Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, accompanied Shahroudi on the trip. They met with the leader of the National Wisdom Movement, Ammar al-Hakim — who recently defected from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which was founded with Iranian support in the 1980s. In the meeting, Rezaei stressed the need for Shiites to be unified in Iraq and called for a common vision among Iraq’s Shiite political parties.
Amir al-Kanani, a Sadrist leader, criticized Shahroudi’s political agenda “to form a pure Shiite bloc bringing together all of the National Alliance’s leaders.” Kanani went on to say, “Iran has no new project other than the formation of a Shiite bloc in Iraq.” He stressed that “such a sectarian polarization will be countered by a sectarian Sunni polarization and nationalist Kurdish polarization.”
Shahroudi also met with Sheikh Qais al-Khazali, the head of Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The group, a prominent faction of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), continues to have a military presence in Syria at Iran’s request — much to the dismay of Abadi and Sistani. During the meeting, Shahroudi stressed the need to maintain the PMU’s diversity to ensure against any future risks, such as extremist militias.