Husayn Falih ‘Aziz al-Lami a.k.a. Abu Zaynab al-Lami

Husayn Falih ‘Aziz al-Lami is a U.S.-sanctioned leader in the Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and head of security of Iraq’s Haashid Shaabi (a.k.a. the Popular Mobilization Forces/Units or PMF/PMU), an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias in Iraq supported by the Iraqi government.Michael Georgy, “Exclusive: Iran-backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests – sources,” Reuters, October 17, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests-iran-snipers-exclusive/exclusive-iran-backed-militias-deployed-snipers-in-iraq-protests-sources-idUSKBN1WW0B1. The U.S. government accuses Lami of complicity in the PMF’s killing of protesters in Baghdad in October 2019.“Treasury Sanctions Iran-Backed Militia Leaders Who Killed Innocent Demonstrators in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/index.php/news/press-releases/sm847.

Lami is director of the PMF’s Central Security Directorate, which maintains its own intelligence and military forces. The unit acts as an internal affairs branch and is authorized to discipline PMF leaders.Michael Knights, “Iran’s Expanding Militia Army in Iraq: The New Special Groups,” CTC Sentinel, August 2019, https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2019/08/CTC-SENTINEL-072019.pdf. Some analysts postulated that Lami was being groomed to eventually replace PMF deputy commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, a.k.a. Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, who also led KH.Michael Knights, “Iran’s Expanding Militia Army in Iraq: The New Special Groups,” CTC Sentinel, August 2019, https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2019/08/CTC-SENTINEL-072019.pdf; Lara Jakes, “U.S. Seeks to Punish Iraqi Militias That Targeted Protesters With Iran’s Help,” New York Times, December 6, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/06/us/politics/iraq-iran-sanctions.html. Ibrahimi died in a January 3, 2020, U.S. airstrike in Iraq that also killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.Frank Miles, “Baghdad rocket attack kills Iranian military leaders including Gen. Qassim Soleimani, reports say,” Fox News, January 2, 2020,  https://www.foxnews.com/world/rockets-baghdad-airport-injuries-reported. The PMF is directly supported by Iran. As the PMF’s security director, Lami had direct contact with Soleimani.Michael Knights, “Iran’s Expanding Militia Army in Iraq: The New Special Groups,” CTC Sentinel, August 2019, https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2019/08/CTC-SENTINEL-072019.pdf; Lara Jakes, “U.S. Seeks to Punish Iraqi Militias That Targeted Protesters With Iran’s Help,” New York Times, December 6, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/06/us/politics/iraq-iran-sanctions.html.

According to the Department of the Treasury, Lami was responsible for, complicit in, or directly or indirectly engaged in “serious human rights abuse.”“Treasury Sanctions Iran-Backed Militia Leaders Who Killed Innocent Demonstrators in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/index.php/news/press-releases/sm847. In 2017, Lami reportedly supervised a secret PMF prison in Iraq holding ISIS members and other largely Sunni prisoners. Prisoners alleged torture and mass killings in the prison under his watch. Iranian officers also allegedly oversaw the prison.“Exclusive: Destination of IMIS prison filled with Iraqi Sunnis revealed,” Baghdad Post, March 7, 2017, https://www.thebaghdadpost.com/en/Story/7839/Exclusive-Destination-of-IMIS-prison-filled-with-Iraqi-Sunnis-revealed. The U.S. government sanction-designated Lami in December 2019 for his role in violently quelling protests in Baghdad in October 2019.“Treasury Sanctions Iran-Backed Militia Leaders Who Killed Innocent Demonstrators in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/index.php/news/press-releases/sm847.

Anti-government protesters filled Baghdad’s streets in October 2019. Reportedly on orders from PMF leaders, Lami ordered snipers to deploy on rooftops in the city and open fire on protesters. More than 100 people were killed and 6,000 injured during the first week of October. Iraqi officials denied that security forces fired directly on protesters, while the PMF denied that any of its members participated in quelling the protests.Michael Georgy, “Exclusive: Iran-backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests – sources,” Reuters, October 17, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests-iran-snipers-exclusive/exclusive-iran-backed-militias-deployed-snipers-in-iraq-protests-sources-idUSKBN1WW0B1.

On July 1, 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi issued a decree ordering the militias of the PMF to choose between full integration into the Iraqi armed forces or disarmament by July 31. The prime minister’s decree stated that the PMF factions had to choose between either political or paramilitary activity, and if they choose politics they would not be allowed to carry weapons.Jared Szuba, “Mahdi orders full integration of Shia militias into Iraq’s armed forces,” July 3, 2019, https://thedefensepost.com/2019/07/03/iraq-mahdi-orders-popular-mobilization-units-integration/.; “Shia militia agrees to integrate into Iraq state army,” Middle East Monitor, July 3, 2019, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190703-shia-militia-agrees-to-integrate-into-iraq-state-army/. The decree was an attempt by Abdul Mahdi at curtailing the autonomy of Iranian-backed militias, which boast more than 120,000 fighters.Isabel Coles in Beirut and Dion Nissenbaum, “U.S.: Saudi Pipeline Attacks Originated From Iraq,” Washington Post, June 28, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-saudi-pipeline-attacks-originated-from-iraq-11561741133. The decree included a reorganization of the PMF that would have seen Lami become a deputy to Iraq’s interior minister.Suadad al-Salhy, “Revealed: How Baghdad plans to rein in Iran,” Arab News, July 13, 2019, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1525156/middle-east. Abdul Mahdi issued a new decree in September 2019 that restructured the PMF’s leadership.Fadhel al-Nashmi, “Iraqi PM Issues New order on PMF Restructuring,” Asharq al-Awsat, September 22, 2020, https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1913381/iraqi-pm-issues-new-order-pmf-restructuring. As of December 2019, Lami remained in his role as the PMF’s security chief.John Davison and Daphne Psaledakis, “Washington blacklists Iran-backed Iraqi militia leaders over protests,” Reuters, December 6, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa-iraq-sanctions/washington-blacklists-iran-backed-iraqi-militia-leaders-over-protests-idUSKBN1YA206.

 
United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Husayn Falih ‘Aziz al-Lami on December 6, 2019, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818 for being a foreign person who is responsible for, is complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in serious human rights abuse.“Treasury Sanctions Iran-Backed Militia Leaders Who Killed Innocent Demonstrators in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/index.php/news/press-releases/sm847.

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