The Republic of Beit T’ais
Being Filthy Rich or How to Govern on Behalf of Others 
 

Mizar Kemal

23 May 2024

The story of an opulent family which is making the rules on behalf of others. How do Saad, Hamid, and Hani manage the Republic of Beit T’ais?

In Diyala, a dispute that cannot be resolved by politics is often resolved with violence. This was what happened in mid-April 2024, when a convoy of armored SUV’s, packed with armed men and weapons, went to the homes of recently elected Diyala Provincial Council members to deliver a message threatening death and arson. This is what would happen if they did not vote for those that the T’ais family wanted in the positions of governor and head of the Diyala Provincial Council. 

Unpicking this dispute and sketching its context reveals the roots of the problem in Diyala. It reveals a province that is more complex than official statements, press conferences, and conversations on politics, economics, security, and society make it seem. From 2003 until now, criminal syndicates rule and maintain a tight grip on the security apparatus. How these militias’ actions and methods have developed, as over time they have become more powerful, influential and dominant, must also be taken into consideration. 

In late 2023 elections, seven political factions secured seats in the 15-seat local provincial council: the Diyalatna (Our Diyala) National Alliance (4 seats), the Taqaddum )Progress( Party (3 seats), the Siyada (Sovereignty) Party (3 seats), the Azm (Determination) Alliance (one seat), the Asas (Base) Alliance (1 seat), the Diyala Merit Alliance (2 seats), and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party (1 seat). 

However, this septet is not just about seats. There are loyalties and secondary alliances determined by weaponry, resources, contracts, smuggling, drugs, and royalties. These, in turn, are controlled by influential families. Families that have multiple interests and loyalties, and work to benefit more than one side at the same time. Beit T’ais – the hero of this story – is one such family, and an ally of the most powerful man in Diyala, its former and present governor. The man who now manages the province’s affairs – and hopes to stay in that position – Muthanna Al-Tamimi. 

The Family 

The T’ais family has no less influence than the Zaini family (another dominant family). T’ais has three sons who participate in the making or breaking – according to allegations they also of course kill them if they want to – of politicians, businessmen, and influential people. This is what happened to Harith Al-Rubaie, the director of the Abi Sayda district, who was killed in 2019 during a demonstration against governor Muthanna Al-Tamimi by the head of his personal security one day before he was to announce his running for the position of governor . Harith Al-Rubaie’s killing was followed by a series of assassinations of officials connected to him, including Saad Al-Sariwi, Speaker of the Council in the district, and his cousin, Colonel Muhammad Al-Himyari, Director of the Civil Status Department. 

The family enjoys close relations with Governor Muthanna al-Tamimi, whose bloc, the National Diyalatna Alliance, won four seats on the current council, which has not succeeded in convening its first session overdue by three months now. It also has subsidiary loyalties with leaders in the “State of Law Coalition” led by Nouri Al-Maliki. This is despite the family orchestrating an audio leak of a session of former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a colossal scandal at the time for which no one was held accountable. 

An armed faction under the name Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade is owned by the T’ais family. The armed faction includes four regiments of more than 3,000 active fighters and has branched out and controls several areas in Diyala. The most important of these are: Al-Muqdadiya, Baqubah, Al-Harouniyah, Al-Sadur, Qaratabba, Al-Khalis, Hamrin, Mayyah, and Hamal. The armed members of the brigade block key roads at their own behest. 

The T’ais family insists that the Al-Baqi’ Imams armed faction is a brigade within Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). It is administratively affiliated with the Ministry of Defence, and is also called the “Defence Mobilisation Forces.” The PMF consistently deny the armed faction’s claim and classifies the Beit T’ais faction as a fake brigade outside the law. “The aforementioned brigade claims to belong to the PMF but is not linked in any way to the organisation and has not taken part in military operations” alongside it, announced the PMF.   

