Iraq’s parliament grants legal status to Shi’ite militias

by WorldTribune Staff, November 27, 2016

In a move that was boycotted by Sunni lawmakers, Iraq’s parliament has granted legal status to Shi’ite militias.

The legislation guarantees militias from the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces the right to keep their “identity and character as long as that does not threaten Iraqi national security.”

Fighters raise the flags of Iraq and the Popular Mobilization Forces.
Fighters raise the flags of Iraq and the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The new law gives the militias status as “an auxiliary and supporting force for the Iraqi security forces.” That would entail carrying out security and military functions at the behest of the prime minister.

The motion was supported by 208 of the parliament’s 327 members, but the move was criticized by Sunni representatives. The bill had the backing of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“What was decided today damages … the balance between the state’s bodies, creates new bodies parallel to those of the state and weakens the Iraqi state,” said Osama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq’s three vice presidents.

Ahmed al-Asadi, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces, said the Shi’ite group would “seek to dispel the fears of those who opposed the law.”

The Popular Mobilization Forces are currently involved in the battle for Mosul, teaming up with Kurdish peshmerga fighters from the north and east.

As many as 100,000 Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia are now said to be fighting in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials — raising concerns that should the Islamic State be defeated, it may only be replaced by another anti-American force that fuels further sectarian violence in the region.

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