Falih Alfayyah announces closure of PMUs recruitment centres but calls for two month extension to integration process into the Iraqi army
“All other names under which the factions of Hashd al-Shaabi operated during the heroic battles that eradicated the Daesh (IS) terrorist entity will be abandoned and replaced with military terms (division, brigade, regiment, et cetera),” said the decree, according to Rudaw.
Bases, checkpoints, economic offices and other entitites outside the “new working framework” would need to be closed.
The PMUs officially came under central government control, with central government funding, in 2016.
The move to constrain armed groups in Iraq came after a number of attacks in June targeting American interests in the country, including an attack on an oilfield in Basra, and an attack near the US embassy in Baghdad.
The US has, in recent months, moved to place greater sanctions on PMU members as tensions rise with Iran over incidents in the Gulf.
In mid-July, the US placed sanctions on the leaders of two non-Shia PMU groups – Rayan al-Kildani, head of the Christian Babylon Brigade, and Waad Qad, head of the Shabak 30th Brigade, an organisation comprised of members of the tiny Shabak Muslim minority.
Slamming the sanctions on Tueday, Alfayyadh said: “We refuse the US treasury sanctions, because they have no evidence and they clearly are humiliating Iraqi sovereignty.”
A number of leaders of the PMUs have welcomed Mahdi’s decree, including Qais al-Khazali – leader of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq – and the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Renad Mansour, an analyst with the Chatham House think-tank, wrote in Foreign Policy that the conciliatory attitude from PMU leaders could be an indication that they believe the new move will allow them to “consolidate power from within the state”.
“Although the new policy mandates that the PMF integrate with the Iraqi state, it does not require their subordination,” he wrote.
“If anything, the risk may be that the state is subordinating itself to the paramilitary groups, not the other way around.”