The new and scary face of Iraqi sectarianism

Wathiq Al-Battat, the leader of the “Mukhtar Army,” an armed Shiite militia belonging to Iraq’s Hezbollah, is “the new face on the Iraqi scene,” according to Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya. 

Battat on Saturday threatened to strike Saudi Arabia and to bomb the Mubarak seaport in Kuwait, which he accused of encroaching into Iraqi territory. 

In a phone conversation with Al-Hayat, Battat claimed that over one million men belong to his organization, which supports the principle of “the providence of the jurist,” which recognizes the unchallenged leadership of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khaminei. 

Battat denied that his organization has targeted Sunni families in western Baghdad, accusing al-Qaeda of doing just that. He added that in fact 100,000 of his fighters are Sunnis. 

The Kurds in northern Iraq were also subject to Battat’s threats. He said that any encroachment on the provinces of Kirkuk and Mosul by the Kurds will encounter a harsh response by his forces. 

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki lambasted the speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Iraqiya Bloc member Osama Nujeifi, whom he accused of fanning sectarian flames in Iraq. 

Speaking to Iraqi governors at the southern city of Basra, Maliki said he would prosecute Iraqis who stir sectarian emotions in Iraq, tacitly referring to Nujeifi, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reported. 

A member of the Iraqiya Bloc, a liberal party which has partnered Maliki in the ruling coalition, retorted by accusing Maliki of maintaining secret prisons in the country. 

Refuting reports that he had fled the country following an arrest warrant issued against him, Battat, the Shiite leader, mocked Maliki, saying that he is currently living in the province of Najaf, south of Baghdad. 

“I am not scared of anyone and will never leave Iraq,” Battat told Al-Hayat. “The arrest warrant issued against me is a childish and illegal move taken by a adolescent, and can never be implemented.”

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