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Following IRGC Footsteps, Iraqi “Popular Mobilization” Militias to Be Equal Army | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi men from Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) march during a parade marking the annual al-Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Baghdad, July 10, 2015. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)

Baghdad – The controversial “popular mobilization” militias would soon become a military body that would be equal to Iraq’s official forces in terms of capacity and arming, following the footsteps of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which was formed in a similar manner.

An official document signed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi revealed the planned process of converting the militias to a military party equal to counter-terrorism apparatus, including a number of units and fighters subject to direct approval by the prime minister.

The document was leaked by the “popular mobilization” group on Tuesday, in a step that would deepen disputes between the militant group and other Iraqi parties, according to Asharq al-Awsat sources.

The sources added that such militias could be used to execute “sectarian liquidations.”

Last February, Abadi issued a decision to convert the popular mobilization militias into a security apparatus that is supportive to the counter-terrorism apparatus in terms of training capacity, arming, and readiness under the same laws.

The decision stipulated that the new apparatus would have a leader, a deputy-leader and 20 brigades and supportive directorates.

In comments on Tuesday, the “popular mobilization” group’s spokesman, Ahmed Al-Asadi, said that government’s decision ordered that the new parallel force would be directly linked to the general command, in reference to the Iraqi prime minister.

Meanwhile, Iraqi sources close to the matter told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the announcement was aimed at pushing the prime minister, who is also the Armed Forces’ general commander, to implement the new decision as soon as possible.

The Iraqi source noted that many challenges would face this conversion, as the prime minister wants the militias to be equal to counter-terrorism apparatus. Those challenges include the required age group and the educational level of militants, the source added.

Another obstacle lies in the required number of troops. While the counter-terrorism apparatus should not exceed 25,000 members, the “popular mobilization” militias gather more than 170,000 militants. This will be a difficult task to resolve, according to the same source.