Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Iraq: Parliament allocates $60 million to Popular Mobilization forces
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Iraqi Shi'ite fighters salute to the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad, in Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus on May 25, 2013. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani)

Iraqi Shi’ite fighters salute to the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad, in Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus on May 25, 2013. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s parliament on Monday allocated 60 million US dollars to support and develop Popular Mobilization forces in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Popular Mobilization Committee, otherwise known as the Hashid Al-Shaabi forces are a group of powerful Shi’ite militias and paramilitary groups that have united under an initiative put forward by the Haider Al-Abadi government to confront ISIS.

Baghdad is also in the process of establishing National Guard forces in each Iraqi province to assist in the battle against the extremist group. Iraq’s National Guard will be made up of local forces and will reflect the unique sectarian and ethnic makeup of each of Iraq’s governorates.

Observers view the Popular Mobilization forces as being a predominately Shi’ite endeavor, believed to be receiving direct support from Tehran. While the National Guard project, which is still under discussion, is viewed as being part of Sunni anti-ISIS efforts and would see Sunni tribes in territory held by the group—including Anbar—receiving more support from Baghdad, as well as greater military cooperation and coordination.

ISIS captured key cities in Iraq’s northwest in June last year.

Abadi spokesman Saad Al-Hadithi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Funds have been allocated for the Popular Mobilization and National Guard forces as part of Iraq’s 2015 budget. However until the National Guard law is passed, the Popular Mobilization forces remain the only such force that is present on the ground to receive any funds. Therefore, it must receive the funds allocated to it.”

While State of Law coalition official Adnan Al-Saraj said: “Unlike the National Guard, the Popular Mobilization forces are currently a reality on the ground and have passed all the tests and challenges that they have faced.”

He praised the Popular Mobilization forces’ efforts so far to unite and coordinate on the ground, but stressed that Baghdad must now do more to financially support these volunteer militias.

“This force has achieved successes against ISIS in areas like Diyala and Jurf Al-Sakhar while it has also been able, in a very short time, to achieve excellent coordination with the Iraqi army as well as acceptance from Iraq’s tribes, including the Sunni tribes that are fighting against ISIS,” Saraj told Asharq Al-Awsat.