ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi issued a decree on Monday ordering the integration of the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia forces into the formal armed forces of the country, a move to curb the power of influential militias and please the US.
The move comes two weeks after a series of unclaimed attacks targeted Iraqi bases hosting US forces as well as sites where American energy companies operate.
“In the interest of the public good and as per the powers granted to us by the constitution ... the following is decreed: all Hashd al-Shaabi forces are to operate as an indivisible part of the armed forces and be subject to the same regulations,” as the country’s other security forces, the decree read.
Hashd al-Shaabi militias, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), played a role in defeating the Islamic State in Iraq following the emergence of the terrorist group in 2014.
The at-times controversial militia groups also have significant influence over politics in the country. Its leaders formed the al-Fatih (Conquest) coalition and came in second in Iraq’s 2018 parliamentary elections with 48 seats, right behind Sairon’s 53 seats, headed by Iraq’s pocular Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.
Soon after Abdul-Mahdi issued the decree, Sadr, who presents himself as a nationalist opposing both Washington and Tehran’s influence, announced his support for the move and urged his own militia group to fold into the Iraqi armed forces’ apparatus.
“What came from the prime minister [on the Hashd al-Shaabi] is an important thing and a good first step toward building a strong state,” Sadr said in a statement on his Twitter account.
The decree also comes as tensions continue to grow between Washington and Tehran, with the US trying to mobilize Gulf countries to form an alliance against Iran, which aims to curb Iran’s “destabilizing influence in the region.”
Editing by Nadia Riva