[Editor’s note: Islamic politics and the Sunni-Shia issue can be quite mystifying to outsiders so let me lay out the basic premise behind this article:
The Iraqi army was so depleted of both manpower and combat power in the wake of IS’s great offensive that captured Mosul and huge swathes of Northern Iraq that Iran had to step in and save the day. This was done by establishing an Iraqi Shiite militia patterned after the Iranian Republican Guard, Iran sent the Republican Guard’s leader Gen. Soleimani to lead this militia.
Iran is a Shiite country, the southern half of Iraq is also Shiite. Because the largest and most powerful military forces in Iraq are the Iranian backed and commanded Shiite militia, it is now Iran rather than the Baghdad government that has de facto control of Iraq (aside from the Kurds in the north).
The seemingly inevitable outcome of this scenario is Iran gaining control of and most likely annexing either all of Iran apart from the Kurdish north or the most prosperous and populous southern region. This would likely bring peace and allow reconstruction inside Iraq, but would most likely increase regional tensions as it would give Iran a land border with Saudi Arabia and Iran and the Saudis are sworn enemies engaged in proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq (IS being the Saudi proxy). Ian
When Militia Turns into Army
Two days after the leakage of an official ministerial order issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, which states that the Shiite militia, known as the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), will officially become part of the Iraqi army and will play a similar role as the current Iraqi counter-terror agency, Head of militia Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada Abu Ala al-Waeli said that this militia is formed in link with Velayat-e faqih in Iran (Wilayat al-Faqih) and not to floundering of politicians in Iraq.
This frank announcement summarizes the chaotic and terrifying situation reached by Iraq, which not only has faced the regular Iranian interference in its internal affairs and Tehran’s control over Baghdad’s decisions in the Arab League, but also is experiencing a cloned new Revolutionary Guards that structurally follows the Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, while – actually – follow the orders given by Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Notably, Soleimani is the field leader for the Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces, and he receives orders directly from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Perhaps what is deplorable is that the majorities of Iraqi Shiite militias are loyal to Khamenei rather than to the Iraqi reference Ali al-Sistani.
Inimitable countries that look into the future with insightful vision in order to preserve the society and prevent the risk of civil wars do not allow the establishment of militias despite the purpose of their formation and do not grand armed groups authority over the state powers.
What if these militias were originally sectarian and factional?
Regarding the attempt of Iraqi government to turn the Shiite militia forces, which is the first informal military power formed in Iraq’s modern history since the establishment of the army in 1921, into an official army instead of integrating it with army forces and police, this will ignite a fire that will be very difficult to set off by Iraqis themselves.
This attempt will also contribute in expanding chaos and deepening sectarian division in the country.
Instead of fighting ISIS and extremist Sunni groups, the world will find itself in another fight against extremist Shiite militias, which extremism of course differ in structure.
However, Popular Mobilization forces differ from other militias and are distinguished as they fall under the government’s umbrella, in which they are armed, financed and politically supported.
In addition to that, these militias increase tension and sectarianism in the country and are not controlled by the government.
For instance, when revising the statement issued by leader of the League of the Righteous (Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq) militia Qais Khazali after revoking Bahraini nationality from Issa al-Qassem, the militia’s leader said that his militia is thinking about interfering in Gulf States.
He said back then: “Large part of Resistance factions’ formations believe that their second duty, in addition to the Hashd al-Shaabi, is supporting people in Bahrain, al-Ahsa and Qatif in case the enemy crossed the red lines.”
The real danger facing the whole region is that more than 20 Iraqi armed militias form together the Popular Mobilization, including Badra, Kataib Hezbollah, Saraya al-Khorasani, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and others.
All these militias are officially, religiously and ritually linked to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which comes in line with Iran’s strategy to empower militias to overcome the state’s official forces aiming at maintaining its interests and power.
Moreover, by Iran dividing the Iraqi army and establishing an equivalent force that dominates the official army in equipment and number, it is allowing itself to continue controlling Iraq politically and militarily.
This is what United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey D. Feltman confirmed in his report, which stated that: “Iran has violated international law by sending weapons to militias in Iraq.”
The world has underestimated calls that warned from ISIS’s terrorism when it was barely found and did not wake up until this terrorist organization has expanded to all continents and is spreading terror.
Popular Mobilization is another copy for ISIS, yet it is hiding its terrorism and brutality.
One day, the world will wake up to witness the expansion of the Hashd al-Shaabi, which follows the path of Iranian Revolutionary Guards militia, Hezbollah and Houthis.
Terrorism will expand even more as long as the world criminalizes Sunni terrorist groups while turning a blind eye for the Shiite terrorist groups.