Since its establishment, the Iranian influence has been evident and well known on the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, which may explain the recent American attacks that targeted the PMF in Iraq. On January 2, US jets targeted Baghdad International Airport, killing the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani, and the leader of PMF, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
A few years ago, the United States was fighting alongside the Popular Mobilization Forces against ISIS in Iraq, when these forces were formally incorporated into the Iraqi army in the Iraqi constitution, America had not taken any hostile positions, as it agreed to participate in the Iraqi elections, but why did it begin? Is the USA now targeting the Popular Mobilization Forces?
America also allowed the PMF to attack Kirkuk in southern Kurdistan after the referendum on Kurdistan's independence.
Who are the Popular Mobilization Forces?
Founding the Popular Mobilization Forces
In 2014, ISIS emerged in Iraq, taking control of many predominantly Sunni Iraqi areas. Following the expansion of ISIS, and on the third of June 2014, the Shiite religious leader, Ayatollah Sistani, called the Shiites in the country to jihad, and after that call began efforts to organize and establish a force in the name of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, announced the government's readiness to pay salaries to the people who would join this force, and due to Iranian support and assistance the popular mobilization managed to organize its ranks within a short period, and began to move and implement military operations against ISIS.
Iran has provided great support to the popular mobilization, which includes arms support, in addition to logistical support and financial financing, and it has also trained its elements at the hands of the Quds Force, which are special forces to carry out operations outside the country, and are affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Even the commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, had personally led the military operation against ISIS in the Iraqi governate of Anbar.
The Popular Mobilization Forces participated in military operations alongside the Iraqi army in Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul, Tal Afar, and even Şengal. In November 26, 2016, the Iraqi parliament issued a law that officially recognized the popular crowd as the official Iraqi defense forces.
After the PMF gained the official character in Iraq, its influence increased, and it managed to recruit many elements, and many Shiite clans, sects and methods joined it. The number of the Popular Mobilization Forces is estimated at about 200,000.
The PMF includes about 70 factions, including factions loyal to Iran and the Iraqi Hezbollah party and Maliki, and factions that follow Muqtada al-Sadr, who distance themselves from Iranian influence.
The main factions within the Iraqi popular crowd
Muqtada al-Sadr generally pursues Iraqi politics, and after the liberation of Mosul from ISIS, Sadr announced that some factions of PMF had gone out of control, and he also said that these forces had performed their duties completely, and should be disbanded.
Although the name of certain factions has emerged within the PMF, such as the Badr Brigade, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Hezbollah Brigades, Major General Ali Akbar and Ansar al-Marjaiya, the Popular Mobilization Forces includes more than 70 different factions.
Foremost among the pro-Iranian factions is the Badr Brigade, and many pro-Sadr factions are calling for the rebuilding of the Mahdi Army.
After the recent American attacks, revenge times escalated, and Muqtada al-Sadr also called for the rebuilding of the Mahdi Army.
The main groups and factions from which the popular crowd is formed are as follows:
Al-Badr Brigade: The largest, oldest and strongest armed faction within the PMF.
During the Iran-Iraq war between 1981 and 1988, Hadi al-Amiri was leading the pro-Iranian organization against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Hadi al-Amiri is the former Iraqi Minister of Transport and Communications, and the leader of the Badr Organization, which is the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and Al-Amiri has close ties with Qasim Suleimani.
Al-Badr corps, led by Hadi al-Amiri, has had military power since the days of the Iran-Iraq war, and in 2008 he announced laying down arms and becoming a political party, but in 2014 he retook arms.
In the 2010 elections, he was elected to the Iraqi parliamentarian membership of Maliki's legal state party.
The Badr Corps is active in all regions of Iraq, especially in the provinces of Diyala, Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq: This faction split from the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, and contrary to the Mahdi Army’s approach, the faction has close ties with Iran. The organization is active in Najaf, Karbala, and Baghdad, and is led by Qais al-Khazali.
The armed faction participated in the battles of Kirkuk and Khurmato, and includes armed groups affiliated with the pro-Turkish Iraqi Turkmen Front.
Hezbollah Brigades: This organization appeared in the name of “Army of Mukhtar” during the American intervention in Iraq in 2003, and it became clear later that the organization pledged allegiance to Iranian religious leader Ali Khamenei.
The organization is active in other parts of Iraq, and it is particularly easy for it to recruit supporters from among the Turkmen in Iraq.
Sayed Shuhada Battalion: led by Abu Alaa Al-Wala'i, known for his close ties to Hezbollah, and pledged loyalty to Khamenei.
Khorasan Squads: The source of this organization is Iran, and it is led by Iranian leaders.
Al-Salam Squads: This organization is known to be close to the former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and is active in Samarra, Najaf and a number of other Iraqi regions, and the organization was founded in 2014 with the support of Muqtada al-Sadr.
Popular crowd factions witness sometimes splits in their ranks, while members of some groups join other groups within the Popular Mobilization Forces.