Members of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd al-Sha’abi) in a street in the town of Hatra southwest of the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, April 28, 2017.

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:00 AM) – Iraqi commanders have rejected calls by French president Emmanuel Macron to disband the Popular Mobibilization Units (PMU), also known as the Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Macron made these statements during a visit to Iraq on Saturday, when he called for a “gradual demilitarization” and the “dismantlement” of all militia forces. His call was widely received with outrage and anger by many in Iraq.

Ahmad al-Assadi, one of the PMU’s leaders, told AFP that “any such discussion is rejected and we do not accept interference in Iraqi affairs (…) Asking for the dissolution of the Hashd is like asking for the dissolution of the Iraqi army, because the Hashd are a key element of Iraqi security.”

Iraqi Vice President and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also reacted to Macron’s call through social media,
stating: “Emmanuel Macron interfered unexpectedly in Iraq’s internal affairs by calling for the dismantling of a legal institution, Hashd al-Sha’abi (…) We don’t want any country to impose its will on the Iraqi government and the brave Iraqi nation,”

Earlier in October, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had strongly defended the Hashd al-Sha’abi in response to similar statements by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The PMU is directly controlled by the Prime Minister of Iraq, and has proven to be an efficient fighting force in the battle against ISIS.

The repeating calls for the disbanding of the PMU has led to backlash against Western forces stationed in Iraq. Recently, Hadi al-Ameri, chairman of the Badr Organization political party, has called on parliament to pass legislation that would demand the US to pull out all of its military forces from Iraqi soil after ISIS has been defeated.

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Hashd al-Sha’abi is a non-sectarian volunteer militia that was founded in 2014 after a fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, that called on all capable forces to join the defence of Iraq against ISIS.

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