Saad T’ais

Major General 

The entity that arms the Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade, according to the commander of its Special Forces Unit, is the Diyala Operations Command. But the T’ais family funds this armed faction from its own money as well, which comes from the dirty work it engages in to obtain money, such as smuggling fuel and medications, the drug trade, and royalties from politicians, businessmen, and citizens, as well as assassinations. What facilitates its actions inside Diyala are its close relationships with senior leaders in the army and police, namely senior officers who turn a blind eye to the armed faction’s headquarters, as well as the checkpoints and security barriers in the areas under its control. 

In May, it is usually hot in Iraq, but last year it was even hotter on the Baqubah-Muqdadiya road. The fighters in the Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade were putting pressure both on the roadway and on the government to include financial allocations to them in the tripartite budget (2023, 2024, 2025). 

The armed faction members who set up protest encampments on the road, and blocked it so that their message would reach Baghdad faster, are demanding salaries for more than 20,000 fighters, who carry out their activities in the province without functional affiliation to the PMF or the Iraqi army. They also possess official letters, footnotes, signatures, correspondence with the ministries of defence and finance, and correspondence with the Iraqi parliament, as well as many names and addresses that talk about including them in the budget. 

During one of their protest encampment mobilisations to demand the appointment of their staff in the Ministry of Defence, the Al-Baqi’ Imams armed faction presented a document showing the numbers of its members who it claims should be on the payroll of the government: more than  thousand in the Ministry of Defense, and more than 17 thousand in Al-Sahawat program

This program, which concerns the fighters of Al-Sahawat Councils that were formed to fight Al-Qaeda, and which Parliament voted on within the tripartite budget, stipulates “increasing the salaries of Al-Sahawat from 250,000 to 500,000 dinars (about $190-$380) from the budget of the Ministries of Defense and Interior”. 

A year of expansion 

Before 2014, the T’ais family was not among the influential families in Diyala, but that changed when – as part of a series of incursions into several Iraqi cities and provinces – ISIS invaded Diyala. In that period, ISIS took control of three provinces, including Anbar, Nineveh, and Salah al-Din, and also controlled parts of Diyala, Babylon, and Kirkuk, nearing the outskirts of the capital, Baghdad. 

A source close to the front-line leaders of the Badr Organisation in Diyala spoke to Jummar about the influence of the T’ais family, and how it expanded significantly after 2014, the year in which ISIS took control of a third of Iraq’s total land area. The family took advantage of the fatwa of the religious authority in Najaf, which called for able and willing citizens to take up arms and volunteer with the security forces to fight against the extremist organisation ISIS. 

In November of that year of expansion, the Bani Tamim tribe in Diyala put out a general call to end the presence of ISIS there and announced the mobilisation of more than 5,000 fighters to support the government security forces. From that moment on, Beit T’ais’s star shone brightly. 

All three of the T’ais sons – Hamid, Hani, and Saad – are nicknamed Haji, our anonymous source says, claiming that “no one can attack them in Diyala.” He then cited Saad, who rose to prominence during the leaked audio recording with former Prime Minister and leader of the State of Law coalition, Nouri al-Maliki. “No one can bother us,” Saad said to al-Maliki in the recording. 

Also in that recording, Saad and his associates exchanged ideas about supporting the Al-Baqi’ Imams armed faction with weapons and legal cover. Al-Maliki promises to provide that for them, on the condition that they “pledge allegiance” to him in obedience within a larger “project” that he spoke about freely and boldly. Every idea in that project represents a dangerous threat to Iraqi national security. 

Years before that, specifically in 2019, the members of the Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade blocked the road between Baqubah and Khanaqin, to prevent the passage of a unit affiliated with the PMF. They threatened to kill the men of the unit if they refused to release Saad T’ais, whom they had just arrested in the Hamrin mountains, while closing the brigade’s headquarters.  

