- Aug 21, 2009
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
Many of Iraq’s Shia are taking up arms to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State. However, rather than enlisting with the Iraqi military via the Ministry of Defense (MOD), they are opting to join paramilitary groups under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic), which has become the single largest ground force combating Islamic State fighters in Iraq. Despite Human Rights Watch’s accusation that some groups under the umbrella, such as the Badr Brigades, League of the Righteous (Asaib ahl al-Haq), and Imam Ali Battalions are carrying out widespread and systematic human rights violations, the PMF has maintained its popularity and legitimacy among the Shia base. A recently published poll showed that 99 percent of Iraqi Shia support the PMF in its fight against the Islamic State.As a consequence, the number of recruits rushing to enlist with the PMF is substantial. According to various claims from well-informed sources in Baghdad, more than 75 percent of men ages 18 to30 residing in the Shia provinces have signed up. Although most of these recruits are reservists who will not fight, the mere volume is indicative of the PMF’s support in that region.
The Popularity of the Hashd in Iraq - Syria in Crisis - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
So what we're seeing in the country are Shiite militias under an umbrella group that has no problem getting Iranian weapons and advisers, along with the blessing of Baghdad. Apparently, the Shiite-dominated government is attempting to legitimize these militias by bringing them under state authority, and they seem to be gaining traction at the expense of the U.S.-funded/trained (to the tune of $20 billion and counting and notoriously corrupt) Iraqi Security Forces. I'm starting to think this is just going to be a repeat of Lebanon, with al-Hashd al-Shaabi just the Iraqi version of Hezbollah. Assuming ISIS is defeated (and I think it will be), I don't see the Sunnis just laying down and accepting this state of affairs. What will be interesting to watch is to what degree Saudi Arabia will attempt to counter Iranian influence in their ongoing regional chess match.
Why Saudis may take on Iraq's Shiite militias