Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has praised the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) as the “integral” part of his country’s security system, stressing that the Baghdad government is determined to protect the pro-government force, which has made enormous sacrifices in battles against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
“The Popular Mobilization Units is a basic and impartial force, which will remain a part of the Iraqi security system. Our duty is to protect it,” Abadi said during a meeting with senior commanders of the force – commonly known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi – in Baghdad on Saturday, Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network reported.
Secretary General of Badr Organization Hadi al-Ameri, for his part, said the military might of Hashd al-Sha’abi originates from a strong Iraqi government.
“Hashd al-Sha’abi is defending all Iraqis, and is under the command of the Commander in Chief of Armed Forces,” commented Qais al-Khazali, commander of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq volunteer forces.
Hashd al-Sha’abi is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 groups, which are mainly Shia Muslims. The force reportedly numbers more than 100,000 fighters. Iraqi authorities say there are between 25,000 and 30,000 Sunni tribal fighters within its ranks in addition to Kurdish Izadi and Christian units.
The fighters have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.
Iraq has repeatedly condemned allegations of sectarian nature against Hashd al-Sha’abi.
Last December, Baghdad warned Riyadh of the ramifications of meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, after Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Iraq cannot realize unity with the presence of the Popular Mobilization Units.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly labeled the PMU, which incorporates volunteer forces from different Iraqi factions and tribes, as a Shia movement and called for the dismantling of the group.
Last November, the Iraqi Parliament approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters. It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the volunteer fighters under the command of the prime minister, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.