At the time, the PMF Security directorate stated that it had “closed their fake headquarters based on numerous complaints they received regarding sectarian behavior and harassment of the people in area. The same brigade was also conducting commercial business in the name of the PMF, exploiting some people lower down in the ranks of this fake brigade.” 

The anonymous source said, “If it had not been for the mediation of Muthanna al-Tamimi, the governor, who brokered an agreement under which PMF security would release Saad T’ais in exchange for his followers allowing the PMF security force to pass without being attacked, there would have been a huge massacre.” In the leaked audio recording, Saad T’ais described this incident to Nouri al-Maliki, in the context of a discussion about the weakness of the leadership of the PMF. 

In that recording, Saad T’ais, known to his followers as “Father of the Mujahideen,” was looking for loyalty and authority outside the borders of Diyala. He turned to Nouri al-Maliki. By tracking his movements and activities with him and the Al-Baqi Imams Brigade, they announced their urgent need to legalise their status, to benefit from government budget allocations. With the money given to the security services from the defence and interior ministry budgets, they carry out “dirty work” that requires political and legal cover in order to perpetuate, expand and maintain. This is because the competition is deadly between the mafias of Diyala, a major theme in the leaked recording. 

Muthanna Al-Tamimi, governor since 2015, knows the rules of the game, and provides political and security cover for the activities of the T’ais family, who belong to the Bani Tamim tribe. According to the anonymous source who described the dynamic between Muthana Al-Tamimi and the T’ais family, Saad T’ais told his fighters and followers in the areas he controls: In Diyala, the position of governor will go to one of these two: Muthanna Al-Tamimi, or Muthanna Al-Tamimi. 

Al-Tamimi is affiliated to the Badr Organisation, which is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, but he is not directly affiliated with Al-Amiri as Badr members often are. He is a strong rival, and sometimes is an opponent of Al-Amiri’s line in Diyala. One example is when he objected to the candidacy of Muhammad Jassim Al-Amiri, the son of the president of the Federal Court, and Al-Amiri’s pick for the position of governor. 

The dispute over the position of governor may reach breaking point between arms people and money people in Diyala. Muthanna Al-Tamimi, the most prominent force in the Badr Organisation in Diyala, and the current acting governor, does not want to give up his position. Behind him stands the Bani Tamim tribe, who believe that the position is deserved. The tribe strongly supports its son, who received more than 40,000 votes in recent elections. 

Hadi Al-Amiri, the leader of Badr Organiation, does not want Al-Tamimi reelected. Nor does he want the Bani Tamim tribe to retain the position of governor. He is willing to give up Badr’s share in the position in exchange for Muthanna Al-Tamimi not winning. This is what happenedwhen he agreed to transfer the position from Badr to the State of Law Coalition. 

But Asaib Ahl al-Haq have their say, their guns, and their seats in Diyala, and are also against the reelection of Al-Tamimi, which they announced on more than one occasion. They went as far as to say that Muthanna Al-Tamimi, “after the tactics of threatening and buying off debts have failed,” is trying to direct the Sunni members of the provincial council to demand that the governor position fall under their influence. Asaib’s analysis of this matter is that Al-Tamimi is trying pressure the Shia street in Diyala, and intimidate them if he does not become governor. The position will then go to the Sunnis. But this analysis lacks accuracy, because the Sunni members have their own interests as well and are trying to play on a field that is not governed by the rules of fair play. 

“Muthanna Al-Tamimi is activating his assets in the street, and one of the strongest of those assets is the T’ais family. He uses them to intimidate his opponents when political negotiations reach a dead end,” said the anonymous source. According to this source, the situation of the T’ais House now serves Muthanna Al-Tamimi’s project, just as it serves the projects of others. “It is a family that does the dirty work on behalf of the political parties controlling the province, and has no legal cover, so they can be eliminated quickly when the need arises.” 

The sons of T’ais know this, and for that reason are looking for a greater source of support and a legal arrangement that guarantees they can defend themselves when the parties that employ them decide to abandon them, under any circumstances. This is why they are trying to knock on all the doors in Baghdad, while they break the locks in Diyala. 

