In Militia Standoff, Iraqi PM Learns His Limits

Shi'ite militias show they remain entrenched in security

Mustafa Khadimi, Iraq’s latest prime minister, sought to establish himself by moving against Shi’ite militias, something that was a top priority for the US. Detention of members of Ketaib Hezbollah was a big challenge to a big group.

It did not go well. Iraq has such a limited independent security mechanism that detained Ketaib Hezbollah members were being held by their own militia during the detention. Finally they made a non-specific deal and let them go.

It was a lesson learned though. Khadimi may have the support of the US, but his power as premier has some clear limits in moving domestically against Shi’ite groups that are large political forces, and entrenched in the nation’s military security.

This has been a hassle for Iraqi PMs for awhile, as they are meant to gear up for new elections, but need to keep things more or less stable while that happens. Trying to become another strongman in the vein of Maliki simply isn’t an option with the militias as they are.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of