Who was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killed in US airstrike with Soleimani?

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (photo credit: KHALID AL MOUSILY / REUTERS)

The US airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani also killed another key figure in Iran’s role in the Middle East: Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who had traveled to Baghdad International Airport to meet Soleimani. Deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, a mostly Shi’ite group of pro-Iranian paramilitaries in Iraq, Muhandis was an important key to Iran’s penetration of Iraq, a figure similar to what Hassan Nasrallah is to Lebanon.

His death has gone less noticed because it was overshadowed by Soleimani’s, but it is no less important. Muhandis was important because for years he helped build up not only his own armed militia, Kataib Hezbollah (KH), but also transformed the PMU into an official force that can project power throughout Iraq and into Syria.

The PMU is more than Hezbollah: It is a massive organization of 100,000 armed men, with access to another 200,000 men who have served in its ranks. Raised to fight ISIS, it became an official force of the government in 2017. It is trying to become Iraq’s version of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani and Muhandis were working together on this effort.

If and when revenge comes for the killing, it may be KH members who strike at the US. If so, they will have earned their spurs through being guided by Muhandis.

Now, KH is calling for a response to the US airstrikes. Iran is contemplating that response. KH’s long network from Beirut to Baghdad, including its ability to strike at Saudi Arabia and Israel, reveals its threat to the region and to US forces. As Kataib’s leader, Muhandis was one of the central Iranian keys to the region.

Article URL : https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Who-was-Abu-Mahdi-al-Muhandis-killed-in-US-airstrike-with-Soleimani-613268

%d bloggers like this: