Hadi al-Amiri

Hadi al-Amiri is the leader and secretary-general of the Badr Organization, an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia and political party based in Iraq. Susannah George, “Breaking Badr,” Foreign Policy, November 6, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/11/06/breaking-badr/. Al-Amiri has a history of instigating sectarian violence in Iraq. In a period of heightened violence between 2004 and 2006, al-Amiri reportedly ordered attacks on up to 2,000 Sunnis.Loveday Morris, “Appointment of Iraq’s new interior minister opens door to militia and Iranian influence,” Washington Post, October 18, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/appointment-of-iraqs-new-interior-minister-opens-door-to-militia-and-iranian-influence/2014/10/18/f6f2a347-d38c-4743-902a-254a169ca274_story.html; “Election Law Crisis Fosters Sunni-shia Cooperation,” WikiLeaks, September 1, 2011, https://cablegatesearch.wikileaks.org/cable.php?id=09BAGHDAD3175&q=amiri%20badr%20drill. According to a leaked cable from the U.S. State Department, “One of [al-Amiri’s] preferred methods of killing allegedly involved using a power drill to pierce the skulls of his adversaries.”Loveday Morris, “Appointment of Iraq’s new interior minister opens door to militia and Iranian influence,” Washington Post, October 18, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/appointment-of-iraqs-new-interior-minister-opens-door-to-militia-and-iranian-influence/2014/10/18/f6f2a347-d38c-4743-902a-254a169ca274_story.html; “Election Law Crisis Fosters Sunni-shia Cooperation,” WikiLeaks, September 1, 2011, https://cablegatesearch.wikileaks.org/cable.php?id=09BAGHDAD3175&q=amiri%20badr%20drill. A U.S. federal indictment has linked al-Amiri to a 1996 attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. Air Force servicemen.“Terror Attack Victim ‘Sick’ Over Iraqi Minister Hadi al-Ameri’s Visit to White House,” Fox News Insider, December 16, 2011, http://insider.foxnews.com/2011/12/16/terror-attack-victim-sick-over-iraqi-minister-hadi-al-ameris-visit-to-white-house.

Al-Amiri’s military influence extends beyond the confines of the Badr Organization. He serves as the leader of Iraq’s collective Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella group of Shiite militias controlled by the Iraqi government.Rod Nordland, “After Victory Over ISIS in Tikrit, Next Battle Requires a New Template,” New York Times, April 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/world/middleeast/iraq-isis-anbar-sunni-shiite.html. He also wields control over Iraq’s army and police in Diyala province.Ned Parker and Stephen Kalin, “Iraqi commander denies paramilitary groups involved in killings,” Reuters, February 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/09/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-amiri-idUSKBN0LD17B20150209; Eli Lake, “Iran's Militias Are Taking Over Iraq's Army,” Bloomberg View, February 3, 2015, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-02-03/exclusive-iran-s-militias-are-taking-over-iraq-s-army. Then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reportedly entrusted al-Amiri with command over the Iraqi Army’s 20th Battalion, according to the battalion’s commander, General Ali al-Wazir.Ned Parker and Stephen Kalin, “Iraqi commander denies paramilitary groups involved in killings,” Reuters, February 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/09/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-amiri-idUSKBN0LD17B20150209; Eli Lake, “Iran's Militias Are Taking Over Iraq's Army,” Bloomberg View, February 3, 2015, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-02-03/exclusive-iran-s-militias-are-taking-over-iraq-s-army.

Al-Amiri also serves as the leader of the Badr Organization’s political wing, a party that holds 22 seats in Iraq’s parliament.Patrick Martin, “Analysis of the Badr Organization,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), February 25, 2015, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/analysis-of-the-badr-organization/article23208662/. From 2011 to 2014, al-Amiri served as Iraq’s transportation minister.Hayder al-Khoei, “Decoding Iraq's Sectarian Rivalries: Baghdad's Political Blocs Threaten to Split Apart,” Foreign Affairs, January 31, 2012, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137064/hayder-al-khoei/decoding-iraqs-sectarian-rivalries. When a lesser-known member of the Badr Organization was elected as Iraq’s interior minister in October 2014, it was widely presumed that al-Amiri would serve as the country’s de facto interior minister.Loveday Morris, “Appointment of Iraq’s new interior minister opens door to militia and Iranian influence,” Washington Post, October 18, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/appointment-of-iraqs-new-interior-minister-opens-door-to-militia-and-iranian-influence/2014/10/18/f6f2a347-d38c-4743-902a-254a169ca274_story.html.

