The Iraqi House of Representatives last week approved an Act legitimizing the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the pro-Iranian militias accused of acts of barbarism and brutality in Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul. The Act was opposed by Sunnis in the parliament but pushed through by a Shia majority. The new law recognizes the PMF as a legitimate military force in Iraq and some Shia Iraqi MPs are now even calling for further legislation to absolve PMF fighters from any accusations of crimes against humanity.
The legal moves have been widely condemned by leading Sunnis. The Speaker of the House of Representatives Salem al-Jubouri said: “the approval of the popular Mobilization Act will not exempt those who violated the constitution and they will be held accountable under the law.” The Head of the Sunni Muttahidoon Coalition, Osama al-Nujaifi, said they will challenge the law on the PMF and will “refuse the political settlement fully.”
The PMF are supported, manned, funded and often led by the Iranian regime. They have been accused of sectarian crimes against humanity every bit as barbarous and criminal as ISIS/Daesh. Horrific atrocities were committed during the so-called ‘liberation’ of Fallujah, where the PMF systematically arrested Sunni men and women fleeing the conflict. Many were tortured and executed. The Shia militias are financed and led by the Iranian terrorist Qods Force, whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terrorist lists. The same thing happened during the so-called ‘liberation’ of Ramadi, a city of over one million predominantly Sunni people, which was reduced to dust and rubble. Barely a single building was left intact and the male population simply disappeared.
Tehran is relentlessly strengthening its grip over Iraq. Corruption and poor training has rendered the Iraqi army almost useless, leaving a vacuum, which the Iranian regime has been quick to fill, pressuring Iraq’s Prime Minister into allowing the Iranian-funded PMF to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, combined with a directionless and dysfunctional American foreign policy, has paved the way for the fascist Iranian mullah-led regime to consolidate its hold in Iraq.
The Iraqi Sunnis of al-Anbar have paid a heavy price for international complacency. Having achieved their sectarian objectives in Diyala, Ramadi and Fallujah, Tehran has now turned its attention to Mosul in Nineveh Province, Northern Iraq, where the PMF are in the fron tline of the battle to ‘liberate’ the city. Mosul is Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than one and a half million Sunnis. It has been held by Daesh since 2014 and its ethnic cleansing features highly on the Iranian regime’s priority list. The Sunni population of Mosul fear they will face the same fate as their brothers and sisters in Ramadi and Fallujah.
The legitimizing of the PMF is an outrage and cannot be accepted by the international community. The only possible solution in Iraq is for the West to assert pressure for real reforms, which must include the expulsion of Iran and its agents from Iraq and the disarming of the Shia PMF. Iraq must re-integrate the Sunnis and other minorities into society, completely reforming the heavily politicized judiciary and stamping out corruption.
Defeating Daesh in Mosul cannot happen by using the Iranian-led Shia PMF at the expense of Iraq’s Sunni population. Western cooperation with the criminal militias, even if it ultimately leads to the expulsion of Daesh from Mosul, will strengthen the jihadists in the long term and as soon as the US military and air force leave Iraq, Daesh will return.
Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).