Who is Al-Zuhairy, the commander of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces?
Shafaq News / "A vivid picture of military discipline and hostility to the chaos of the armed forces", that is how Maj. Gen. Hamid Al-Zuhairy is described, who was assigned as commander of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces responsible for securing the Green Zone, including the U.S. Embassy and the headquarters of diplomatic missions.
Al-Zuhairy, a graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst College in The United Kingdom and former dean of the Iraqi Military College, is also one of the most famous officers of the current Iraqi army. The well-known general, who attracted a lot of attention because of his distinctive movements during his leadership of the Iraqi military parades, returned to the attention after he was appointed commander of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces responsible for securing the presidential area; in conjunction with other leaks that said PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi was considering the removal of the headquarters of armed factions and popular mobilization Forces’ (PMF) offices from the area.
Al-Zuhairy made his first statement after being assigned to the new post, stressing the adherence to the law in preserving the "prestige of the state".
In his first statement, he said, "There is no loyalty except to Iraq, no sovereignty except for the law, no prestige above the prestige of the state, its armed forces, and the Special Operations Forces. We are entering a new phase of high restraint, harsh training, and unwavering obedience to orders”.
Maj. Gen. Al-Zuhairi, who studied military science in the UK in 1985, recently received a medal from the renowned Sandhurst College, he also holds military degrees from Jordan and U.S.A. and holds a master's degree in military science.
Over the past years, the position of commander of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces has been given to loyalists of the parties that have the presidency.
Al-Zuhairy’s predecessor, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Haidari, angered the military leaders when he was seen performing a military salute to the Sadrist leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, near the gate of the presidential area, although military law prohibits this.
Al-Haidari not only did this but bowed kissing Al-Sadr's hand, sparking a storm of criticism among Iraqis, who considered the image "shameful for the army", According to the American Al-Hurra Website.
Major General Al-Zuhairy then posted a veiled criticism in a Facebook post, "military salutes are not performed just to anyone, regardless of their position, whether it is governor, parliamentarian, religious post, political post, cleric, judge... Etc".
Al-Haidari was removed from his post 40 days later when Sadrist demonstrators stormed into the Iraqi parliament building and broke its furniture, but the Special Operations Forces did nothing to protect the place..So Major General Karim Al-Tamimi was appointed in his place.
During the Iraqi demonstrations, former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi appointed a person known for his ties to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Lt. Gen. Tahsin Al-Abboudi (who was awarded a military rank without being an officer in the Iraqi army).
Al-Abboudi was accused of facilitating the entry of militia protesters into the U.S. embassy and the burning of its gate.
Iraqi parliament member Misha’an al-Juburi also accused the "green zone protection commander" of refusing Al-Kadhimi's orders to remove militiamen from the area after they stormed the fortified zone after security forces arrested members of the “Katyusha cell”.
"The Green Zone will certainly be safer in the presence of Al-Zuhairy”, A source in the prime minister's office said.
Al-Zuhairy's mandate comes as pressure mounts on the PM, as well as reports of a recent move against "outlaw gangs and weapons" -as the Iraqi government describes the cells firing at the embassies.
Pressure mounted on Al-Kadhimi after reports that the United States planned to close its embassy in Baghdad because of repeated missile attacks, as well as reports that other countries intended to do the same.
A security source told Shafaq News agency that the Special Operations Forces will also be responsible for protecting the presidential palace, strategic government facilities, the U.S. embassy building, as well as foreign embassies and diplomatic missions.
Earlier, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told Shafaq News agency that the rocket attacks were carried out by Iranian-backed groups; those groups pose a threat to the Government of Iraq and neighboring diplomatic missions as well as residents of the International Green Zone and surrounding areas.
"While the United States is working to secure financial support for Iraq from the international community and various private sector companies, the presence of outlawed and Iranian-backed militias remains the single biggest deterrent to additional investment in Iraq", the spokesman added.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has secretly warned Iraq that its embassy in Baghdad will close if the Iraqi government does not act to stop attacks by Tehran-backed factions on U.S. interests.