Today, al-Amiri seeks to rebrand the Badr Organization, casting himself and his organization as a moderate, nationalistic, and inclusive counterweight to violent Sunni terrorist group ISIS. Nonetheless, areas in which the Badr organization has fought ISIS have seen “some of the most high-profile Sunni-Shiite violence of the current conflict,” according to the Washington Post.Loveday Morris, “Appointment of Iraq’s new interior minister opens door to militia and Iranian influence,” Washington Post, October 18, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/appointment-of-iraqs-new-interior-minister-opens-door-to-militia-and-iranian-influence/2014/10/18/f6f2a347-d38c-4743-902a-254a169ca274_story.html.

While al-Amiri’s political party has sought to downplay its role as an Iranian proxy, al-Amiri himself remains loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader. In early 2015, al-Amiri said of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that he “is the leader not only for Iranians but the Islamic nation. I believe so and I take pride in it.”Ned Parker, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Isabel Coles, “Special Report: How Iran’s military chiefs operate in Iraq,” Reuters, February 24, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/24/us-mideast-crisis-committee-specialrepor-idUSKBN0LS0VD20150224. Al-Amiri also retains a strong relationship with Iran and its deceased military envoy to Iraq, Qasem Soleimani.Akbar Shahid Ahmed and Ryan Grim, “What's Wrong With This Picture? For U.S. Fight Against ISIS, Everything,” Huffington Post, November 23, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/23/obama-isis-iran_n_6165352.html; Susannah George, “Breaking Badr,” Foreign Policy, November 6, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/11/06/breaking-badr/. According to senior Iraqi politicians, al-Amiri is the commander closest to Iran on the battlefield.Ahmed Rasheed and Ned Parker, “Shi'ite militias expand influence, redraw map in central Iraq,” Reuters, December 31, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/31/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-idUSKBN0K909K20141231.

Badr won 22 parliamentary seats in Iraqi elections in May 2018, the same number of seats it won in 2014.Phillip Smyth, “Iranian Militias in Iraq's Parliament: Political Outcomes and U.S. Response,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, June 11, 2018, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/iranian-militias-in-iraqs-parliament-political-outcomes-and-u.s.-response. Al-Amiri sought Iraq’s premiership but withdrew in September 2018.“Iraq Shi'ite paramilitary leader al-Amiri withdraws candidacy for PM,” Reuters, September 18, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-politics-amiri/iraq-shiite-paramilitary-leader-al-amiri-withdraws-candidacy-for-pm-idUSKCN1LY0ST. In April 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi assigned al-Amiri to oversee construction and protection initiatives in Basra’s Majnoon Oil Field.“Hadi al-Amiri appointed “czar” of Basra,” Iraq Oil Report, April 11, 2019, https://www.iraqoilreport.com/news/hadi-al-amiri-appointed-czar-of-basra-39293/. In 2017, al-Amiri began to consolidate the political power of the Shiite militias in a new political alliance.“Hashd commander from Badr Organization to form new alliance for Iraqi election,” Rudaw, February 12, 2017, https://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/021220172. In January 2018, the Badr Organization, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) joined with other PMF units to form the Fatah Alliance political party ahead of Iraq’s May 2018 elections.Ahmad Majidyar, “Iraqi Hezbollah calls on Baghdad government to set up US exit timeline,” Middle East Institute, March 6, 2018, http://www.mei.edu/content/io/iraqi-hezbollah-calls-baghdad-government-set-us-exit-timeline. Al-Amiri continues to lead the Fatah Alliance.f="https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/121020212">https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/121020212; “Pro-Iranian groups reject early Iraq election results as ‘scam,’” Al Jazeera, October 12, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/12/iraqi-pro-iranian-groups-reject-elections-a-scam.

