A conglomerate of Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq, known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), or more commonly by the Arabic label al-Hashd al-Shaabi, pose a very dire threat for the future of Iraq. This sectarian group of dangerous armed elements is resorting to any and all crimes with the objective of pursuing Tehran’s policies across Mesopotamia.
The PMU, established back in the mid-2014, has taken part in the battles of Syria from mid-2013 onward and now, despite participating in the offensive to retake Mosul from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), this phenomenon poses the gravest of all threats for the Iraqi nation.
Conditions allowing the PMU’s presence and its foreign connections have raised major concerns across the board. Human rights violations and crimes by this group against dissidents in areas retaken from Daesh are amongst the many other reasons intensifying anxieties about the very nature of this alliance. The PMU is also accused of launching revenge attacks and atrocities against displaced Sunnis fleeing these areas.
A strange and disturbing irony lies in the fact that the arms provided by a broad spectrum of the international community are being used for ill purposes.
“Paramilitary militias nominally operating as part of the Iraqi armed forces in the fight against the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) are using arms from Iraqi military stockpiles, provided by the USA, Europe, Russia and Iran, to commit war crimes, revenge attacks and other atrocities,” Amnesty International reported.
The PMU “have used those arms to facilitate the enforced disappearance and abduction of thousands of mainly Sunni men and boys, torture and extrajudicial executions as well as wanton destruction of property,” the alarming statement adds.
The report highlights “four main militias that Amnesty International has documented committing serious human rights violations: Munathamat Badr (Badr Brigades or Badr Organization), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) and the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades).”
Other international human rights organizations have time and again exposed the sectarian crimes committed by PMU ranks and files.
“Human Rights Watch and the UN have previously blamed the pro-government militias for perpetrating atrocities against civilians,” Alaraby reported.
“Members of Shia militias, who the Iraqi government has included among its state forces, abducted and killed scores of Sunni residents in a central Iraq town and demolished Sunni homes,” HRW warned back in January 2016.
While such warnings fell to deaf ears, HRW demanded from Baghdad to “prevent militias with records of serious abuses from taking part in planned military operations for the city of Mosul.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein cited strong evidence that Kata’ib Hezbollah perpetrated atrocities against a Sunni community.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair has gone as far as describing this group as extremely sectarian and run by Iranian military officers. Topping this list of commanders is none other than Revolutionary Guards Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani.
The Iraqi Parliament in late 2016 adopted a bill recognizing the PMU as an official security entity, throwing “a wrench into efforts to adopt a national settlement proposal — basically a grand plan to abolish sectarian and ethnic quotas,” as described in Al-Monitor.
This law is in fact in violation of the Iraqi Constitution Article 9 banning the establishment of any militia group not falling under the command and control of the armed forces. The PMU is a force parallel to the Iraqi military – much like Iran’s IRGC alongside its classic army – and not part of its structure and framework. Their very existence is in violation of the Iraqi Constitution and as a result lacks any legality.
It is an undeniable fact that the PMU pursues the fundamental interests of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, receiving their orders directly from Tehran. The Iranian opposition, itself the target of the Iranian regime’s attacks, has time and again warned of Tehran’s increasing meddling in Iraq.
“Commander of Iraq’s al-Hashd al-Shaabi militant group affiliated to the Iranian regime, referring to the possibility that these mobilization forces are present in Syria to help Assad regime for more killings and massacre of Syrian people, claimed that Hashd al-Shaabi could help Syria to get rid of terrorism,” according to a report posted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of Iranian dissident organizations including the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and others.
With a sectarian structure, the PMU first poses a major threat for Iraq and its sovereignty, and will move on to spread their disease across the Middle East. If the international community seeks to calm and resolve crises plaguing the Middle East, one very necessary step is to bring an end to Iran’s meddling across the region.
As NCRI President Maryam Rajavi explained, “The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region.”