Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has appointed Major General Abdul Ghani Al Asadi as head of the National Security Agency, government sources confirmed to The National on Saturday.
Gen Al Asadi will replace Faleh Al Fayadh, head of the Popular Mobilisation Units paramilitary grouping, the sources said.
The move marks another step by Mr Al Kadhimi towards fulfilling his promise to reassert state sovereignty after taking office in early May.
The Popular Mobilisation Units is comprised largely of Shiite militias mobilised in 2014 to fight ISIS and trained and armed by Iran.
Gen Al Asadi served in Iraq’s Special Operations Forces until his retirement was ordered by former prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in 2018. He was a key commander in the government forces’ US-backed campaign against ISIS in Iraq.
Mr Al Kadhimi also appointed Qasim Al Araji to the post of national security adviser that was held by Mr Al Fayadh, according to the sources. Mr Al Araji is a member of the pro-Iran Badr Organisation, a political party and militia headed by Hadi Al Amiri.
The appointments were also reported on Twitter by Husham Al Hashemi, an academic at the non-government Iraq Advisory Council in Baghdad.
They come soon after a raid by government forces on the headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful pro-Iran militias in the PMU, to arrest suspects allegedly involved in recurring rocket attacks on US-linked sites in Iraq.
The raid was seen as an assertion of Mr Al Kadhimi’s stated intent to stop Iraqi factions operating outside the rule of law.
Although the PMU are officially a part of the state security forces, they have remained outside of the military chain of command and are seen as acting at Iran’s behest.
Iraq has found itself caught in the middle of increasing tensions between Iran and the US since Washington pulled out the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed stringent sanctions on Tehran to curtail its interference in the region.