Abu Fadak Al-Mohammedawi a.k.a. Abd al-Aziz Malluh Mirjirash al-Muhammadawi

Abu Fadak Al-Mohammedawi is the chief of staff of Iraq’s Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group for the Iran-backed Iraqi militias.“Iraq: PMF Names Muhandis’ Successor,” Asharq Al-Awsat, February 22, 2020, https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2144071/iraq-pmf-names-muhandis%E2%80%99-successor. Prior to his appointment, Mohammedawi served as the secretary-general of Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), one of the units of the PMF.“Iraq’s PMF appoints new deputy head as successor to Al-Muhandis,” Middle East Monitor, February 21, 2020, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200221-iraqs-pmf-appoints-new-deputy-head-as-successor-to-al-muhandis/. The PMF has also grown into a powerful political force in Iraq as members of the umbrella group hold the most seats in Iraqi parliament.“AP Explains: Who are Iraq’s Iran-backed militias?,” Associated Press, December 31, 2019, https://apnews.com/57a346b17d6da07ae732ba1437520fd2.

Mohammedawi, whose real name is Abd al-Aziz Malluh Mirjirash al-Muhammadawi, entered the Iraqi paramilitary scene in the 1980s, when he served as an aide to Hadi Amri, the head of the Badr Organization. Mohammedawi was assigned intelligence tasks, and during this time, became close to Major General Qassem Soleimani, the former head of Iran’s Quds Force, who was later killed in a U.S. led airstrike on January 3, 2020.“Iran-related Designations and Designations Updates; Counter Terrorism Designation,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 13, 2021, https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/recent-actions/20210113; “Iraq: PMF Names Muhandis’ Successor,” Asharq Al-Awsat, February 22, 2020, https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2144071/iraq-pmf-names-muhandis%E2%80%99-successor.; Julian Berger and Martin Chulov, “US kills Iran general Qassem Suleimani in strike ordered by Trump,” Guardian, January 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/03/baghdad-airport-iraq-attack-deaths-iran-us-tensions.

It is suspected that Mohammedawi joined KH in 1997, and quickly became a part of its inner core in carrying out operations against Saddam Hussein’s government.Suadad al-Salhy, “Iran and Najaf struggle for control over Hashd al-Shaabi after Muhandis's killing,” Middle East Eye, February 16, 2020, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iran-and-najaf-struggle-control-over-hashd-al-shaabi-after-muhandis-killing. Mohammedawi made a name for himself throughout KH due to his military capability and his ability to work well with other militias throughout the PMF.“Iraq’s Shia Militias Name Successor to Official Slain in US Strike Alongside Soleimani – Reports,” Sputnik News, February 21, 2020, https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/202002211078372097-iraqs-shia-militias-name-successor-to-official-slain-in-us-strike-alongside-soleimani---reports/. Additionally, it is suspected the Mohammedawi commanded the militia’s forces in the fight against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.“Iraq’s Shia Militias Name Successor to Official Slain in US Strike Alongside Soleimani – Reports,” Sputnik News, February 21, 2020, https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/202002211078372097-iraqs-shia-militias-name-successor-to-official-slain-in-us-strike-alongside-soleimani---reports/.; “Successor to killed Iraq militia chief Al Muhandis named,” The National, February 21, 2020, https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/successor-to-killed-iraq-militia-chief-al-muhandis-named-1.982433.

According to Al Arabiya, Mohammadawi briefly left KH due to an issue regarding a ransom payout following KH’s kidnapping of Qatari hunters in 2015. However, following orders from Soleimani in October of 2019, Mohammadawi returned to KH, presumably under the role of secretary-general.“Meet ‘the uncle’ Abu Fadak, the new head of Iran-backed PMU militias in Iraq,” Al-Arabiya, February 22, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/22/Who-is-Abu-Fadak-the-uncle-al-Mohammadawi-the-new-head-of-PMU-militias-.html. There is speculation that Mohammedawi was linked to the December 2019 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, as the phrase “the uncle passed through here,” was found on the embassy’s walls. Mohammedawi is often called “uncle” among his associates.“Meet ‘the uncle’ Abu Fadak, the new head of Iran-backed PMU militias in Iraq,” Al-Arabiya, February 22, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/22/Who-is-Abu-Fadak-the-uncle-al-Mohammadawi-the-new-head-of-PMU-militias-.html. Additionally, Iraqi activists consider Mohammedawi as being responsible for attacks against protesters on the Sinak Bridge and al-Khilani Square on December 7, 2019.“Meet ‘the uncle’ Abu Fadak, the new head of Iran-backed PMU militias in Iraq,” Al-Arabiya, February 22, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/02/22/Who-is-Abu-Fadak-the-uncle-al-Mohammadawi-the-new-head-of-PMU-militias-.html.; Falih Hassan and Alissa J. Rubin, “Protesters Killed and Cleric’s House Bombed in Deepening Iraqi Chaos,” New York Times, December 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/07/world/middleeast/iraq-al-Sadr-bombed.html.

Following the death of KH’s commander and former PMF’s deputy chairman, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi a.k.a. Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, by the same U.S.-led airstrike that killed Soleimani, PMF restructured the group’s leadership. The position of deputy chairman was replaced by chief of staff. After weeks of negotiations among PMF officials, on February 21, 2020, Mohammedawi was appointed as the new chief of staff.“Iraq: PMF Names Muhandis’ Successor,” Asharq Al-Awsat, February 22, 2020, https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2144071/iraq-pmf-names-muhandis%E2%80%99-successor. Mohammedawi was a close associate of Ibrahimi. He is a follower of vilayat-e faqih, or guardianship of the jurist, the Khomeinist doctrine that calls for a single religious cleric to lead the government. Additionally, sources claim that Mohammedawi “does not move without a fatwa.”Suadad al-Salhy, “Iran and Najaf struggle for control over Hashd al-Shaabi after Muhandis's killing,” Middle East Eye, February 16, 2020, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iran-and-najaf-struggle-control-over-hashd-al-shaabi-after-muhandis-killing.

United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets and Control designated “Abd al-Aziz Malluh Mirjirash al-Muhammadawi” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on January 13, 2021.“Iraq: PMF Names Muhandis’ Successor,” Asharq Al-Awsat, February 22, 2020, https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/2144071/iraq-pmf-names-muhandis%E2%80%99-successor.

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