Arab Leaders Urge Global Push to Expel Iran-Allied Shiite Fighters from Mosul

Fighters from the Badr Brigades Shiite militia clash with Islamic State militant group at the front line, on the outskirts of Fallujah, Anbar province, Iraq, Monday, June 1, 2015. Three Islamic State suicide bombers targeted a police base in the Tharthar area north of Ramadi, some 30 miles (48 kilometers) …
AP Photo/Hadi Mizban

Arab leaders in northern Iraq’s Sunni-majority Nineveh province have called on the international community to keep Iran-allied Shiite fighters, such as members of the Baghdad-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), out of the provincial capital of Mosul and its surrounding areas.

The Iran-affiliated PMU, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Hashd al-Shaabi, have been fighting alongside U.S.-backed local forces in Iraq to liberate Mosul from the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

PMU fighters are predominantly Shiite, but the force also includes some Sunni tribal forces.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya reports:

Tribal leaders of Nineveh province called the international community to distance Popular Mobilization militias from Mosul and its suburbs and stop Iranian expansion in the region.

This statements came at a tribal conference held in a region of northwest of Mosul.

The tribes accused the popular mobilization militias of bulldozing houses and stealing properties in captured areas west of Mosul.

Human rights watchdog group Amnesty International, echoing other assessments, has accused PMU fighters of committing atrocities against Sunni civilians in Iraq.

Prior to the start of the U.S.-backed offensive to push ISIS out of Mosul in October 2016, Nineveh tribal leaders expressed dismay at the participation of Shiite militiamen like members of the PMU.

Nineveh Sheikh A’hd al-Khalidi told Rudaw on the day before the offensive started that the residents of the province “are concerned and fear for what will happen after ISIS. The possibility of personal revenge makes people afraid.”

“Personally I believe that if the Hashd al-Shaabi were a professional force and not sectarian and their goal was to protect Mosul, I would not mind if they entered Nineveh,” added Sheikh Mahmoud al-Jabouri.

“Nineveh tribal leaders reject the participation of foreign, regional, and Shiite militias in the military offensive to liberate Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province, amid concerns about the future of their region,” reported Rudaw.

Despite the allegations against the PMU fighters, the U.S. military has praised the Iran PMU fighters for their contribution to the operation to retake Mosul.

Amid the offensive in November of last year, the Shiite-led Iraqi Parliament enacted a law making the PMU legal and placing them under the umbrella of the Iraqi armed forces.

In its most recent World Wide Threat Assessment, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) noted that the PMU will remain an official component of the Iraqi military even after ISIS falls.

U.S.-backed local forces are reportedly close to retaking Mosul, considered ISIS’s last major stronghold in Iraq.

The DIA’s assessment points out:

Iraqi security forces’ shortcomings are likely to prompt a continued security role for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella for a diverse array of militias largely dominated by Iranian-aligned Shia militia groups, which have gained popularity and political influence with some officials and probably much of the Shia populace in Iraq as a result of their successes in most counter-ISIS battles in 2016.

“The presence of the PMF in areas liberated from ISIS would likely increase ethnic tensions with the Kurds and Sunni Arabs and may lead to violent clashes,” it adds.

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