The secret disagreements within the PMU over the position that this force should take from the escalation between Tehran and Washington came to the open for the first time that the political process in Iraq to find itself facing a serious challenge, as long as it preferred to talk about its absence. Recent attacks against the PMU munitions in Iraq, which accused Israel of being behind them, were an ideal opportunity to reveal the internal conflict within the leadership of this force and the fact that it was indeed under the authority of the Iraqi government.
For his part, Deputy Chairman of the Popular Mobilization Authority, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, on Wednesday, considered the United States of America responsible for targeting the Iraqi military headquarters, while confirmed that the crowd has information, maps and recordings of all types of US aircraft, when it took off and when it landed, and the number of hours flying in Iraq and he said in a statement , “The enemies of Iraq are now planning again to target the Popular Crowd Forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) in various ways. America, which has contributed to bringing terrorist groups to Iraq and the region, acknowledged by (US President Donald Trump ), is considering various ways to violate Iraq’s sovereignty and target the Hashd,”.
He added that «this comes after the defeat of the terrorist Daesh and the great victories achieved by the members of the crowd (al-Hashd ) and the military and security forces, and the previous and subsequent process of merging the crowd legally and officially with popular and official support, especially by the Prime Minister and issued a decree calling for the organization of the crowd, and after the decision of the National Security Council that has revoked all flight licenses over local airspace. ”
He pointed out that «targeting operations were conducted at times by accusing Jihadi and national figures of various spectrums by media campaigns, accompanied by placing names on the list of terrorism in the notorious US Treasury, and at other times by targeting the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization in different regions through agents or qualitative operations with modern planes.
The Iraqi political circles have received the statement of Abu Mahdi aL-Muhandis as an indicator of the independence of the Popular Mobilization (Hashd) from the Iraqi state, and his involvement clearly in the conflict between the United States and Iran, in favor of the latter, while observers said that this position reflects the fact that the State of the crowd within the Iraqi state, and perhaps parallel, others have pointed to the extreme embarrassment that this escalation will cause to the government, which has repeatedly declared that it has total control over the Popular Mobilization. On the other hand, those close to the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Qais al-Khazali, who is closely related to Iran said that “Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi , and the head of the PMU Faleh al-Fayyad, are under great American pressure, after the issuance of the statement of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis , in order to extract a counter-position.
It was only a few hours after the announcement of the al-Muhandis’s position, until an explicit statement issued and signed by the head of the crowd, Faleh al-Fayyad, stressing that this force is fully subject to the orders of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, expressly asserting that the al-Muhandis statement does not represent the crowd. These developments highlight the sharp division within the PMF leadership over the position that this force should take in the conflict between the United States and Iran. While aL-Muhandis insists on fully engaging in support for Iran, Fayyad, along with Abdul Mahdi, believes that maintaining balance is the only way for Iraq to emerge from this crisis with minimal losses.
Observers expect that these developments to be a prelude to a clearer count within the crowd, between two camps, the first being the Iraqi government through Fayyad, the second being followed by Iran via al-Muhandis , and based on this reading, Shiite volunteers loyal to the supreme Marja Ali al-Sistani may support Fayyad and the Iraqi government , while the most radical factions and loyal to Iran will join Abu Mahdi al- Muhandis within the Popular crowd , they are : the Hizbullah Brigades led by Abu Mahdi personally, Al-Nujaba Movement led by Akram al-Kaabi, which is on the US sanctions list, the Sayyid al-Shuhada Movement led by Abu Alaa Waili, and other similar groups. Although al-Muhandis and Fayyad acknowledged that the recent bombings in Hashd camps were an act done by someone, they were intersecting in determining who was responsible. While the former rushed to accuse Israel and the United States, the second said investigations were continuing to uncover the perpetrators.
Only a few hours have passed since the announcement of al-Muhandis’s position, until the head of the PMU, Faleh al-Fayyad, said that the accusations of the deputy chairman of the Commission, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, for American forces in Iraq to provide logistical support for US and Israeli aircraft to attack many of the headquarters of the crowd in the past weeks , don’t represent the official attitude of the commission. Fayyad issued a statement after a meeting between Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and leaders of the Popular Mobilization in which he stressed that the one who express the official position of the Iraqi government and its armed forces is the prime minister or whoever is authorized by him. Fayyad added that preliminary investigations into the attacks on the headquarters of the crowd proved that it was done by an external prepared act , and Investigations are continuing to determine the responsible bodies to take appropriate positions against them.
Attacks attributed to Israel on the PMU’s weapons depots have opened the door to widespread criticism from opposition parties to the government, surprising for their continued silence. The head of al-Hikma movement , Ammar al-Hakim said , “What our military installations are exposed to is a serious violation of our national sovereignty,” and the government should bear its responsibilities for these violations and defend the the homeland, “surprising” for official silence “, about” repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, “and the inability to” disclose the parties, causes and motives. ”
Ahmad al-Asadi, a lawmaker who heads a parliamentary bloc and also leads a private militia within the PMU , said that “Israel’s entry into our national sphere is a declaration of war against Iraq, its people, sovereignty and capabilities,” noting that “silence on aggression is not a rational attitude, but rationality and political realism require exhausting the options of national diplomacy with the UN Security Council to make Iraq, its army and its people a way from a military deterrence options with aggression and drones. “He continued,” This Israeli and American action will not pass without we have an explicit position on them, “stressing to keep” the option of retaliation open. ” , because they wanted it an open war, and the legitimate and national duty (requires) to stop the war in the spirit of open response. ”
Observers of the Iraqi affairs for the affairs of armed factions loyal to Iran see that the war of statements of the Popular crowd reveal that al-Muhandis takes exclusive possession of decisions of the Commission, “It also highlights” deep disagreement between the factions of the crowd, they are two lines , the first defend Iraq and the other for Iran. They added that the statement of al-Muhandis includes an attempt to bypass the government that is trying to distance itself from the Iranian-American conflict, pointing out that “the factions seek to drag Iraq into a US war against Iran on the soil of Iraq .. will not end.
This is the first time that this divergence of views has taken place between the parties represented, formally or effectively, the PMU. This suggests a real split within this crowd. It is known that the crowd can be categorized according to various criteria , including dogmatic criteria (embracing the principle of absolute general to al-Faqih known as the Wilayat Faqih or not ) , or political criteria (the participation of its political wings in different state authorities or non participation ) , as well as other criteria .Over the past five years , as we have already pointed out , the United states ‘s official discourse has distinguished between what it calls good militias and bad militias , some of which have been placed on the list of terrorist organizations in this context ,but it is clear after the recent counter-statements that we are facing a real clash between the ideological factions , linked ideologically and organizationally to Iran (Wilayat Faqih and Revolutionary Guards ) , and other factions that try to maneuver in the context of this confrontation between the USA and Iran and try to set a ‘threshold’, still unclear , between them and Iran (whether to maintain its political influence or material resources) , backed by factions that are not linked to Iran (such as Saraya al-Salam affiliated with mr. Al-Sistani as the Abbas Brigades).
Political observers argue that Fayyad and Al-Muhandis are playing two roles that do not yet reflect Iran’s official position. The Iranian regime, which has suffered losses in Syria as a result of Israeli strikes in silence, may also be silent this time in Iraq. This is because the Iranian regime does not prefer for the PMU factions to carry out any subversive activity that its results could push to a direct confrontation.
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies