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The New Arab Staff

Iraq’s spy agency blasts militia leader for 'unpatriotic' UAE takeover claim

The response of Iraq's spy agency suggested Al-Khazali's claim had harmed the organisation [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 March, 2021

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Qais Al-Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, claimed the movement of 300 Iraqi intelligence officers to the country's border force was based on orders from Abu Dhabi.

Iraq's intelligence agency has rejected claims by a pro-Iran militia leader that the UAE ordered Baghdad to transfer 300 Iraqi spies to the country's border force during a recent visit by Emirati officials.

In a statement on Monday, Iraq's National Intelligence Service (NIS) said the agency was compelled to respond to "evil" allegations from certain sections of "politics and media" that were based on "false information".

It comes after Qais Al-Khazali, head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl Al-Haq militia force, claimed that hundreds of Iraqi-Shia intelligence agencies were diverted at the request of Abu Dhabi.

Iraq's NIS, which is headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, did not mention Al-Khazali by name but indicated these allegations harmed the agency's reputation, as well as the integrity and patriotism of its staff.

The agency described the movement of 300 of its staff to the border as necessary to bolster forces there and that the decision was legal.

An Iraq-based correspondent for Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said the order came from Prime Minister Al-Kadhemi - part of efforts to enhance security and combat corruption.

No intelligence officer was forced to transfer, Othman Mohammed said.

The fact that most of the officers moved were from Iraq's Shia Muslim majority prompted a conspiracy that Iran-rival UAE ordered the transfer.

Al-Khazali also claimed he had evidence that the visit was part of Abu Dhabi's "security takeover of Iraqi intelligence".

Read also:  7 rockets target Iraq base housing US troops: security source

"Has Iraq reached this level of weakness where it can be violated so easily?" asked Al-Khazali.

The militia leader - who was designated as a terrorist by the US last year - followed by another with Quranic allusion - "Is it not that each time the UAE enters a village, they destroy it, as they did in Yemen and Libya?"

Pro-Iran factions in Iraq have supported Al-Khazali's assertions, which suggested a sectarian purge of Baghdad's intelligence authorities.

Ashab Al-Kahf, a little-known militia group, posted a statement on its official Telegram channel condemning the transfer of the officers and threatening to "humiliate" Al-Kadhimi for his actions, Rudaw report.

While details of the supposed trip by an Abu Dhabi security team have not been verified, the UAE - a close ally of Washington - has been involved in counter-terrorism efforts in Iraq. Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have broader interests in Iraq, including the desire to counter Tehran's influence in the country.

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