Footage of Irish MEPs in Iraq used in YouTube video promoting a militia group
9th April 2021
A TRIP BY two Irish Members of the European Parliament to visit a headquarters of a militia network in Iraq has been used in a YouTube video to promote the group. A screengrab of Clare Daly from the video
Clare Daly and Mick Wallace visited a brigade headquarters of Hashed al-Shaabi in Iraq and criticised American foreign policy in the region.
The Pentagon regularly describes Hashed al-Shaabi as “Iranian-backed militant groups”. It is made up of between 50 and 70 separate militia groups, backed by Iran, and also known as Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
The trip by the two MEPs is believed to have taken place just weeks after US airstrikes hit five of the networks’ bases, which the US Department of Defense said “housed weapons used to target US and coalition troops”.
Footage of the MEPs visit, released on the group’s YouTube channel on 30 March, shows Wallace and Daly inspecting a wall tiled with photographs of “martyrs”, before speaking to camera.
A spokesperson for the European Parliament told The Journal that the visit was organised in a private capacity, was not part of an official European Parliament delegation, and does not represent the parliament.
The spokesperson also noted that all European Parliament committee trips and inter-parliamentary delegations inside and outside of the EU are cancelled due to the pandemic.
The video, titled ‘Credibility and strength: This was what [the] European Parliament said during a visit to the headquarters of the Popular Mobilisation Forces’ has been viewed over 11,000 times in just over one week.
“They should leave the country,” Wallace says, speaking of the US troops in Iraq. “There should be no foreign forces here.”
Wallace did not respond to requests for comments, but appears to be referencing a resolution to expel foreign troops from the country that was passed by the Iraqi parliament following the killing of a top Iranian military commander and Hashed al-Shaabi leader in a US strike near Baghdad airport in January 2020.
Wallace explained in the video that, “we came here to understand the people of Iraq, to understand the institutions better and to get more of a feel for the place.”
He went on:
We have a good knowledge of what’s really happening here and that’s fine but when we’re in the European Parliament talking about it and we do that on a regular basis but being here, experiencing it, gives us more credibility and more strength in addressing the challenges that face Iraq in the European Parliament. While it is absolutely crucial for Iraq that the Americans respect the wish of the Iraqi parliament and get out of the place.
Restrictions on travel from Ireland to Iraq were in force earlier this year, but did not apply to certain government and foreign delegations. These restrictions were eased in March, though still require international travellers to quarantine.
Later in the video, Daly, dressed in a hijab, says to camera: “Hashed al-Shaabi upholds international law, which is basically what was explained to us. And yet the United States and many European countries — and, obviously, the terrorists — have flagrantly breached international law on many occasions. So it demonstrates a strong commitment to humanitarian and international law which is incredibly important for us.”
The Hashed al-Shaabi militia network was formed to coordinate efforts to drive Islamic State from Iraq, and was seen as instrumental in defeating IS in Iraq in the 2014-2017 war.
However, during the conflict, Shia militias unfettered by government or legal oversight were accused by Amnesty International of abducting and killing civilians. One Christian family who fled Iraq after a kidnapping attempt named a Hashed al-Shaabi militia as their aggressors.
Last year, Iraq’s then-Prime Minister ordered Hashed al-Shaabi militias to integrate with the regular army; however its militias are still accused of operating parallel systems to collect revenue outside the law, terrorising civilians, and attacking their political enemies.
Supporters of Hashed al-Shaabi praised the MEPs’ visit, in particular, highlighting comments by Daly, who also said of those who fought Islamic State: “The sacrifices and the stance made benefited the whole world, of that I am absolutely certain.
“It is a disgrace that the terrorists who entered Iraq, and were involved in Iraq, were facilitated by the United States and by western powers and, as you say, terrorists who came from all over the world. Those people do not represent the people of the world. They are our common enemy, and we owe you a debt.”
Clare Daly did not respond to requests for comment.