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In Diyala, a dispute that cannot be resolved by politics is often resolved with violence. This was what happened in mid-April 2024, when a convoy of armored SUV’s, packed with armed men and weapons, went to the homes of recently elected Diyala Provincial Council members to deliver a message threatening death and arson. This is what would happen if they did not vote for those that the T’ais family wanted in the positions of governor and head of the Diyala Provincial Council. 

Unpicking this dispute and sketching its context reveals the roots of the problem in Diyala. It reveals a province that is more complex than official statements, press conferences, and conversations on politics, economics, security, and society make it seem. From 2003 until now, criminal syndicates rule and maintain a tight grip on the security apparatus. How these militias’ actions and methods have developed, as over time they have become more powerful, influential and dominant, must also be taken into consideration. 

In late 2023 elections, seven political factions secured seats in the 15-seat local provincial council: the Diyalatna (Our Diyala) National Alliance (4 seats), the Taqaddum )Progress( Party (3 seats), the Siyada (Sovereignty) Party (3 seats), the Azm (Determination) Alliance (one seat), the Asas (Base) Alliance (1 seat), the Diyala Merit Alliance (2 seats), and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party (1 seat). 

However, this septet is not just about seats. There are loyalties and secondary alliances determined by weaponry, resources, contracts, smuggling, drugs, and royalties. These, in turn, are controlled by influential families. Families that have multiple interests and loyalties, and work to benefit more than one side at the same time. Beit T’ais – the hero of this story – is one such family, and an ally of the most powerful man in Diyala, its former and present governor. The man who now manages the province’s affairs – and hopes to stay in that position – Muthanna Al-Tamimi. 

The Family 

The T’ais family has no less influence than the Zaini family (another dominant family). T’ais has three sons who participate in the making or breaking – according to allegations they also of course kill them if they want to – of politicians, businessmen, and influential people. This is what happened to Harith Al-Rubaie, the director of the Abi Sayda district, who was killed in 2019 during a demonstration against governor Muthanna Al-Tamimi by the head of his personal security one day before he was to announce his running for the position of governor . Harith Al-Rubaie’s killing was followed by a series of assassinations of officials connected to him, including Saad Al-Sariwi, Speaker of the Council in the district, and his cousin, Colonel Muhammad Al-Himyari, Director of the Civil Status Department. 

The family enjoys close relations with Governor Muthanna al-Tamimi, whose bloc, the National Diyalatna Alliance, won four seats on the current council, which has not succeeded in convening its first session overdue by three months now. It also has subsidiary loyalties with leaders in the “State of Law Coalition” led by Nouri Al-Maliki. This is despite the family orchestrating an audio leak of a session of former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a colossal scandal at the time for which no one was held accountable. 

An armed faction under the name Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade is owned by the T’ais family. The armed faction includes four regiments of more than 3,000 active fighters and has branched out and controls several areas in Diyala. The most important of these are: Al-Muqdadiya, Baqubah, Al-Harouniyah, Al-Sadur, Qaratabba, Al-Khalis, Hamrin, Mayyah, and Hamal. The armed members of the brigade block key roads at their own behest. 

The T’ais family insists that the Al-Baqi’ Imams armed faction is a brigade within Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). It is administratively affiliated with the Ministry of Defence, and is also called the “Defence Mobilisation Forces.” The PMF consistently deny the armed faction’s claim and classifies the Beit T’ais faction as a fake brigade outside the law. “The aforementioned brigade claims to belong to the PMF but is not linked in any way to the organisation and has not taken part in military operations” alongside it, announced the PMF.   

