Shia militias cannot ensure security of Iraq

Sunday 02/10/2016
Militias have their sights on more than just ruling Iraq

When the Iraqi militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, led by Qais al- Khazali offers — instead of government forces — to be in charge of the security of Bagh­dad’s belt areas, we must stop and think of its implications.

The residents of Baghdad are suffering from attacks, robber­ies, kidnappings and killings at the hands of unknown gunmen, although some blame militiamen. Now the Asa’ib militia wants to replace Baghdad’s police, army and security apparatus.

The militia would not only be legitimising its fighters with of­ficial cover from the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, it would also mean that Asa’ib would have effective con­trol of Baghdad’s gates.

We must also take note when Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr militia, boasts that his militiamen are superior to the country’s army.

It means at some point militia leaders would be calling the shots in Iraq’s political decisions, leav­ing Abadi and his ministers with nothing more than mere talk — the way citizens discuss politics in a café.

Another militia to pay atten­tion to is Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, whose leader Akram al-Kaabi spends more time in Iran than in his own country. He sent about 1,000 militiamen to fight in Aleppo alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

This indicates that the militias have their sights on more than just ruling Iraq. They also seem to think they have a regional role to play, starting with Syria and reaching Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Inside Iraq, Shia militias are ex­panding into Arab Sunni-majority areas, despite the displeasure of the locals. Residents would be happy to see the back of the Islam­ic State (ISIS), provided that their areas are liberated by the Iraqi Army, not abusive militias.

What do the militias want from this expanding control of Iraqi territories?

We can expect the militias to be transformed into an Iraqi version of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which answers to Iran’s supreme leader. It is just a matter of time.

It is rumoured in Iraq’s political corridors that Iranian Major-Gen­eral Qassem Soleimani, who has much to say in Iraqi and Syrian in­ternal affairs, is proposing a lead­ing role for former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki in the oversight of all of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

Maliki’s influence behind the scenes is already challenging Ab­adi. Imagine how little power the prime minister would have left.

Three months ago, representa­tives from Jurf al-Sakhar, in north­ern Babil province, asked if they — along with other residents — could return to their homes, which were liberated from ISIS more than a year ago.

These were people who had fought against ISIS and against al- Qaeda before that, yet they remain prevented from returning home by the PMF.

The displaced Arab Sunnis sought the help of Grand Ayatol­lah Ali al-Sistani to return home but his office replied that the Shia imam was ill and could not see them. Sistani’s aides also added that the ayatollah does not inter­fere in administrative affairs.

They were advised to mediate with the leaders of the militias instead. So they went to meet the official head of the PMF, Faleh Fayyad.

Fayyad, however, directed them to his deputy, Abu Mahdi al- Muhandis, who is in charge of the field operations of the PMF. Mu­handis told them to petition the government as this case is not the purview of the PMF, leaving the displaced lost in a vicious circle.

The residents of Jurf al-Sakhar understood the message, howev­er. The power of the government is diminishing. The militias are in Iraq to rule — on behalf of Iran.