The main aim of US sanctions on Iraqi figures accused of corruption, suppressing demonstrations and collaborating with Iran is to curb the Iranian regime's interference in Iraq, Future Iraqi Constitutional Party chair Entifadh Qanbar said in an interview with Diyaruna.
Qanbar, a prominent Iraqi politician who previously served as a member of parliament, advisor to the Iraqi Governing Council and member of the committee that drafted the current constitution, has been leading a wide-scale campaign to fight Iranian interference in Iraq and educate citizens about its dangers.
He has been sounding the alarm regarding the practices of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and the need to combat the sectarianism and hatred being sown by Iran's cronies in Iraq.
In an exclusive interview with Diyaruna, Qanbar expressed optimism that the US is taking the right steps to help Iraqis build a sovereign, safe and stable country.
Diyaruna: How do you view the recent US sanctions imposed on figures collaborating with the Quds Force inside Iraq?
Entifadh Qanbar: Sanctions are an important pressure and deterrence tool that Washington is using to help Iraqis and end Iranian interference in Iraq, which is a negative and harmful interference.
Sanctions proved their effectiveness in the past, as in the case of the sanctions imposed previously on figures and establishments that support the IRGC, such as Aras Habib, chairman and chief executive of al-Bilad Islamic Bank, who was designated, along with the bank itself, for supporting the IRGC [in 2018] and transferring money on their behalf to help [fund] their terrorist activities.
As for the latest sanctions, they were imposed on Qais al-Khazali [the leader of the Iran-backed militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq], Laith al-Khazali [Qais's brother, who also belongs to Asaib Ahl al-Haq], Khamees al-Khanjar [an influential powerbroker with close ties across Iraq's leading political parties] and Abu Zeinab al-Lami [who heads the Popular Mobilisation Forces' security apparatus], for their involvement in crimes and human rights abuses related to the recent demonstrations.
I believe that this is a clear indication that the Americans are serious about going after all Iran's "tails".
We all know the extent of the connection between these figures and the Quds Force and the IRGC and their involvement in financing gangs that kill demonstrators [...].
So, I think this recent list carries significant meaning and is a warning to others that they will be on the next list.
I view the sanctions as one of the tools the US is using to help the Iraqi people against those involved in corruption, abuses and in working for Iran.
Militia leaders such as Qais al-Khazali, al-Lami, [Sayyed al-Shuhada Battalions leader] Abu Walaa al-Walai, [Harakat al-Nujaba militia leader] Akram Kaabi, [Deputy head of the PMF] Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and other Iran "tails" have become Iraq's real problem.
They are tools used to subvert and destroy Iraq and keep it trapped in a vicious circle of troubles.
Diyaruna: Will the US sanctions curb the subversive activities of these figures?
Qanbar: Without a doubt. The sanctions are impactful and painful from a financial and political standpoint as well as from a moral standpoint inside Iraq.
The imposition of sanctions on a person means they were involved in activities that counter the interest of the Iraqi people.
Here, I will respond to the skeptics who doubt the sanctions can be effective, [by explaining] that Iraqi banks, for example, both government and privately owned, are governed by the Central Bank of Iraq, and the latter is bound by ironclad binding agreements with the US, the European Union, and various western and regional countries.
So, any reckless move or venture to deal with these figures will expose the bank itself to sanctions.
For this reason, the Central Bank has issued quick orders to freeze the accounts of all those sanctioned in the past and to ban dealing with them, and I believe the same measure will be enacted against the four recently sanctioned individuals.
Diyaruna: Can sanctions be considered a warning to anyone who co-operates or collaborates with Iranians?
Qanbar: I have personally warned on more than one occasion and in more than one interview that there are figures involved in dealing with the militias, Iran and the Quds Force and involved in corruption deals, and I have said that they will be subjected to sanctions.
I believe sanctions will be imposed on others soon, and the Iraqi government will have no other option but to comply with those sanctions or be subject to sanctions itself.
There are IRGC-affiliated companies operating in Iraq and working on various projects under fake headings.
They should all be expelled and any future Iraqi government must form a committee comprising representatives of every state institution... in order to identify, expel and close down all IRGC companies and interests in Iraq.
Diyaruna: In your opinion, how can Iraq recover in light of the recent demonstrations?
Qanbar: Iraq cannot recover without putting an end to Iranian interference and [IRGC-QF commander] Qassem Soleimani's projects that are founded on hatred, sectarianism, dividing the Iraqi people, usurping their resources and controlling their decision-making process.
These actions threaten the democratic system as a whole and turn parliament into merely a nominal body marred by election fraud.
So, it is imperative that the militias formed by Iran be disbanded, that authority, sovereignty and the decision-making process be in hands of the Iraqi state only... and that [state] institutions be purged of the IRGC's and Qassem Soleimani's agents.