Iraq Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is facing a difficult dilemma. He knows the United States is withdrawing from Iraq and, although he is an ally and supporter of the U.S., that they won’t be coming to help him in the future. But he’s also trying to weaken the power of the Iranian-proxy militias that ostensibly fall under the Iraqi military, but answer first to the Iranian. 

So, al-Kadhimi is making a bold, if dangerous, move by sending one of the leaders of the Iranian-led militias to Egypt for training to become an officer in the Iraqi army. Hussein Falih Aziz, also known as Abu Zainab al-Lami, has been sent to Egypt with Iraqi officers for a year-long training normally reserved for the country’s military personnel. Documents leaked to the media list al-Lami’s rank as a major general. 

Al-Lami is the head of security for Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Iraq’s state paramilitary group, and a one-time member of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia.

The same source close to him, which confirmed he’s attending the training, also stated that al-Lami has denied any formal ties to either the Iranians or the militia group. 

The U.S. has placed sanctions on al-Lami for his role in firing on and killing unarmed anti-government protesters. Al-Lami has denied any role in the killing of peaceful demonstrators.

The Kadhimi government’s hope is that by giving al-Lami a high commission he will bring the PMF closer to the government and weaken the influence that Iran has on the group. Although the PMF is supposed to report to the military and to the Iraqi government, that has not been the case. The PMF’s most dominant factions report to Iran.

The group made that abundantly clear last summer, when tensions were running high and several of its leaders threatened Kadhimi.

The militias had been openly targeting U.S.-led coalition forces by launching rockets at U.S. bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad, where the U.S. embassy is located.