Rising Through the Ranks

Staff Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil Arzouqi is a popular figure in the Iraqi military


As the proverb says, “Adversity tests the mettle of men.” After the setback in Mosul in 2015, Soldiers of all ranks were removed for their failure to defend the homeland. But at the same time, many warriors emerged from the setback strengthened, their eyes filled with determination, fighting valiantly to defend their land and the dignity of the people. They smiled comfortingly to the women and children fleeing the clutches of terrorism, and they fixed their gaze on defeating the terrorist gangs in fierce warfare in heavily populated cities.

Among these heroes is Staff Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil Arzouqi, who entered Iraqis’ homes and hearts via television feeds from battles to liberate cities from Daesh terrorists. He possesses the kindness of the sons of the South, the manners of the sons of Hawija, and the morals of the sons of Iraq. Sometimes he appeared on television in full military gear on the front lines, firing his weapon at Daesh positions. Other times, he emerged after the dust had settled to check on trapped civilians to make sure they were safe.

Brig. Gen. Haider is beloved by his troops and officers and has gained the trust of his commanders. Indeed, his dream since youth was to be a faithful Soldier committed to defending his country.

“I entered Military College in 1994, graduating with the rank of lieutenant as an artillery officer in 1997,” he said. “I gradually moved up the ranks to become a captain, but I felt complete despair when the Army disbanded in 2003, because I couldn’t see myself being anything other than a Soldier. But hope returned to me, and I was among the first to return to the Army and complete my military career.”

He took courses hosted by the Multinational Corps-Iraq, traveling to Jordan to enroll in three-month training. After his return, he was assigned to the regiment protecting the Ministry of Defense and in 2005 joined the Army Staff College at Rustamiyah in the first class of staff officers after the re-formation of the Army. He participated in class No. 69, a crash course required for Armed Forces officers trained by the NATO alliance.

“We received high-quality training by a NATO team in counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, planning and openness to the mobilization of specialized NATO forces,” he said. “This NATO doctrine was new to the Iraqi Army, because Iraqi forces used to study British doctrine.”

It was his ambition to be part of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, which were newly formed and carefully selecting fighters for their ranks. This force comprises members of all sects of Iraq, without discrimination or favoritism. He achieved his dream at the Staff College, where he joined the fledging force in 2006.

“The year 2006 witnessed the peak of sectarian violence, killings based on identity, and the total collapse of some regions of the country,” he said. “We went out on numerous patrols to maintain security and arrest terrorists, and I was working 17 hours a day. But we believed in the work we were doing, which gave us a shared sense of strength. I believe the secret of our steadfastness was the diversity of sects and ethnic groups in our forces, and the belief that, first and foremost, we were all Iraqis.”

Brig. Gen. Haider’s memory teems with the exploits of his unit. He has long combated terrorism in its many forms — including the Shura Council of Mujahideen, al-Qaida in Iraq, and the Islamic State of Iraq. This was followed by a period of relative stability, the defeat of terrorism, and the handover of security responsibilities to tribal fighters, known as the Awakening. At that time, criminal and terrorist gangs controlled Basra, where they killed innocents, stole natural resources, and controlled the city through coercion and intimidation. The Iraqi government decided to strike these gangs, sending elite forces to fight them.

“The Charge of Knights battle proved that counterterrorism forces didn’t belong to one sect, but rather were a national force striking with an iron fist at those who attempted to tamper with national stability and security,” he said. “There were fierce battles inside the city, and we were able to crush them and establish security in Basra. The inhabitants of the city welcomed us with pride and joy.”

Brig. Gen. Haider sees his fellow Soldiers as friends and brothers, and his humility fosters close relationships within his ranks. They love him and carry out his orders without complaint, racing to perform their duties and lay down their lives for their country. They defend their commander from snipers’ bullets and the treacherous traps of Daesh.

The secret of his close relationship with the fighters of the Golden Brigade, as well as their relationship with civilians, is their behavior during combat. His kind treatment of residents during these battles has won over the people’s hearts.

During his career, Brig. Gen. Haider has risen through the chain of command. He obtained promotions for his heroic actions and accuracy in executing his duties. These promotions can be slow during the career of a military fighter, but during crises, which test Soldiers’ prowess and encourage excellence, it’s possible to receive more frequent promotions. His stock rose most spectacularly during the battles to liberate Ramadi in 2014 and 2015.

“I worked in the ICTF [Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force] unit, considered the elite unit in counterterrorism, for eight months. At Gen. [Talib Shaghati] Alkenani’s orders, I was promoted to command the 2nd counterterrorism battalion, which was considered the strategic counterterrorism force. I was the only commander with the unique set of skills and education required for this position,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Haider believes that the battle against terrorism is a battle all Iraqis must fight, because terrorism is the enemy of the civilized world.

“This extremist ideology is the result of filling the brains of the youth with hatred and intolerance — we must combat this ideology and immunize our youth against such thoughts,” he said. “Because Daesh is a global terror group with supporters and financiers all over the world, the battle against them must be an international partnership in which we exchange intelligence to ensure that the group doesn’t resurface elsewhere in the world.”

Brig. Gen. Haider considers Lt. Gen. Abd al-Wahab al-Saidi to be a role model, as he was his professor at the Staff College and fought most battles with him. Brig. Gen. Haider can always be found walking at the right hand of his mentor. Together, they have liberated cities and inflicted defeats on Daesh gangs.

In conclusion, Brig. Gen. Haider spoke of his appreciation for the coalition forces.

“I would like to express my gratitude to our friends in the coalition forces for their continued support of the counterterrorism forces and the rest of the Armed Forces,” he said. “In particular, the men of the American Special Operations Forces have played a large role in forming and training this powerful force from the very beginning. In addition, the wonderful air support that coalition forces have provided has helped our forces achieve objectives in record time with minimal casualties. The result of the international partnership has become clear in the fight against terrorism, with the Iraqi Armed Forces proving their capabilities in combating terrorism and rescuing civilians on the battlefield.”