Iraqi foreign ministry rejects calls to disband popular forces

The Iraqi foreign ministry has strongly rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for dismantling the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known by their Arabic name as Hashd al-Sha’abi, which have played a significant role in crushing the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the Arab country.

Ahmad Mahjoub, the spokesman for Iraq’s foreign ministry, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with PressTV on Tuesday, describing Macron’s call as a blatant intervention in Iraq’s domestic affairs.

He said Baghdad highly appreciates its relations with Paris; however, “the issue of PMU is an Iraqi internal affair… therefore any statements regarding the PMU or calls to dismantle it is an intervention in Iraq’s domestic affairs, which we reject.”

Mahjoub also stressed that the PMU has made great sacrifices in the fight against Daesh and has been an effective force on the ground.

On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Iraq, calling for “a gradual demilitarization” of the forces and for all militias in Iraq to be “dismantled.”

Reacting to Macron’s call, Iraq’s vice president and former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said in a Facebook posting that “Macron interfered unexpectedly in Iraq’s internal affairs by calling for the dismantling of a legal institution, Hashd al-Sha’abi.”

A day after Macron’s controversial request, Ahmad al-Assadi, one of the PMU’s leaders, said that “any such discussion is rejected and we do not accept interference in Iraqi affairs.”

In October, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi strongly defended the Hashd al-Sha’abi after comments by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that militias in Iraq should “go home.”

Hashd al-Sha’abi is a combination of some 40 groups of mostly Shia fighters that was formed shortly after the emergence of Daesh in Iraq in mid-2014. In the early days of the Daesh’s reign of terror, the then volunteer fighters played a major role in reinforcing the Iraqi army, which had suffered heavy setbacks in the face of lightning advances by the terrorists.

The organization is considered to be part of the country’s security forces and reports to the Iraqi premier, who is the commander in chief of armed forces.

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