An Iraqi government document has revealed that Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi ordered the cancellation of the decision to withdraw the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) militias from city centres across the country. The decision was taken last week by the PMF committee to close all of the militia branches in city centres, especially in areas liberated from Daesh in the north and west of Iraq.
The government paper, issued on 21 August, also emphasised the need to abide by the law and stressed the necessity not to politicise the committee. Al-Abadi ordered Iraqis not to cancel or create armed groups without the approval of the commander-in-chief, otherwise the relevant parties will bear legal responsibility for the consequences.
This appears to be part of the current power struggle in Iraq, where two Shia political currents are racing to form a broad coalition within parliament to form the next government. The first is the Sairoon Alliance supported by Muqtada Al-Sadr and Al-Nasr coalition led by Abadi. The other trend is led by the State of Law Coalition, headed by Vice President Nouri Al-Maliki, and Fatah Alliance which includes the political wing of the PMF led by Hadi Al-Amiri.
A source familiar with the progress of talks between the political blocs that won the recent parliamentary elections explained that the decision to withdraw the PMF was taken by the movement’s committee in an effort to join the Sunni forces to the alliance of Al-Maliki and Al-Amiri.
“The withdrawal of the PMF from the urban centres of cities is a major demand of the Sunni forces in the negotiations to form the government,” the source added. “That is why Al-Amiri and Al-Maliki are seeking to exploit this point politically.”