Iraqi militias challenge defense minister over comments against PMF

Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Anad must be “held accountable” for accusing state-sanctioned paramilitaries of unleashing violence in the country, militia-linked politicians said on Monday.

Tensions between the government and the militias increased after the arrest last week of Qassem Musleh, the head of operations of the Popular Mobilization Forces (FMP) in Anbar province.

He has been charged with terrorism, assassinations and attacks on US troops based in the country.

Iranian-backed PMF militias responded with a show of force in and around the heavily guarded Green Zone of Baghdad, where government buildings and embassies are located, leading to a standoff with the military.

Mr. Anad called the incident a “security breach” and warned against such actions.

“We call on the groups not to repeat what happened.

“It is shameful that a conflict takes place within the security system, but there are parties who seek to wreak havoc in the country and watch from a distance by pouring fuel that ignites the flames of a civil war.” , said Mr. Anad.

The minister’s remarks were criticized by parliamentarians linked to the PMF.

“Parliament must hold politicians accountable for fueling and inciting violence between the armed forces,” said Mohammed Abdul Karim, MP for the Fatah alliance which includes MPs associated with Iranian-backed groups in the PMF.

The alliance is led by Hadi Al Ameri of the Badr Organization, one of the oldest, largest and most important Iraqi Shiite groups with close ties to Tehran.

“The fighting between officially recognized armed forces is of interest only to the US occupation forces, which are trying to stay in Iraq under any pretext,” Karim said.

Saad Al Saadi, a member of the political bureau of Asaib Ahl Al Haq, another militia affiliated with Fatah, accused Mr. Anad of siding with the Americans.

“The Minister of Defense is now part of the American project,” he said.

Mr. Al Saadi said Mr. Anad’s comment was “an insult to the PMF’s efforts to counter ISIS.”

The PMF was a major force in the war in Iraq against the extremist group from 2014 to 2017, supporting Iraqi troops backed by the US-led global coalition.

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Former Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said on Twitter that efforts to drag PMF members into a confrontation with the military were unsuccessful.

“There are attempts to drag the army and PMF into clashes, but they have failed,” he said, adding that the two sides have “mixed their blood” to liberate Iraq from it. Islamic state.

Mr. Al Maliki warned against those who inflame “sedition”.

During Mr. Al Maliki’s eight-year tenure, Iraq has witnessed sectarian violence that has contributed to the rise of ISIS.

Washington has accused its administration of running a sectarian government that has alienated sections of Iraqi society, especially the Sunni minority, pushing them into the arms of ISIS, and has undermined the morale of the military.

Mr. Al Maliki reluctantly left office in 2014 after the security forces collapsed in the face of a lightning advance by ISIS in northern Iraq.

The PMF was formed after tens of thousands of Iraqis responded to a call from Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, to take up arms against the extremist group.

The militias were formally inducted into Iraqi State Security in 2018, following the defeat of ISIS, and are expected to report directly to the Prime Minister.

However, Iran has had a clear hand in coordinating with PMF leaders since then, undermining the Iraqi state.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has pledged to curb Iranian-backed militias that operate outside state control after he took office last May, but to no avail so far.

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