Under al-Amiri’s leadership, the Badr Organization has risen to preeminence in both the military and political spheres. One Iraqi official described the Badr Organization, including leader al-Amiri, as “easily” the most powerful force in Iraq, stronger even than Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.Ned Parker, Babak Dehghanpisheh, and Isabel Coles, “Special Report: How Iran’s military chiefs operate in Iraq,” Reuters, February 24, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/24/us-mideast-crisis-committee-specialrepor-idUSKBN0LS0VD20150224. A Human Rights Watch researcher said of al-Amiri that he is “an extremely powerful figure and he’s essentially acting with total impunity now. It’s not really the government leading the militias; it’s the other way around.”“The Battle for Iraq: Shia Militias vs. the Islamic State,” VICE News, February 12, 2015, https://news.vice.com/video/the-battle-for-iraq-shia-militias-vs-the-islamic-state.

Despite’s Badr’s political rise, al-Amiri has maintained his extremist ties. Al-Amiri was photographed outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on December 31, 2019, as protesters threw stones and torched a security post at the embassy, prompting suspicions that he was encouraging the violence. After the attack, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called al-Amiri an Iranian “proxy” aiding terrorists.Barbara Starr, Kevin Bohn, and Ross Levitt, “US strikes 5 facilities in Iraq and Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia,” CNN, December 29. 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/29/politics/us-strikes-iran-backed-militia-facilities-in-iraq-syria/index.html; Ghassan Adnan, Isabel Coles, and Michael Gordon, “Trump Blames Iran After Militia Supporters Try to Storm U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/protesters-attempt-to-storm-u-s-embassy-in-baghdad-11577787978; Seth J. Frantzman, “Pompeo names Iraqi Badr militia leader Hadi al-Amiri as Iranian proxy,” Jerusalem Post, January 2, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Pompeo-names-Iraqi-Badr-militia-leader-Hadi-al-Amiri-as-Iranian-proxy-612751. Following the January 3, 2020, deaths of Soleimani and KH leader Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, a.k.a. Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes in a U.S. airstrike, al-Amiri pledged that Badr would join other Iranian-sponsored Iraqi militias in seeking revenge on the United States.Simon Kerr, Chloe Cornish, and Andrew England, “Middle East braced for backlash after killing of Qassem Soleimani,” Financial Times, January 3, 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/52a2fce4-2e0f-11ea-a126-99756bd8f45e; Shelly Kittleson, “Iraqi armed factions vow revenge for Shiite commanders’ killings,” Al-Monitor, January 5, 2020, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/soleimani-assassination-iran-iraq-us-pmu.html.

On October 10, 2021, Iraq held early parliamentary elections, which were marked by a record low voter turnout of 41 percent. Shiite factions won only 14 seats in the elections, dropping from 48 seats in the 2018 election. That evening, leaders of the Iran-backed militias and other Shiite factions met at the home of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss how to respond to what they call a “British-American plot” and a “coup” by hardline cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose party placed first in the elections.Suadad al-Salhy and Alex MacDonald, “Iraq elections 2021: Shia parties reject results as armed group threatens violence,” Middle East Eye, October 12, 2021, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iraq-elections-shia-parties-reject-results-militia-threatens-violence. The factions reportedly called to “escalate” their activities in Iraq.Suadad al-Salhy and Alex MacDonald, “Iraq elections 2021: Shia parties reject results as armed group threatens violence,” Middle East Eye, October 12, 2021, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iraq-elections-shia-parties-reject-results-militia-threatens-violence. On October 12, al-Amiri rejected the election results on behalf of Iraq’s Shiite parties. He called the results a “fabrication” and threatened to “defend the votes of our candidates and voters with full force.”Dilan Sirwan, “Iraq election results see giant parties fall, unexpected victories,” Rudaw, October 12, 2021, https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/121020212; “Pro-Iranian groups reject early Iraq election results as ‘scam,’” Al Jazeera, October 12, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/12/iraqi-pro-iranian-groups-reject-elections-a-scam

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Badr Organization
Type(s) of Organization:
Militia, political party, religious, social services provider, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Iranian-sponsored, Islamist, jihadist, Khomeinist, Shiite
Position(s):
Leader and secretary-general

The Badr Organization is a Shiite political party and paramilitary force that acts as Iran’s oldest proxy in Iraq. Given the group’s deep ties to Iran and its political and military preeminence, analysts have compared the Badr Organization in Iraq to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

  • Designations
  • Rhetoric

United Arab Emirates

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