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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Iran using Maliki and the Popular Mobilization Units to further its influence in Iraq.

Links: A. Wikipedia definition of Popular Mobilization Units.
           B. Wikipedia entry for Nouri al-Maliki.

Keeping track of the evolving political scenario in Iraq can be quite a headache.  I avoided digging into the "Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs)" issue for some time, electing to use the phrase, "Shi'a-based militias".  But recent events have made it apparent to me that these groups of informal, guerilla-type, less-than-disciplined military units have become an important piece on the Iraqi political chessboard.  Wikipedia has provided a tremendously useful definition of the PMUs, which we have included in Link A.  In 2014, following the fall of Mosul and Ramadi, Shi'a
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for Iraqis of all faiths to join together to defeat the Islamic State (IS).  The response was as expected, with the Shi'a volunteering by the truckloads, while the Sunnis remained basically unmoved.  A number of Shi'a militias already existed, including the Badr Corps (or Brigade), Kata'ib Hezbollah, al-Haq, and interestingly enough, the Mahdi Army.  For students of history, the Mahdi Army was the name chosen by the Islamic fanatics who attempted to create a Caliphate in the Sudan in the 1880s.  Muhammad Ahmad, a Sudanese religious leader of the Samaniyya Order, proclaimed himself "Mahdi" (messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith) on June 29, 1881.  Sudan was a protectorate, or colony of England at the time, and after dispatching the small contingent or Royal troops in Khartoum, the Mahdi and his followers looked towards Egypt.  Although Muhammad Ahmad died six months after Khartoum fell, another member of the Samaniyya Order stepped in to become Mahdi #2 (Abdalli ibn-Muhammad).  The British did not respond well to this threat, and dispatched an army to the Sudan, which in short order dispatched the Mahdi and his followers.  Future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was present during this war, and his memoirs are fascinating for aficionados of the subject.  Back to the subject at hand...

The throng of Shi'a who followed Sistani's call to arms swelled the ranks of the basically five militias that were deploying against the IS threat. Initially, the Iraqi government made an effort to keep the militias under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior, with the hope that the groups would engage the enemy with some sense of cohesion.  Since the beginning of the conflict with the IS, the ISF has not always impressed on the battlefield, an issue which is the result of the U.S. military being withdrawn from Iraq precipitously, before the ISF training schedule had been fully implemented.  In fact, the ISF delivered billions of dollars in military weapons to the IS, simply by deserting the field of battle and leaving behind everything they couldn't stick in their pockets.  On the other hand, the militias have always performed with great courage and surprising discipline. The ISF has regrouped and delivered some stinging defeats to the IS, but none of it would have been possible without the militias.  The Iraqi government, in its continuing effort to keep control of the militias (which for the most part saw their benefactor as Iran).  The Iranians provided advisors, training and equipment to the militias, and the shared Shi'a connection cannot be stressed to highly.  The Iranians intend on keeping the militias separate from the ISF and out from under the control of the Iraqi government.  Each militia has its own leader, who can depend upon the loyalty of his group.  Current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, in a futile effort to exercise some control, placed the command of the militias under the direct control of the Prime Minister's office.  But its difficult to for Abadi to gain traction when even the usually diplomatic Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani clearly identifies the independent nature of the militias.  Marja Ali-al-Sistani (Marja signifying the Islamic legal authority of a Grand Ayatollah) has provided for the conduct of the militias, with a declaration of "Advice and Guidance to the Fighters on the Battlefields".  This declaration included twenty points to dictate the conduct of the militias.  Most importantly, Islamic Law should be in effect for areas liberated by the militias.  To quote a Hadith of the Prophet Muhammed, "do not indulge in acts of extremism, do not disrespect dead corpses, do not resort to deceit, do not kill and elder, do not kill a child, do not kill a woman, and do not cut down trees unless necessity dictates otherwise."  Its obvious that the IS and the militias are using a separate Islamic Law Book.

The Iraqi Prime Minister's office is faced with attempting to control the militias (or PMUs), while the PMUs are taking their marching orders from Sistani and the Iranians.  Everything is copacetic as long as all three share the same agenda.  But what can we expect after the IS is defeated?  And to add to the confusion, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a man with a few mistakes to his credit, has started to make noise again.  In 2014 Maliki attempted to extend his term in office.  His effort failed when his own supporters abandoned him.  Now Maliki is making waves by claiming that he is responsible for the creation of the PMUs, as opposed to Ali al-Sistani.  At a Shi'a tribal gathering on June 13 in the Holy City of Karbala, Maliki claimed that the fall of the Sunni areas of Anbar province was "a Sunni sectarian revolution against the Shiites".  Maliki also seems to believe that the fall of Mosul during his term as Prime Minister was a conspiracy brought on by the Mosul Provincial Council and the Kurds!  On June 17, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a political role for the PMUs in shaping Iraq's future.  We are convinced that the Iranians would like to see the PMUs morph into an Iraqi "Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps" (IRGC), and Maliki is just the man to stir up Sunni/Shia rivalries.  With Maliki making speeches to enflame the Iraqi Shia, and the ISF unable to successfully combat the IS without the PMUS, the stage is set for a major escalation in Iranian influence in Iraq.  And when did all this happen?  While Secretary of State John Kerry was negotiating a Nuclear Treaty with Iran, which if approved would end the Iranian sanctions regime.  This Administration just can't get enough of making treaties with unreliable governments.  The Iranians openly express disrespect and disdain for our way of life and our values; why in the world would be expect them to abide by a treaty with us?  As I see it, and as I understand Islam, their disdain for us actually OBLIGATES them to not abide by the restrictions in the treaty.  Quel bordel!

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