On March 18, four pro-Najaf Hashd Brigades asked to join the Defense Ministry and leave the Hashd Commission. Those units were the Al-Abbas Combat Division, the Imam Ali Brigade, the Ansar al-Marjaiya Brigade, and the Ali Akbbar Brigade. This was to protest the recent appointment of Abdul Aziz al-Muhammadawi aka Abu Fadak from Kataib Hezbollah to lead the Commission in February. He replaced Abu Muhandis who was killed by the United States along with Iranian Revolution Guard Quds Force Commander General Qasim Suleimani. Abu Fadak was selected by a special committee made up of Kataib Hezbollah, Badr, Jund al-Imam Brigades, Sayid al-Shuahda Brigades, and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq. The Najaf aligned groups were not only not part of the process, but only heard about the selection of Abu Fadak when it was announced to the public. Those units loyal to the religious establishment have always complained that they were marginalized within the Hashd, and this was another example. It also came as they demanded major positions in the Hashd Commission. That effort obviously failed leading to their demand to join the Defense Ministry instead.
The Hashd while nominally a separate branch of the security forces and under control of the prime minister who is the commander in chief, are made up of dozens of different units with various loyalties either to their leaders or larger political parties. Those that run the Hashd Commission are all aligned with Iran. They have carried out Tehran’s wishes from fighting in Syria to attempting to suppress the protests. The pro-Najaf units have demanded that they actually be under government control, and only focus upon fighting the Islamic State. Those wishes have been ignored providing yet another reason for them to distance themselves from the other Hashd elements.
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