With calls from both abroad and within for Iraq to disband the massive numbers of Shi’ite militias in the country and integrate them directly into the military, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s top Shi’ite religious leader, is pushing back at the suggestion.
In a statement issued through his representative in Karbalah, Sistani presented the militias as an important asset for Iraq, and one that the country should continue to benefit from, while insisting the groups should be kept within the judicial framework of the country’s security services.
Throughout the ISIS war, Iraq was increasingly reliant on the various Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). During the “liberation” of large Sunni cities, the Shi’ite militias were accused of ever growing violence against civilians, and the government appeared to have little ability to police the forces, despite them nominally being under government control.
With ISIS defeated and elections looming, Prime Minister Hayder Abadi has tried to forbid top militia leaders from contesting the vote, which suggests he’s trying to greatly reduce the militias’ power. This has led to calls by some militia leaders to disarm, or see their factions directly brought under military control. Sistani’s endorsement of the militias’ continued existence as a separate part of government security may force Abadi to limit attempts to weaken them.
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