Monday, September 2, 2019

PM Mahdi Fails 1st Test Of New Hashd Order In Iraq

Protests staged by 30th Brigade in August against PM Mahdi's order to have it withdraw from Mosul and the Ninewa Plains (Al Mada)


In July 2019 Prime Minister Adil Mahdi issued an executive order that the Hashd would be further integrated into the state. That included following the commander in chief, no longer being linked to political parties, giving up their individual names, only being known by their brigade numbers, etc. Immediately the premier’s authority was challenged by the 30th Brigade in Ninewa, and he caved in providing another example of how the central government has resigned itself to allow the Hashd to do what they want in Iraq.

Twice the 30th Brigade was ordered to leave parts of Ninewa and it refused. In August 2018 then Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi issued an executive order that all Hashd units had to withdraw from Mosul and the Ninewa Plains. It also said that Hashd units in the province were to come under the Ninewa Operations Command. Currently the Hashd have their own command structure in the province. In March 2019 PM Mahdi repeated the order. Both times the 30th Brigade ignored the prime minister. The reason why the unit was told to leave was because it has forced Christians out of towns, taken property, blocked aid groups from entering its territory, run checkpoints for profits, and gone into the scrap metal business in Mosul. In July, the head of the Brigade Waad Qado was sanctioned by the United States for extortion, illegal arrests, and kidnappings. These actions are partly the result of the weak governance across postwar areas where the Hashd are now a law upon themselves and exploiting the power vacuum. It also came about because the brigade is mostly rural and poor Shabaks who are now attempting to enter the towns and cities and asserting themselves. Regional units like the 30th Brigade only have a nominal connection with the government, and feel the local situation is far more important than what the prime minister has to say.

When PM Mahdi released his latest order on the Hashd in July the 30th Brigade protested, and won its showdown. Despite claims by Badr and the head of the Hashd Commission National Security Adviser Falah Fayad that units were complying with the premier, the head of the Babylon list aligned with the 30th Brigade claimed that the new commands for the Hashd didn’t actually come from Mahdi, a Hashd spokesman told the press that the PM would withdraw the request of the 30th Brigade to withdraw, and then the unit staged protests on the Mosul-Irbil road, even clashing with Iraqi forces that were trying to remove them. This was a real test for the prime minister as this unit was not only ignoring his power but was now in open defiance and resisting government forces. Mahdi’s response was to send a delegation to Ninewa, which negotiated a deal with the 30th Brigade, resulting in the unit being able to stay in Mosul and the Ninewa Plains. Once again, Baghdad showed it had no will and no teeth to back up its wishes to bring the Hashd under government oversight. Instead, the 30th Brigade showed that it and other units can do what they want and the government will give into their demands. Iraq already suffers from a fractious political system with competing parties all in the government. The Hashd are just an added problem to the inability of Baghdad to impose order and unity upon the country, something that has plagued it since 2003.

SOURCES

Al Alam, “Fayad is attached to securing the popular crowd for the Ninewa plain,” 8/6/19

Davison, John, “Exclusive: Iran-backed groups corner Iraq’s postwar scrap metal market – sources,” 7/31/19

Ghafuri, Lawk, “Mosul protesters oppose Hashd withdrawal from Nineveh Plain,” Rudaw, 8/5/19

Gotts, Isadora, “PMU economics offices undermine fragile stability in Mosul,” Al Monitor, 5/27/19

Hath al-Youm, “The demands of the withdrawal of the crowd from the Ninewa Plain, offset by calls for the return of the Peshmerga,” 7/30/19

Iraq News Network, “Security leaders arrive in Mosul to find out the cause of the riots of the Shabak militia,” 8/6/19

Knights, Michael, “Iran-Backed Militias Test the Credibility of Iraq’s Prime Minister,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 6/19/19
- “Iran’s Expanding Militia Army in Iraq: The New Special Groups,” CTC Sentinel, August 2019
- “Normalizing Security in the Nineveh Plains,” Iraq In Context,” 7/5/19

Al Maalomah, “Popular crowd: Abdul Mahdi will withdraw his withdrawal of 30th Brigade from the Ninewa Plain,” 7/30/19

Al Mada, “Shabak mobilization moves civilians to prevent the state from evacuating five sites in the Ninewa plain,” 8/6/19

Al Masalah, “Badr: All factions comply with the government order of the popular crowd,” 7/29/19
- “Fears of the return of the Peshmerga to the Ninewa Plains and annex the region in the case of withdrawal of the popular crowd,” 7/30/19

NINA, “Fayyad: The Popular Mobilization Needs Two Months To Complete The Process Of Integration And Homogeneity,” 7/30/19

Reuters, “U.S. imposes sanctions on four Iraqis over human rights and corruption,” 7/18/19


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