On July 1, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi issued a decree organizing the work of the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces and its military authority, requiring them to integrate into the regular armed forces. The decree orders the integration of paramilitary units into the army and the decree also obliges PMF to choose between political and military action, and the factions also have a deadline expires on July 31, 2019, to comply with the new regulations .Abd al-Mahdi ordered that the PMF’s work be an integral part of the armed forces and be under the command of the commander-in-chief in accordance with the law enacted by the parliament. The decree explained that all labels for factions of the popular crowd in the battles against the state organization will be abandoned once and be replaced by known military designations.
He added that the factions that do not join the armed forces, can be transformed into political organizations, subject to the law of parties, provided that they bear arms only on official leave, and the decree stressed the need to identify camps gathering forces of the Popular Mobilization like the rest of the armed forces, and subject to what is known by battle system according to the procedures of armed forces .He also ordered the closure of all PMU factions in and outside cities, including economic offices or checkpoints outside the new framework, these factions own , which helped Iraq and the US-led coalition forces in defeating ISIS , considerable influence in Iraqi politics.
In line with that decision, the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, on the seventeenth of this month, issued the Diwani order No. (331), in which he decided first to ratify the organizational structure of the Popular Mobilization Commission, and also cancel all addresses and positions that conflict with the addresses in the structure, the President of the Popular Mobilization Commission was also granted the power of acting as appointee for the positions and managers of the Commission by proxy, and be presented to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers for the purpose of approval or not.
The leaders and members of the Popular Mobilization in Iraq have been preoccupied with the new restructuring decision approved by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, while tension is growing between the two poles of the Hashd, Faleh al-Fayyad and his deputy, Jamal Jaafar, and it came to repudiate the latter’s statements and considering it not represent the “crowd”, after a series of excesses put forward in official statements on behalf of the “crowd”, including a threat to US forces in Iraq.
The new organization of the Popular Mobilization (al-Hashd ash-Shabi), is an Iraqi state –sponsored umbrella composed of some 70 armed Iraqi factions with a force of 116,000 people registered as fixed forces, along with some 30,000 others that their fate are still unresolved for financial and organizational reasons, noting what was officially issued this week, included the creation of new formations, and the abolition of the old ones within the “popular mobilization”, perhaps the most prominent limitation of the main military tasks of the “crowd”, with the approval of the Prime Minister himself, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, according to the new Iraqi constitution in force in the country, who is entitled to name “the head of the crowd”.
And all names of the current factions, such as Asa’ib, Abbas, Tufuf, Ashura, Jund al-Marjiyya, and others, should disappear after the implementation of this resolution amidst the ambiguity surrounding the fate of other factions that explicitly declared that they are not subject to the law of the Hashd, being an Islamic resistance and having a presence in Syria and it will fight in Lebanon if necessary, such as the Iraqi Hezbollah and the Nujaba Brigades, Khurasani and the Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, al-Budala and Saraya al-Shuhada , and other factions that have not yet withdrawn from areas controlled by them in Iraq, and refuse to enter the Iraqi army, such as Jurf al-Sakhr, Owaisat and Ouja, and areas near the border with Saudi Arabia.
The new structure comprises five main divisions, including the Military Operations and Intelligence directorate , in addition to 25 directorates and seven operational commands in the cities of North, West and Central Iraq only , and the southern area was out of it , including the cancellation of the post of deputy chairman of Popular Moblization Commttee which was occupied by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis since the establishment of the “Hashd” five years ago , and the position of the secretary of Popular Crowd was created as well as the creation of separated directorates such as moral orientation , relations, media ane Psychological war
The Iraqi expert Abdullah al-Rikabi pointed out that “the most important thing that will result in the new structure is more discipline and less clamor for the factions, the structure will organize the powers among the leaders of the crowd, and each leader will know his mission and powers, but I think that Abu Mahdi will remain the most powerful decision maker within this Foundation, who controls most of its fateful decisions, he explained to Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed that “the coming days will reveal accurately whether the new position is to curb the powers of Abu Mahdai al-Muhandis or vice versa.”
