On the 20th of March 2003, the Western Coalition invaded Iraq and toppled its dictator, Saddam Hussein. This set off a chain of events described in a previous article published on Defensionem – The WarBible, http://www.defensionem.com/shock-awe-butterfly-effect/. On the 15th anniversary of this war -which is still going on, by the way- it would be interesting to have a light overview of another side effect of this conflict: How the West inadvertently gifted Iraq to Iran.
On Friday the 9th of March 2018, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi signed a decree integrating the PMU into the Iraqi army. PMU stands for Popular Mobilization Units (also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) or People’s Mobilization Committee (PMC)).
PMU is an Iraqi militia. At first, it was made up almost exclusively of Shia militants, but it has increasingly accepted Yazidis, Christians and Sunnis into its ranks to try and polish its image and reject any accusation of sectarianism. This militia was born out of necessity, after the humiliation the Iraqi army suffered at the hands of ISIS in 2014.
In June 2014, 67,900 lightly equipped ISIS militiamen and various Sunni tribesmen launched an offensive against 73,000 Iraqi army soldiers supported by police forces, Iranian Quds troops and US advisors. Those forces were heavily equipped and were supported by the Iraqi Air Force.
Despite its overwhelming numerical and qualitative superiority in men and machine, the Iraqi army literally melted away in the face of ISIS’s offensive. Not only did It lose its border with Syria, Jordan and important cities such as Mosul and Tikrit, it also abandoned massive quantities of hardware and ammunition behind in the process.
Baghdad itself was threatened and the government responded by calling various militias for help to bolster the ranks of its beleaguered armed forces.
PMU, being overwhelmingly made of Iraqi and Iranian Shia militiamen, has so far been partly financed and wholly trained by Iran: Many of the military advisers training those troops are either Hezbollah or Quds Forces’ (Iranian Revolutionary guards) officers.
PMU has been at the forefront of the war against ISIS, participating in every major offensives in Iraq since 2014. However, PMU is also openly anti-American and even took part in the Iraqi army’s offensive against the Kurdish Peshmergas in October 2017 when the Iraqi government forcefully resumed control over the Kirkuk oilfields
This militia has also gained a bad reputations on the battlefields for committing atrocities.
In January 2018, General Dynamics announced that it would stop maintaining Iraqi Abrams tanks as several of them had ended up -alongside other American platforms and weapon systems- in the hands of several Iraqi militias… The main one being the PMU.
Having a pro-Iranian and pro-Assad militia acquiring top end American equipment was bound to displease Washington. The Pentagon asked Baghdad to retrieve all Abrams or lose out on any further equipment supply and maintenance.
It just got worst: On Friday the 9th of March 2018, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi signed a decree integrating the PMU into the Iraqi army. This means 150,000 pro-Iranian militiamen will now receive ranks and salaries from the Iraqi ministry of defence as well as being able to join Iraqi military academies and gaining access to the army’s arsenals.
Iran’s grip on Iraq just got much tighter. The irony is that the process started on the 20th of March 2003 with the US Coalition’s invasion of Iraq and the subsequent steps taken by the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority / American administration in Iraq), which temporarily ruled the country thereafter.
On the 16th of May 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority issued CPA Order 1, launching the “De-Ba’athification” of Iraq, making tens of thousands of Sunni civil servants jobless in the process.
That law was followed by CPA Order 2 on the 23rd of May which led to the disbanding of the Iraqi armed forces and Iraqi police, meaning thousands more Sunnis found themselves cast aside from the Iraqi society; jobless. Those ones all had military and /or weapon handling training.
CPA 1 and 2 created a power vacuum and started a process which led to two Iraqi insurgencies, a civil / sectarian war, paved the way for the rise of ISIS and led to the establishment of the Al Maliki I Government from May 2006 onward…
A secular Sunni dictator (Saddam Hussein), notoriously anti-Iran, had been replaced by a Shia Prime Minister (Al Maliki), member of the Islamic Dawa Party, a political entity with deep affinities and connections in Tehran… How ironic that between 1980 and 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, the Islamic Dawa Party supported Iran while the West supported and armed Saddam Hussein !
The current Iraqi prime minister – Haider al-Abadi – is also a member of the Islamic Dawa Party and therefore has affinities with Tehran. Iran now exercise its influence at all levels in Iraq, at government levels, in military circles as well as economically. Slowly, but surely, Iraq is becoming an Iranian satellite.
The West basically inadvertently gifted Iraq to Iran. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving….