ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Wednesday called on the Iraqi government to “move away from the rule of sectarian militias,” echoing a call from other international leaders for Baghdad to do so.
During a speech at the Berlin Forum on Foreign Policy, organized by the Körber Foundation, Gabriel also urged Iraq to apply the Constitution and the rule of law fairly among all components, including the Kurds.
“We must look at the facts on the ground in Iraq,” Gabriel said. “It is not a vision of Iraq’s one-sided policy to follow the Constitution and democracy in dealing with components and its neighbors, away from the rule of sectarian militias.”
The German Minister said the Iraqi government must escalate the pace of foreign and internal demands to reduce the influence of the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Baghdad must “reduce [the PMF’s role] to follow the Iraqi forces in effect and comply with its decisions, especially with the approach of the Iraqi elections” in May 2018, Gabriel added.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi previously said that political factions with armed groups would not be “allowed” to participate in the elections—a statement which angered senior PMF leaders.
Ali al-Sistani, an Iranian Shia cleric in Iraq, created the PMF after issuing a “fatwa” following the Islamic State’s (IS) blitzkrieg of both Iraq and Syria.
The organization consists of over 100 armed groups mostly close to Iran and has been officially recognized as part of the Iraqi army.
The vast majority of these armed factions have political wings operating in the Iraqi government, especially those that receive support and funding from Iran.
Last month, Foreign Minister Gabriel planned to visit Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Erbil to mediate between the two conflicting sides whose relationship has deteriorated following the Kurdistan Region’s historic Sep. 25 independence vote.
The German official wanted to sit with the central government in Baghdad first and then visit Erbil, but Abadi blocked the move, labeling the trip to Kurdistan “undesirable.”
Editing by C. Douglas