Al-Rikabi pointed out that “the pro-Iranian factions remain the most difficult issue noting that the factions associated with Najaf were not once a problem in Iraq, but those associated with the Revolutionary Guards. They are expected to remain outside the structure of this structure. They have their political and military addresses, and even economic ones. The Iraqi government is not expected to be able to curb these factions, especially since al-Muhandis will give these factions in the coming period more room to move and work outside the framework of the official Iraqi system, and to meet the interests of Iran.
In response to the government decisions regarding the Popular Mobilization, political and other sources close to the factions affiliated with Iran, revealed a limited coordination council, bringing together several factions, in a sign of the widening gap between militias calling themselves “Islamic Resistance” linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and those linked to Najaf which are abide by Iraqi government decisions and this development may also have indications that these factions may play a separate role from the popular mobilization system and the official decision of the Iraqi state as a whole in the event of an armed clash between the US and Iran, amid Baghdad’s apparent efforts to avert the country lining up as far as possible, for any of the two current camps in the region.
In an attempt of Tehran to sabotage Baghdad’s efforts to avoid tensions in the region, Tehran deliberately destroys the efforts of the Baghdad government to distance Iraq from bearing the consequences of the ongoing escalation in the region due to the tension between Iran on the one hand, and the United States and a number of its regional and international allies, on the other hand. On a missile attack on the perimeter of the US embassy inside the Green Zone in the center of the Iraqi capital, and the threat of the US-led international coalition against ISIS from repeating such targeting, which is likely an Iranian militia was behind it until the Iranian ambassador in Iraq, Erj Mosjedi Li threatened to target US troops on Iraqi territory in the event that his country had been exposed to “any attack by Washington.”
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense, on Friday, responded to the ambassador’s remarks, saying “Iraqi territory is a red line,” the ministry’s spokesman Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji said that “Iraq rejects the threats posed by Iran or America,” adding to the channel of Russia Today (RT) “Iraq will not be the starting point to attack Iran nor will it allow US interests on its territory to be threatened.”
The Iranian ambassador’s remarks showed once again that Iran is keen to involve Iraq in its conflicts against its regional and international adversaries, and to keep it an arena for settling issues against these opponents. According to security and military experts, the presence of dozens of pro-Iranian Shiite militias on Iraqi soil gives Tehran the possibility to fight the proxy conflict against the United States on land other than its territory and without significant losses, which is applied by Iran in Yemen, where the Houthi group is tasked with confronting Saudi Arabia, attacking its territory and targeting its vital facilities, without clear field intervention from Iran except some hidden technology assistance and efforts to deliver weapons to the group.
“The Islamic Republic does not want war with the Americans or anyone,” Masjedi said in a television interview with the local Iraqi Dijlah TV channel. He added “These people always say that the military option is on the table, on the other hand, we never talked about any military solution , our position is defensive “, but the ambassador added , “We will respond to anyone if they attack us, and the options for defending ourselves are open in every way.”
According to the ambassador, a possible Iranian response to the United States does not exclude Iraqi territory , Masjedi ,a former adviser to the Quds Force commander, General Qasem Soleimani, asserted that “in the event of a military attack by the United States, Iran will respond strongly and bomb the US presence in Iraq or any other place . The Iranian ambassador considered that the departure of US forces from Iraq or any point in the region is necessary, considering that the presence of those forces cause escalation and instability in the region, and the United States maintains a few thousand troops on Iraqi territory, distributed over a number of bases, the most famous one is of Ayn al-Assad Airbase in the Baghdadi region in Anbar province in western Iraq.
