UN Chief Should Never Have Met Qais Al-Khazaali, The Terrorist – OpEd
By Arab News
By Dalia Al-Aqidi*
After his last visit to Iraq in the spring of 2017, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres went to Baghdad to express international commitment in support of the troubled country.
As soon as he landed in the Iraqi capital, the UN chief stressed to reporters that the international community should not brush aside the country’s complex challenges. “I am here on a visit of solidarity to underscore the commitment of the United Nations to support Iraq in the consolidation of its democratic institutions and advancing peace, sustainable development and human rights for all Iraqis,” he said.
Following his meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani and other senior officials, he applauded the head of the government for his approach to implementing political and economic reforms that include combating corruption, which has been destroying the country for decades.
However, such promises were not exclusive to Al-Sudani himself. They were made by several successive governments that failed to implement them for several reasons, the first of which was a lack of seriousness — and lastly, the militia-driven political parties that have a firm grip over all aspects of the state. These well-known political and militia leaders would not hesitate to assassinate any official working against their interests or against the Iranian agenda that they conspired with and blindly followed in the name of Vilayat-e Faqih, the guardianship of the Islamic jurist.
It was understandable that Guterres’ visit aimed to show solidarity with the people and the democratic institutions of Iraq, giving the people a glimpse of — what turned out to be — fake hope and optimism for the near future.
He added: “I am here in Baghdad with a measure of hope: Hope that Iraq can break cycles of instability and fragility; hope that it can set a sustainable course toward greater prosperity, freedom and peace.”
Prosperity, freedom, and peace? Those are very questionable, and here is why.
A picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?
One picture of the UN secretary-general shattered Iraqis’ dreams and hopes and even their faith in the international organization, which is supposed to stand for human rights and freedom by helping and protecting them from the brutalities of the Iranian militias.
One picture of the UN secretary-general alone should end his career in disgrace.
Guterres appeared with a big smile on his face, accompanied by the chief of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, Qais Al-Khazaali, whom the US classifies as a terrorist. Adding insult to injury, they were joined by the chief of the “Babylon” movement, Rayan Al-Kaldani, who was subject to US sanctions because of his human rights violations.
The photograph sparked outrage and dissatisfaction inside and outside Iraq for its clear and shameful message to the whole region.
Former US Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn highlighted the significance of this photo on his Twitter account by posting: “The UN secretary-general is all smiles meeting in Baghdad with the grinning terrorist Qais Khazaali, who killed hundreds of US troops, murdered 1000s of Iraqis, and routinely bombards US personnel in Iraq and Syria.”
Giving legitimacy to Al-Khazaali, who killed Americans and Iraqis alike with no mercy, is a crime that should be globally condemned.
Instead of calling for the arrest and prosecution of these terrorists, the UN official welcomed Al-Kaldani, whom Iraqi Chaldeans disowned for confiscating the houses of displaced Christians in the city of Mosul and its surrounding villages following the Daesh invasion.
UN members should question the secretary-general over this outrageous scandal that tarnished what was left of the international organization’s credibility.
Iraqi nationals and their supporters worldwide should protest at UN offices and demand Guterres’ removal.
Someone needs to remind Guterres that in December 2019, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, cited Qais Al-Khazaali and his brother Laith for killing and injuring peaceful civilian protesters. Seven months later, Al-Kaldani joined his colleagues when OFAC was added to the list for being engaged in severe human rights abuse.
According to a statement issued by the US Treasury: “In May 2018, a video circulated among Iraqi human rights civil society organizations in which Al-Kaldani cut off the ear of a handcuffed detainee.”
Guterres has become an accomplice in oppressing the people of Iraq, and regardless of his intentions, it is time for him to go. Iran and their tools in the war-torn country do not need the support of the UN to spill the blood of millions of innocent victims in the region.
• Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy.