Iraqi Shiite militias

Iraqi Shiite militias


Dr. Khaled M. BatarfiDr. Khaled M. Batarfi

AKRAM Al-Kaabi, secretary general of ‘Al-Nujaba’ Shiite militia in Iraq is threatening your country. He promised, once done with Daesh (the so-called IS) in Mosul, to take the war to Syria, then to Saudi Arabia,” my colleague from Sky News Arabia points out. “I am sending you a link to his speech and we need your comments,” he requested.

I watched the YouTube video of Al-Kaabi’s public address to what looks like religious and military leaders. It was even worse than expected. According to him “the road to Jerusalem goes through Makkah and Madinah, Hejaz and ‘our’ eastern region.”

I wasn’t surprised. Soon after Iranian clergy, Ayatollah Khomeini, returned to Tehran in a French airliner, with US, France and UK blessings, he announced his grand vision. It includes exporting “Islamic” revolution to the world, starting with neighbors, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, then “liberating” Makkah, Madinah, the eastern region and Bahrain. In the final stage, all the world should be ruled by Shiite Islam and its grand imam, in Tehran. What Al-Kaabi and Al-Houthi and company are calling for is old news. With Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Saana under their control, they feel the grand dream is about to be realized.

In my Sky News interview, I also reminded my audience of what Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said two weeks ago at a press conference in Riyadh: “The so-called ‘popular militia’ is a religious organization, which carries out mass killings in Iraq with support of Iranian generals headed by Qassem Suleimani. The existence of such armed groups threatens the unity and security of Iraq,” he warned.

Al-Jubeir called for the dissolution of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi) and also urged Iran to refrain from igniting sectarian strife and from its hostility toward Saudi Arabia
In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi angrily refused Al-Jubeir’s call for the dissolution of PMUs and advised Saudi Arabia to “solve its problems away from Iraq.”

Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ahmed Gamal, stated that “Recurrent abusive remarks and accusations by the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, of the heroes and sacrifices of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi reflect that Saudis maintain their tense approach on Iraq, which is made on narrow and sectarian backgrounds.”

Gamal added that the PMUs remain “a national, courageous combat force that operates within the limits of the law enacted by the parliament, and is one of the official security formations of the state.”

In November, the Iraqi parliament approved a law giving full legal status to Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi fighters. It recognized the PMUs as part of the national armed forces, placed the volunteer fighters under the command of Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.

With PMU leaders’ threating to fight in Syria and attack Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi government must clarify its position. If these actions, calls and comments do not represent its policies (and I believe they don’t), the government should make its stand crystal clear and rein in those maverick gang leaders.

It is not enough for the prime minister and supreme leader of the Iraqi armed forces to plead with the militia not to venture outside Iraq’s borders, like he did recently. They are either under his command obeying his orders, or under Iranian control, as Al-Jubeir maintained, and should be dissolved. We cannot have a worse situation than that of Hezbollah. At least, the Lebanese government is not claiming control or paying the bills. This is more like in Yemen. And that is the same road Al-Houthi took to overthrow the legitimate government.

In case the Iraqi government is not capable of dissolving or ruling Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, it should say so. This way, the rest of us could deal with them as we did with Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Terrorists should not receive government’s cover and support. They cannot wear soldiers’ uniforms, carry state-issued arms and receive salaries. That is exactly why the world regards Iran as a rogue regime and terrorism-sponsoring state. We cannot accept for another Arab nation to go that way. Aren’t Syria and Yemen enough?

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi