New Iraqi PM expresses strong support to Shia militias, rejects their dissolution

His comments came on the same day Washington imposed the second round of sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s energy and financial sectors.
author_image Sangar Ali

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The newly-elected Prime Minister of Iraq, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, stated on Monday that the Shia militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), would not be dissolved and that his government would provide full financial support to them.

Abdul-Mahdi’s remarks came during a meeting held at the PMF headquarters in Baghdad in the presence of Deputy Chairman of the PMF, Jamal Ibrahim, known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Abdul-Mahdi took office as Prime Minister and Commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces on Oct. 25 at a time of debate over the fate of the PMF, which is composed almost entirely of Shia militias, many of whom are closely linked to Iran.

His comments came on the same day Washington imposed the second round of sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s energy and financial sectors.

“Hashd al-Shaabi is a big reality; we cannot ignore them. It is our duty to support them,” Abdul-Mahdi said during the meeting, according to a statement his press office issued.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi with the Deputy Chairman of the Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Nov. 5, 2018. (Photo: Prime Minister’s press office)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi with the Deputy Chairman of the Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Nov. 5, 2018. (Photo: Prime Minister’s press office)

Over the past few years, Iraqi forces have relied on the PMF to liberate different parts of the country from the Islamic State (IS) after the extremist group occupied large swaths of territory in 2014.

The prime minister also described the PMF as “a historic achievement for Iraq” and said the Shia militias gave power to the army, police, and other security forces during the fight against IS.

Currently, Iraqi officials have been discussing the financial rights of the PMF and a possible increase in their monthly salaries, making them equivalent to Iraqi soldiers.

Abdul-Mahdi said his government would look for “financial resources” to support the PMF. “Maintaining Hashd al-Shaabi is one of our most important duties, and I will strongly support this presence.”

Many Iraqi officials have called for the inclusion of the PMF into the Iraqi armed forces after the announcement of IS’ defeat last year. These calls have often resulted in mixed reactions.

Abdul-Mahdi also said there are those who say the Hashd al-Shaabi is a “temporary” force. “I assure that Hashd al-Shaabi is necessary to stay... and I will do my utmost to ensure that Hashd al-Shaabi has full rights,” he said.

In 2016, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law to bring the PMF under the direct authority of the prime minister.

Iran has a substantial role in coordinating the leadership of the Shia militia. Major General Qassim Soleimani, who leads a special forces unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, often meets with the militia leaders to consult on military operations inside the country.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany