In the first part we mentioned some reasons of different efforts for dissolution of Hashd Al-Shaabi forces. Hashd Al-Shaabi has some unique features and capabilities that can be modeled in other fields for Iraqis. That’s why the US and its allies are trying to weaken or removing the Hashd Al-Shaabi forces.
In this part we talk about some another attempts for weakening and removing the Hashd Al-Shaabi.
After the ISIS terrorists occupied a vast part of Iraq, the Jihad order by Ayatollah Sistani caused the young volunteers of Iraq to join the military groups to protect the country.
After that, the fight against ISIS terrorists entered a new phase and the process of victory and expelling these forces from Iraq began. This process continued until the end of 2017, when the complete liberation of Iraqi cities and the defeat of ISIS terrorists in the country were officially announced.
After forming the US anti-ISIS coalition in September 2014, the US announced withdrawal of Hashd al-Shaabi forces from the battlefields as of its main condition to help Iraqis to counter the ISIS terrorists.
These attempts were also continued against PMU in different operations such as the liberation of the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul.
Sectarianism accusations during fighting against ISIS
With the rise of Hashd al-Shaabi’s victories, various political currents and media outlets have started accusing and reflecting some unrealistic news against the Hashd al-Shaabi. Allegations from violence against the Sunni people and looting their property by the PMUs in the liberated areas to forced migration and changing the Sunni structure of the area, are among the false accusations against the Hashd Al-Shaabi.
The US and Saudi Arabia started to make an anti-Sunni atmosphere against Hashd Al-Shaabi forces at the same time of the operation for liberation of Fallujah and they announced if PMUs go to this city, the possibility of sectarian conflicts and carnage is high. These sort of accusations continued numerously before the operation of Mosul and also it caused a delay in lunching the operation.
In the middle of 2016 and during the uprising of the Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters in Baghdad that also led to the occupation of parliament, one of their demands was to stop the advance of Hashd Al-Shaabi forces in the Sunni areas of Iraq. Although they express that these actions are in the support of Sunni people of those cities but in fact the main purpose was weakening the Hashd Al-Shaabi and decreasing the victories of them.
Ending ISIS project, Ending Hashd Al-Shaabi
By getting closer to the total defeat of ISIS terrorists in Iraq, dismantling Hashd Al-Shaabi was also hearing. The media and political parties apposing Hashd Al-Shaabi, were after project “Ending ISIS, Ending Hashd Al-Shaabi”. The main excuse for introducing this project was this idea: Because Hashd Al-Shaabi was created for fighting ISIS, so when these terrorists defeated, there’s no need for the Hashd Al-Shaabi! But the reality is two years after the official announcement of the defeat of ISIS terrorists in Iraq, the ISIS activities and sporadic attacks still continue throughout the country. This is while the Hashd Al-Shaabi continue fighting against these groups and secure the vast part of the western areas of Iraq from ISIS cells.
Disarming Hashd Al-Shaabi under the excuse of concentration of weapons in government
The aspect of carrying weapons by different groups and parties in Iraq was always a big national security issue. Different tribes, religious and political groups in Iraq often have military weapons that use them as a tool for power and self-defense. Formation of some military groups under the command of Hashd Al-Shaabi, has made an excuse for parties against it. They are arguing that the armed PMU is a challenge for controlling security in Iraq. That’s why these groups always use this excuse for forcing the government to disarm Hashd Al-Shaabi. As an example, two years ago the French President explicitly requested Baghdad government to dismantle all militant groups including PMU, in a meeting with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister in Paris.
Liquidation of Hashd Al-Shaabi, a condition of Iraq’s exemption from US sanctions on Iran
By US withdrawal of JCPOA and reimposing the sanctions against Iran, Iraq’s government was always under the pressure of the USA for buying electricity and gas from Iran. Washington misused this fact for getting points for giving Iraq exemptions in the field of Iran sanctions. In this way, totally dismantling the Hashd Al-Shaabi was always one of the main requests of Washington from Baghdad. For example, the United States spokesperson for department of state, explicitly requested disarming PMU from Iraqi government on December 2018.
Reforming or weakening the structure?
One of the most controversial issues about Hashd al-Shaabi is reshaping it which took place by the official order of Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the resigned former prime minister of Iraq. There are many words and analysis about case, some call it the way for official recognition and empowering PMU while some others view this happening a limiting factor for the effectiveness of the unit. Also, the word “reform” has some positive and negative points, but to the author, things happened until now, was not positive and weakens Hashd al-Shaabi and might also lead the unit to dismantling. As an example we can point removing the position of PMU’s vice-chairman of the board in the new structure, which Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis had the seat. More interestingly the aspect of merging the unit with military structure of Iraq government, was one of Muqtada al-Sadr recommendation for the post-ISIS Iraq structure.
Sanctioning Hashd al-Shaabi leaders
In addition of having different tools inside Iraq, the US government tried to impose international political and economic pressure against the unit in order to weaken it. The US treasury recently sanctioned three commanders of the group on charge of involvement in killing Iraqi protesters. Some news outlets are also talking about a plan for sanctioning nine other commanders of the unit is being programed in US congress. Before that, US treasury had sanctioned some other commanders of the group on the excuses such as helping Iran to bypass US sanctions, cooperating with Lebanon’s Hezbollah or attacking US bases in Iraq.
Shadow of the political view on the Hashd al-Shaabi services
Official and effective entering of some commanders of PMU leaders into the political structure of Iraq and seizing parliament seats plus positions in some of ministries and government agencies have put the group in political sights. Also, this approach empowered the position of Hashd al-Shaabi in governmental structure of the country, but in recent protests, it has been used to weaken the officials of the unit. Because the protesters are putting the responsibility of the current economic situation in Iraq, on political parties and groups, they point Hashd al-Shabi political figures as the reasons for the situation.
Military actions against Hashd al-Shaabi
In addition to ISIS activities and attacks against PMU in different parts of Iraq, the number of attacks from unknown drones to the bases of the unit has risen. The target of these attacks was disarming the bases and terrorizing important commanders of the unit. Israel air attacks to Hashd al-Shaabi bases became more and more before the recent protests and after that and simultaneously to that, the number of ISIS attacks also has intensified.
Placing PMU against Iraqis
By erupting the protests in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, one of the main strategies of media and political currents opposing Hashd al-Shaabi, was illustrating an anti-popular face from the forces for youth and protesters. This strategy is being utilized in social media by producing different multimedia programs. But in the real fields also there were many efforts for forcing the PMU to stand against the protesters. For example in the al-Sanak and al-Khalani event which led to the death of 20 people, the media tried to put the responsibility on Asaib Ahl al-Haq that is related to PMU. This charge was raised from al-Sadr group particularly. In that field, forces related to al-Sadr (blue helmets) were defending the protesters. This strategy is taken in order to distance between people and PMU. This strategy is following for perusing people to agree Hashd al-Shaabi dismantling in the future.