $64 million in public funds.
'US will not stand idly'
The US sanctions also included two militia leaders -- Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qado -- who were accused of directly or indirectly engaging in "serious human rights abuse".
Al-Kildani is the leader of the Babylon Movement militia. In May 2018, a video circulated in which al-Kildani cut off the ear of a handcuffed detainee, the Treasury said.
It added that al-Kildani's forces have "systematically looted homes" and "reportedly illegally seized and sold agricultural land".
Al-Kildani also is accused of violating human rights, intimidating, blackmailing and harassing women, unlawfully seizing and selling private property, and preventing internally displaced persons (IDPs) from returning to the Ninawa Plain.
Qado's militia, the 30th Brigade, has meanwhile "extracted money from the population around Bartella, in the Ninawa Plain, through extortion, illegal arrests, and kidnappings" and has "frequently detained people without warrants, or with fraudulent warrants".
On Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence said the US "will not stand idly while Iranian-backed militias spread terror".
A State Department official told AFP that Pence was referring to al-Kildani and Qado, saying: "The respective militias they lead are backed by Iran."
The US will "continue to hold accountable persons associated with serious human rights abuse, including persecution of religious minorities, and corrupt officials who exploit their positions of public trust to line their pockets and hoard power at the expense of their citizens", said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
The inclusion of these individuals in the US sanctions list is a "good step" towards undermining the malicious activities of pro-Iran and corrupt Iraqi figures, political analyst and former Iraqi MP Taha al-Lahibi.
"We support the US Treasury Department’s decision and see it as an appropriate response to the crimes of elements of Iraqi militias backed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) against innocent people," he told Diyaruna on Friday.
These militias have committed "hideous abuses" against citizens and infringed on their personal property, he said.
The US sanctions also place restrictions on corrupt figures, which is "an effective way to protect the Iraqi people’s assets from thieves and corrupt people", said al-Lahibi.
Al-Lahibi called for sanctions to be imposed on more Iraqi militia leaders loyal to Iran, as well as on what he described as "corruption behemoths" who have "plundered millions of dollars of the Iraqi people’s money and emptied the state’s treasury".
The US decision has also earned the support of the Iraqi street.
"It is a sound decision and another stab in the heart of the militias that have committed many crimes against the Iraqi people," Baghdad resident Nabil al-Dulaimi told Diyaruna.
He expressed support for any sanctions affecting "figures involved in stealing the country's resources, impoverishing the Iraqi people, and degrading public services".
These figures only seek to further their personal interests, he added.