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New Plot Against Iraq’s PMF? Who Really Wants Voluntary Forces Out And Why?

As the October 17 murder of 12 people in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad by unknown men raised massive waves of reactions across the Iraqi society, on Tuesday Al-Monitor news and analysis outlet reported that a group naming itself “Salahuddin Sunni Community” has attributed the killings to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and called for the expulsion of the voluntary anti-terror forces from the city.

The unproven accusations are coming as the sleeping cells of the takfiri groups and the ISIS remnants over the past year started substantial moves to destabilize Iraq again with blind attacks on the citizens that are also meant to fuel sectarian fights. In response, the army forces and the PMF have launched a new round of operations to rid the terrorism-hit regions of the country of the re-rising takfiri fighters.

The accusations promote some questions: What base does the new anti-PMG project is lying on? Does this new antipathetic wave have real bases or is it a made-up conspiracy directed by foreign actors?

The domino of anti-PMF plots in the disputed regions of Iraq

Over the past month, an American-Israeli-Saudi plot has been in the works to expel the popular forces, formed in 2014 following a fatwa by the grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Sistani to battle the ISIS terrorist group, from the areas dubbed “disputed” under the Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. The trio’s push was mainly represented by a security agreement reached earlier this month between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan region on the Yazidi ethnic people in the disputed territory of Sinjar.

On October 9, Baghdad signed an accord with Erbil for the administration of Sinjar in the north according to which all forces off the circle of the army and the Kurdish Peshmerga militias have to move out of the city. Certainly, the principles of this agreement are based on the opposition to the presence of the PMF in Sinjar. The interesting point was that only a day after the accord, some puppet Sunni voices called for the expulsion of the popular forces from predominantly Sunni regions.

Now and after the new accusations by some Sunni sides, it is obvious that a new plot is underway working like a domino to expel the PMF from the regions on which the central government and the KRG dispute. This scenario is an American-Israel roadmap that is being adopted on the ground under the ruse of the Baghdad-Erbil reconciliation.

Causing crises to revive ISIS

One of the important drivers behind opposition to stay of the PMF in the Sunni-majority regions is the plan to revive terrorism in northern Iraq. The reality is that the Americans have come up with the conclusion that a majority of the Iraqi public and also the political parties want their forces out of the country. Additionally, the Iraqi parliament’s bill for the expulsion of the foreign forces, passed on January 5, is another factor making the American military stay in Iraq impossible.

In such conditions, the Americans are seeking to forge a new crisis and then give new life to the terrorist groups in various parts of Iraq all to cook up justifications associated with the fight against terrorism for their military stay. But meanwhile, the PMF since 2017 remained the unchallenged champion in the defeat of ISIS. This is never favorable to the US and thus it is taking up plots to undermine and then eliminate from the nation’s security and political scenes the popular force in any way. The Americans know very well that the only way they can implement their strategy of ISIS re-emergence in Iraq is the exit of the PMF from the areas with the Sunni majority.

Mohammed Karim, a parliament member for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq movement affiliated with the PMU, told Al-Monitor the PMU believes it is still too early to withdraw from the areas previously controlled by IS, as the organization is trying to occupy some liberated cities. He put calls to expel the PMU from Sunni cities under the category of extortion on the part of political parties that have lost their popularity and are trying to raise security and sectarian problems to obtain sympathy before the early elections scheduled for 2021.

Ammar Hekmat, the deputy governor of Salahuddin province, told Al-Monitor that there are calls for the security forces — including the PMU — to be expelled from the province. He said however that forces are needed to protect the land because, given both the size and complex terrain of Salahuddin province, “local forces are simply not enough.”

Sunnis stand with the PMF

In an analysis of the new anti-PMF conspiracy a question presents itself: Are the Sunnis of Iraq really for the PMF exit or not? The reality is that Sunni lawmakers have repeatedly praised the role played by the PMF in saving their people from the ISIS terrorist group. Sunni tribal leaders have never hidden their appreciation for the role of General Qassem Soleimani of Iran and the PMF in saving the Sunni people when the ISIS in 2014 swept much of the Sunni regions in Iraq while the US, which had a security pact with Iraq and was required to offer protection in the time of need, sat on its hands and watched heinous crimes of the terrorist fighters against the civilians. For example, Sheikh Khaled al-Mulla, the head of the Sunni Iraqi Scholars Community, said of General Soleimani: “When the Sunni regions of Iraq fell to the Daesh (Arabic for ISIS), and the US and the Arab countries left Iraq alone to be seized by the Daesh terrorists, Haj Qassem vowed he would not allow Iraq to be conquered by the Daesh.” These remarks apparently support the premise that the calls to the PMF exit are based on fake propaganda and plot and the Sunni public have never asked out the anti-terror forces who are vigilantly watching the security situation while ISIS is seeking to reorganize.

Qassem al-Kuraiti, the commander of the PMF’s 41st Brigade, in a statement published on October 18 announced that one of the posts of the force was encircled and attacked by ISIS elements who tried to push against an offensive led by local voluntary forces, including fighters from the Sunni tribes that cooperate with the federal security forces and the PMF.

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