According to observers for the Iraqi affairs, the new council includes representatives and leaders in factions such as Hezbollah battalions, Sayyed al-Shuhada Brigades, Imam Ali, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Nujaba Movement, Saraya al-Khorasani, al-Abdal, Jund al-Imam brigades, and other formations, all closely associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and they are present in Syria to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad. They also place themselves in the classification of “Islamic Resistance” factions or state factions, and that the Coordination Council is among those factions other than armed groups present in Iraq. It was not announced despite holding several meetings in Baghdad during the past period. Observers pointed out that seven names in the Council are prominent, such as the names in the Council: Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qais al-Khazali for “Asaib,” Akram Kaabi for “the Nujaba”, Abu Alaa Wala’i for “Sayed al-Shuhada ,” Abu Akram Majdi for ” Al-Abddal Movement, Ali Al-Yaseri for Saraya Al-Khorasani and others.
They considered that the existence of another council confined to several factions that do not hide their connection with Iran, other than the Council of Opinion within the Popular Mobilization Commission, is negative and not safe , because the factions associated with Iran has challenged government decisions more than once, in terms of withdrawing from cities and towns controlled by it , or hand over its heavy weapon to the Iraqi army, subject to the ministerial decree to structure the “crowd”, in addition, the failure to declare the Coordinating Council was a violation of the law to serve the interests of a neighboring country at the expense of Iraq’s interest.
For his part, a close to al-Nujaba militia in Baghdad responded to this information by saying that the work of the Islamic Resistance factions in Iraq is not confined to it, but extends to Syria and Lebanon if confrontation with the enemy requires the help of the brothers in Hezbollah. He added , It is a consultative and coordinating committee and has broader objectives than the idea of the local Popular Mobilization, which was founded to expel ISIS gangs from Iraq and noted that the Islamic factions don’t consider their meeting or the coordination of their work as For his part, the Iraqi security expert Muayyad al-Juhayshi said , that “the Council is not new, but existed for some time between certain factions,” adding that “the first purpose of the Council to work to threaten those who disagree with Iran, through Iraqi territory, such as the United States and the Gulf states , under slogans Jihad and resistance. ”
Al-Juhayshi revealed that “the factions are not a party organization to have a party leader to unite and direct them, nor a military organization so that the largest rank to lead them, and even Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis , the ‘ highest decision maker , does not have full control over them. Therefore, the only one who owns the authoritarian order over all factions is the Quds Force leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Qasem Soleimani, who apparently oversees this council . ”
On the other hand, the legal expert Ali al-Tamimi stressed , that the formation of similar councils is contrary to the law and the Constitution, and the government has the right to take action against the Council and one who formed and lead it , being outside the framework of the state and the law, Tamimi told the ” Al-Araby Al-Jadeed “, that “any armed factions outside the forces Security is a violation of the Constitution and is not permissible according to the law and the Constitution, and therefore the Popular Mobilization Law was issued , to make those factions part of the Iraqi security forces.
Al-Tamimi pointed out that “weapons according to the Constitution and according to the weapons law, must not be outside the framework of the armed forces, the formation of any military council or military body, must be obtained by law issued by the government, and then voted on by Parliament, and then ratified by the President of the Republic,” and stressed “The existence of any military or armed councils under any heading outside the framework of the armed forces is not permitted neither constitutionally nor legally .”
Al-Tamimi added that “there is no occupation in Iraq, to necessitate the existence of similar military councils that raise the slogan of resistance, this was available when the US forces were present , and Iraq was under Chapter VII of the Charter of the Security Council, but today Iraq is an independent sovereign state and a member of the United Nations . Al-Tamimi concluded by saying that “the government and its competent bodies have the right to take legal action against any formation or military armed militia, under any title: Who formed those councils and who participates in them.”
The decisions issued by the Iraqi Prime Minister are a serious attempt to restore the prestige to Iraqi state and its armed forces, the Iraqi government is keen on the safety of Iraq, and not to use the experience of Hezbollah in Lebanon in Iraq, and not to make Iraq at the center of the Iranian project, Adil Abdul Mahdi seeks to save it and avoid risks of domestic and foreign policy, despite the opposition front and opportunist from all colors of the sectarian, doctrinal and national spectrum against him.
Rawabet center for Research and Strategic Studies