Saad T’ais

Major General 

The entity that arms the Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade, according to the commander of its Special Forces Unit, is the Diyala Operations Command. But the T’ais family funds this armed faction from its own money as well, which comes from the dirty work it engages in to obtain money, such as smuggling fuel and medications, the drug trade, and royalties from politicians, businessmen, and citizens, as well as assassinations. What facilitates its actions inside Diyala are its close relationships with senior leaders in the army and police, namely senior officers who turn a blind eye to the armed faction’s headquarters, as well as the checkpoints and security barriers in the areas under its control. 

In May, it is usually hot in Iraq, but last year it was even hotter on the Baqubah-Muqdadiya road. The fighters in the Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade were putting pressure both on the roadway and on the government to include financial allocations to them in the tripartite budget (2023, 2024, 2025). 

The armed faction members who set up protest encampments on the road, and blocked it so that their message would reach Baghdad faster, are demanding salaries for more than 20,000 fighters, who carry out their activities in the province without functional affiliation to the PMF or the Iraqi army. They also possess official letters, footnotes, signatures, correspondence with the ministries of defence and finance, and correspondence with the Iraqi parliament, as well as many names and addresses that talk about including them in the budget. 

During one of their protest encampment mobilisations to demand the appointment of their staff in the Ministry of Defence, the Al-Baqi’ Imams armed faction presented a document showing the numbers of its members who it claims should be on the payroll of the government: more than  thousand in the Ministry of Defense, and more than 17 thousand in Al-Sahawat program

This program, which concerns the fighters of Al-Sahawat Councils that were formed to fight Al-Qaeda, and which Parliament voted on within the tripartite budget, stipulates “increasing the salaries of Al-Sahawat from 250,000 to 500,000 dinars (about $190-$380) from the budget of the Ministries of Defense and Interior”. 

A year of expansion 

Before 2014, the T’ais family was not among the influential families in Diyala, but that changed when – as part of a series of incursions into several Iraqi cities and provinces – ISIS invaded Diyala. In that period, ISIS took control of three provinces, including Anbar, Nineveh, and Salah al-Din, and also controlled parts of Diyala, Babylon, and Kirkuk, nearing the outskirts of the capital, Baghdad. 

A source close to the front-line leaders of the Badr Organisation in Diyala spoke to Jummar about the influence of the T’ais family, and how it expanded significantly after 2014, the year in which ISIS took control of a third of Iraq’s total land area. The family took advantage of the fatwa of the religious authority in Najaf, which called for able and willing citizens to take up arms and volunteer with the security forces to fight against the extremist organisation ISIS. 

In November of that year of expansion, the Bani Tamim tribe in Diyala put out a general call to end the presence of ISIS there and announced the mobilisation of more than 5,000 fighters to support the government security forces. From that moment on, Beit T’ais’s star shone brightly. 

All three of the T’ais sons – Hamid, Hani, and Saad – are nicknamed Haji, our anonymous source says, claiming that “no one can attack them in Diyala.” He then cited Saad, who rose to prominence during the leaked audio recording with former Prime Minister and leader of the State of Law coalition, Nouri al-Maliki. “No one can bother us,” Saad said to al-Maliki in the recording. 

Also in that recording, Saad and his associates exchanged ideas about supporting the Al-Baqi’ Imams armed faction with weapons and legal cover. Al-Maliki promises to provide that for them, on the condition that they “pledge allegiance” to him in obedience within a larger “project” that he spoke about freely and boldly. Every idea in that project represents a dangerous threat to Iraqi national security. 

Years before that, specifically in 2019, the members of the Al-Baqi’ Imams Brigade blocked the road between Baqubah and Khanaqin, to prevent the passage of a unit affiliated with the PMF. They threatened to kill the men of the unit if they refused to release Saad T’ais, whom they had just arrested in the Hamrin mountains, while closing the brigade’s headquarters.  

At the time, the PMF Security directorate stated that it had “closed their fake headquarters based on numerous complaints they received regarding sectarian behavior and harassment of the people in area. The same brigade was also conducting commercial business in the name of the PMF, exploiting some people lower down in the ranks of this fake brigade.” 

The anonymous source said, “If it had not been for the mediation of Muthanna al-Tamimi, the governor, who brokered an agreement under which PMF security would release Saad T’ais in exchange for his followers allowing the PMF security force to pass without being attacked, there would have been a huge massacre.” In the leaked audio recording, Saad T’ais described this incident to Nouri al-Maliki, in the context of a discussion about the weakness of the leadership of the PMF. 

In that recording, Saad T’ais, known to his followers as “Father of the Mujahideen,” was looking for loyalty and authority outside the borders of Diyala. He turned to Nouri al-Maliki. By tracking his movements and activities with him and the Al-Baqi Imams Brigade, they announced their urgent need to legalise their status, to benefit from government budget allocations. With the money given to the security services from the defence and interior ministry budgets, they carry out “dirty work” that requires political and legal cover in order to perpetuate, expand and maintain. This is because the competition is deadly between the mafias of Diyala, a major theme in the leaked recording. 

Muthanna Al-Tamimi, governor since 2015, knows the rules of the game, and provides political and security cover for the activities of the T’ais family, who belong to the Bani Tamim tribe. According to the anonymous source who described the dynamic between Muthana Al-Tamimi and the T’ais family, Saad T’ais told his fighters and followers in the areas he controls: In Diyala, the position of governor will go to one of these two: Muthanna Al-Tamimi, or Muthanna Al-Tamimi. 

Al-Tamimi is affiliated to the Badr Organisation, which is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, but he is not directly affiliated with Al-Amiri as Badr members often are. He is a strong rival, and sometimes is an opponent of Al-Amiri’s line in Diyala. One example is when he objected to the candidacy of Muhammad Jassim Al-Amiri, the son of the president of the Federal Court, and Al-Amiri’s pick for the position of governor. 

The dispute over the position of governor may reach breaking point between arms people and money people in Diyala. Muthanna Al-Tamimi, the most prominent force in the Badr Organisation in Diyala, and the current acting governor, does not want to give up his position. Behind him stands the Bani Tamim tribe, who believe that the position is deserved. The tribe strongly supports its son, who received more than 40,000 votes in recent elections. 

Hadi Al-Amiri, the leader of Badr Organiation, does not want Al-Tamimi reelected. Nor does he want the Bani Tamim tribe to retain the position of governor. He is willing to give up Badr’s share in the position in exchange for Muthanna Al-Tamimi not winning. This is what happenedwhen he agreed to transfer the position from Badr to the State of Law Coalition. 

But Asaib Ahl al-Haq have their say, their guns, and their seats in Diyala, and are also against the reelection of Al-Tamimi, which they announced on more than one occasion. They went as far as to say that Muthanna Al-Tamimi, “after the tactics of threatening and buying off debts have failed,” is trying to direct the Sunni members of the provincial council to demand that the governor position fall under their influence. Asaib’s analysis of this matter is that Al-Tamimi is trying pressure the Shia street in Diyala, and intimidate them if he does not become governor. The position will then go to the Sunnis. But this analysis lacks accuracy, because the Sunni members have their own interests as well and are trying to play on a field that is not governed by the rules of fair play. 

“Muthanna Al-Tamimi is activating his assets in the street, and one of the strongest of those assets is the T’ais family. He uses them to intimidate his opponents when political negotiations reach a dead end,” said the anonymous source. According to this source, the situation of the T’ais House now serves Muthanna Al-Tamimi’s project, just as it serves the projects of others. “It is a family that does the dirty work on behalf of the political parties controlling the province, and has no legal cover, so they can be eliminated quickly when the need arises.” 

The sons of T’ais know this, and for that reason are looking for a greater source of support and a legal arrangement that guarantees they can defend themselves when the parties that employ them decide to abandon them, under any circumstances. This is why they are trying to knock on all the doors in Baghdad, while they break the locks in Diyala.