Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has categorically ruled out the dismantling of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), commonly known as Hashd al-Sha’abi.
Abadi said on Saturday that the PMU operated under the supervision of the Iraqi government and religious leadership and was recognized by the state, making it clear that the group would not be dissolved.
Hashd al-Sha’abi is a group of Shia and Sunni fighters that was formed after the emergence of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in Iraq in 2014. In the early days of Daesh’s terror campaign, the then-volunteer fighters played a major role in reinforcing the Iraqi army, which had suffered heavy setbacks in the face of lightening advances by the terrorists.
Last November, the Iraqi parliament recognized Hashd al-Sha’abi as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army.
The Hashd al-Sha’abi forces are now actively cooperating with Iraqi forces in operations to rid the whole country of Daesh elements.
A cleric makes a rare trip, and then comes a rare call
In a Friday address to his supporters in the capital, Baghdad, Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had said Abadi had to either “integrate into the army the disciplined members” of the PMU or put them under severe government control.
Sadr had also called on Iraqi authorities to “seize the arsenal of all armed groups,” without elaborating further.
Those remarks came a few days after Sadr made a rare visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Sadr’s office said in a statement later that the Riyadh regime had agreed to pay Baghdad $10 million as — according to the office — aid to rebuild Iraq. But it was not clear whether Sadr and his associates had traveled to Saudi Arabia in a governmental capacity.
The New Arab news website also reported that the Saudis had also awarded special visas to the members of Sadr’s office for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.