Their victories in formerly held Islamic State (IS) territories have fuelled demands which if accepted, place armed forces — including the conventional army — on equal footing with irregular militia outfits. Important differences such as centralised control, discipline, chains of command, professionalism are expected to collapse beneath an agenda that aims to institutionalise as well as normalize the role of amateur militia forces in politics.
Their emergence extends back to June 2014 when revered Shi’i Marji Ayatollah Ali al Sistani issued an edict urging men of the country to defend their nation and shrines. What few note is that Sistani’s religious ruling was in fact empty of pronouncements that determine the organisation’s lifetime.
Furthermore, the emergence of parallel force that has contributed to the fragmentation of the army was not something the edict endorsed. In spite of the group’s increasing tally of victories, their recent and unignorable abuses perpetrated throughout ‘liberations Ops’ haunts a significant portion of Iraqis, and next year's vote opens up another crack from which they can muscle their way into Iraq’s political process.
A breakdown of trust in Abadi’s assurances ought to pressure the state to address public disaffection, but the prime minister's indifference speaks louder to the masses that regard the group’s permanent institutionalisation as another dagger in the back.
A bill endorsed under Abadi leadership last year recognised the militia entity as official entity that he claims, responds only to the Iraqi state.
During the past month, Abu Mehdi al Mohandis — one of the PMU’s top commanders — has been busy paying visits to various establishment figures and monsters, including State of Law member of parliament Hanan al Fatlawi and Iraqi Oil Minister Jaber al Luaibi to secure financial guarantees and discuss future collaboration. Abadi as so far remained silent about these maneuvers.
The financial standing of the militia forces Mohandis commands became the flashpoint of a parliamentary session held on Nov. 16 in which a new law granting equal pay to Hashd forces was passed. Part of the terms and conditions voiced by Hashd representative and spokesman, Ahmad al Asadi, was reimbursement for PMU fighters for the difference in pay their rank and file members receive compared with official armed forces. Their monthly salaries currently range between $560-700 (USD), paid by the Iraqi state. High ranking commanders including Mohandis and Hadi al Ameri from Badr corps are also bankrolled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard who Iraq's militias view as its number one ally in its fight against terrorism. Nationalist claims the PMF parade online and upon the battlefield lose all momentum when stacked against these facts. Swathes of territory overrun by IS now firmly sit in the palms of PMF units, who continue to prevent hundreds of families from returning home.
“These are our demands, that we want to see fast tracked” said Ahmad al Asadi following the vote several weeks back. Asadi drew upon the constitution to legitimise these demands, but Iraq’s post-2003 constitution lacks provisions capable of settling the debate over Hashd salaries and equal pay. “Those salaries need to be equal to their counterparts from the security forces,” Assadi said. Some analysts view these developments as a response to America’s recently imposed “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017”. Proscribed names listed include Asa’ib ahl al Haq and Harakat Hezbollah in Iraq and other outfits which have been sanctioned by Iraq’s electoral commission to stand in next year’s vote.
The participation of internally displaced Iraqis whose towns, villages and cities were overrun by IS, in next years elections “is of utmost importance” prime minister Abadi stated lasted last week, after confirming that he had received his voting card. It is not clear how and where destitute masses will cast their votes.
In a recent television interview on Dijla TV, Sunni Islamic Party (IPI) MP Salah al Jabouri expressed fears over the growing infiltration of the PMU in the political process. “PMF are the one’s that will oversee the voting process” Jabouri said, offering a glimpse of things to come.
The promised dissolution of PMF forces following IS’s total expulsion from Iraqi lands as Abadi and some of his foreign allies have vowed, has never appeared more unattainable than the present moment. For now, Iraq’s PMU umbrella force is hellbent on preserving the powers it has procured inside and outside the battlefield, but resistance in the face of these advances is mounting while the future remains in abeyance.
The parallel military PMU force as Mohandis describes it, “is here to stay”