News Brief: Fars News, a hardline Iranian outlet has commended the visit of  Falih Al-Fayyad, Iraq’s National Security Advisor and chairman of the mainly Shiite “Popular Mobilization Forces” to Syria.  The outlet said that Fayyad had brought a message to Bashar Al Assad in Damascus from Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. According to this report, Iraq and Syria will not only continue to “cooperate in counter-terrorism” but will expand on such efforts.

Comment:

This effort by a media outlet controlled by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) suggests Tehran is very sensitive to international perceptions about the Hashd al-Shaabi and its close historic ties and submission to Iran. In the past, Tehran always sought to magnify the role of Iraqi militant leaders close to Iran - people such as Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis and Hadi Al Amiri - as driving forces with the Iraqi Shiite militia movement. Al Muhandis is now officially the deputy of Fayyad but most likely still the real power inside the militia and still answerable to Tehran. The public promoting of Fayyad is part of Iran’s attempt to legitimize the militia and to create public distance between it and men such as al-Muhandis and al-Amiri, men who are controversial due to their sectarian agendas.

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