By Hamdi Malik for Foreign Affairs. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi (pictured), Iraq’s new prime minister as of May 12, has already announced a bold intention.

In a short government manifesto he submitted to the Iraqi Parliament, Kadhimi emphasized his plans to “impose the state’s prestige” by bringing armed groups under government control.

To observers of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, the manifesto’s meaning is clear: the damage to the state’s “prestige” has, after all, come mainly from pro-Iranian militant groups who answer to the commanders of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), rather than to Iraq’s commander in chief.

Click here to read the full story.

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi prime minister stresses PMU should be Iraqi institution under state authority

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi faces a difficult task in implementing his reform plan for the Popular Mobilization Units organization and bringing its various military factions under full control of the Iraqi state.

He has started approaching PMU leaders, but reining in the organization will not be an easy task.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Shelly Kittleson, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A Powerful Iran-Backed Militia Is Losing Influence in Iraq

Five months after its charismatic leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was killed by a U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad airport, the Iran-backed group Kataib Hezbollah’s influence on Iraq may be quietly eroding.

Despite an institutional void since widespread protests across Shiite-majority central and southern Iraq forced the previous government to resign late in 2019 and the international coalition’s recent withdrawal from several Iraqi bases, moves are afoot to more fully integrate some Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) factions into government chains of command and structures that existed prior to 2014.

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By Seth J. Frantzman, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The PMU Is Getting More Aggressive in Iraq

In January, Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s largest political party, traveled to Iran’s holy city of Qom to meet with representatives of several Iraq-based paramilitaries from the hugely influential Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

That visit was part of an attempt by Sadr to position himself as the face of public anger directed against the United States over the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani.

Sadr is an important figure in Iraq not only because of his ties to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but also because members of his Saraya al-Salam militia turned out in significant numbers to protect anti-government protesters against Iraqi security forces, including the PMU, last year.

The death of Suleimani caused pro-Iranian paramilitaries to flex their muscles by clashing more openly with U.S. troops, which could be a sign that the PMU is reimagining its future role in Iraq. Sadr’s intervention now makes the PMU’s ascendance undeniable.

While he tried to navigate the wave of popular protest last year, he has hedged his influence with the PMU this year, illustrating that the organization cannot be sidelined.

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By Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Honored, Not Contained: The Future of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces

Hastily raised when the Islamic State was knocking at the gates of Baghdad, the state-backed Iraqi militia network al-Hashd al-Shabi has swollen into a 160,000-strong armed force with an annual budget exceeding $2 billion.

But more than five years after its formation, the Hashd — also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces — still lacks defined roles and has largely fallen under the sway of Kataib Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed factions. Now that Iranian Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis are no longer on the scene, observers are asking what comes next for the Hashd.

In this highly detailed Policy Focus, meant as a primer for Iraqi and international agencies, analysts Michael Knights, Hamdi Malik, and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi lay out the PMF’s current status, offering a novel look at its functions, structure, and activities as a military institution.

The study identifies achievable security-sector reforms while exploring longer-term options around which consensus must first be built. Although demobilization is not a realistic goal in the near term, Iraq and its partners can take practical steps to honor Hashd units for their sacrifices while also containing them in the interests of national sovereignty and stability.

Full 236-page report here.

By John Lee.

US-based General Dynamics, which produces Abrams tanks, has reportedly suspended its maintenance program in Iraq after one of its tanks was provided to the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi Popular Mobilization Force (PMF).

Iraq’s al-Ghad Press has reports that the company withdrew from its base at Baghdad’s al-Muthanna airport after finding out that Iraq violated the terms of the contract which only authorized the Iraqi army to use the US-provided tanks.

Iraq owns 140 M1 Abrams tanks, sixty of which are now out of service.

Read more here.

(Source: Kurdistan 24)

By John Lee.

The Institute for the Study of War has issued a new report — Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Forces: Orders of Battle — in which it claimes that the liberation Daesh’s urban holdings in Iraq was necessary but not sufficient to secure America’s vital national interests.

It says ISIS has lost neither the will nor the capability to fight, even as it withdraws into desert hideouts and sleeper cell formations in November 2017.

Rather, dispersed ISIS militants have begun an insurgent campaign in northern and western Iraq as some of its foreign fighters have returned to their home countries to serve in ISIS’s external operations network.

The report includes considerable detail on the various players and agencies involved in security in Iraq.

Click here to download the full report.

(Source: Institute for the Study of War)

On October 4, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) media outlet claimed that Iraqi forces had fully recaptured the town of Hawija; hours after the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said it launched a fresh offensive targeting its centre.

The PMU claimed that the decisive victory came as part of a second stage of operations launched on September 29 to liberate the town and surrounding areas from IS militants, who have been in control of the area since 2014.

The JOC has not officially confirmed the liberation of Hawija town, but if confirmed, it would mean that only western the Anbar’s towns of Rawa and al-Qaim remain under the militant’s control.

The Iraqi army’s War Media Cell did however reported that its forces had regained full control over Makhoul Mountains in Hawija, the area of Al-Harareyat and the western bank of Al-Fatha Bridge. 

PMU media also reported that its forces had liberated three villages west of Riyadh on October 4.  According to a statement, PMU forces liberated the villages of Yassin Taha village west of Hawija district and Aliah and Khalaf Asuad villages, west of Riyadh district.

Separately, Iraqi airstrikes were reported to have targeted an IS headquarters in Rawa in Anbar province, killing a top IS leader Bakr Wagdi al-Rawi, according to unnamed ‘security sources’.

(Source: GardaWorld)

(Picture: US Army near Mosul, March 2017)