Iraqi militia leader wants to model PMF after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

This Associated Press article on the growing influence of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Force (PMF or Hashed al Shaabi) is a must read. The Long War Journal has warned about the danger of the Popular Mobilization Force since it was established in the summer of 2014 after the Islamic State broke the Iraqi military and police.

The Long War Journal reported from the beginning that the Popular Mobilization Force is dominated by Iranian-supported militias such as Asaib Ahl al Haq, Hezbollah Brigades, Badr Brigades, and Sadr’s so-called “Peace Brigades,” as well as offshoots like Saraya Khorasani, Harakat al Nujaba, Kata’ib Imam Ali, Sayyed al Shuhada, while being directed by Iranian Qods Force pawn Abu Mahdi al Muhandis.

Despite these facts, the US military has – either directly or indirectly – aided the PMF and by extension, Iran, by launching airstrikes while the PMF was on the offensive, and sent weapons to Iraq that are then funneled by the government to the PMF.

The AP article is important because it neatly summarizes how the PMF has grown to become a dominant force in both Iraqi politics as well as in the military sphere. Iraqi officials are now worried that the PMF will supplant the military and government, as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps did in Iran. A militia commander was even quoted stating that the PMF wishes to model itself after the IRGC:

“We want to be a third power in Iraq,” alongside the army and police, al-Jazaeery [the commander of Saraya Khorasani] said. “Why can’t the Hashd be like the Revolutionary Guard in Iran?”

An excerpt of the AP article is below. Note that Iraqi militias are currently fighting in Syria, militia commanders have threatened to attack US forces in Iraq and beyond and said they would overthrow Iraq’s government if ordered to do so by Iran’s supreme leader, while the militias have attacked and intimidated Iraqi minorities. From the AP:

Two top generals warned that the army could eventually come to blows with the militias, known collectively as the “Hashd,” Arabic for “mobilization.”

“They (the militias) have now infiltrated the government and are meddling in politics,” said Ali Omran, commander of the army’s 5th Infantry Division and a veteran of numerous battles against IS. “I told the Hashd people that one day I and my men may fight them.”

The more than 50 Shiite militias in Iraq have between 60,000 and 140,000 fighters, according to estimates from the government and the Hashd itself. They are backed by tanks and weapons, and have their own intelligence agency, operations rooms and court of law.

The larger militias, like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Hezbollah Brigades, Badr and the Peace Brigades, have been in place since soon after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein. They are linked to political parties, effectively forming armed branches for politicians.

But the ranks of the militias swelled dramatically after IS overran nearly a third of Iraq in the summer of 2014 and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, called on able-bodied males to fight IS. At the time, tens of thousands turned out.

Those same militias now want to remain a permanent, independent armed force and are resisting attempts to integrate them into the military or police, the AP found from interviews with more than 15 government officials, army generals and militia leaders and visits to Tikrit and Samarra, Sunni-majority areas where the militias now hold power. The militias insist they have earned a special status, pointing to the 5,000 militiamen killed and 16,000 wounded fighting IS.

“Those who sacrificed more are entitled to more,” said Hamed al-Jazaeery, head of the al-Khorasani Brigades militia. “What is written with blood cannot be removed. It is not ink on paper.”

Al-Jazaeery wears the black turban of a cleric and the camouflage fatigues of a fighter. The walls of his office are adorned with photos of the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and its current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other photos show al-Jazaeery posing with Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the powerful Revolutionary Guard figure who helped organize the Iraqi militias against IS.

“We want to be a third power in Iraq,” alongside the army and police, al-Jazaeery said. “Why can’t the Hashd be like the Revolutionary Guard in Iran?”

The model of the Revolutionary Guard, often cited by militia leaders, would be a dramatic change for Iraq’s militias. In Iran, the Guard is an elite force independent of — and better armed than — the military, tasked with “protecting” the Shiite cleric-led power structure. It is effectively a state within a state, rivaling the political strength of Iran’s supreme leader.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: , , ,


  • Confused says:

    The IRGC is not better armed than the IRIA, nor do they guard the Government which is the job of the police. They are a Guerrilla Army designed to fight Guerrilla Wars and Counter-Insurgency as well as do Coast Guard Duties while the Army is designed to fight Conventional Wars and has the best conventional gear designed for it.

  • humanist says:

    by calling that associated press article a “must read” you lost all credibility.
    a propaganda piece written by 2 completely neutral sunni arabs, that blames everything including global warming on shia’s.


    no mention of the industrial scale slaughter/genocide of shia’s unfortunate enough to be captured by the “oppressed” sunni.

    here is a fact: sunni civilians flee en masse to shia areas. And find refuge and peace there. The shia population in sunni areas: 0.

    not a single shia would survive slaughter for a minute in sunni lands, while Sunni’s are moving into 100% shia lands en masse (karbala being one example)

    this isn’t just a shia sunni thing.

    peaceful sunni neighbours also slaughtered their yazidi neighbours, and stole their lands. they also did it to assyrians, and Christians..

    a fact conveniently left out by the “must read” propaganda piece.

    what this is about is power. Sunni’s want to dominate Iraq like they used to in the saddam days. They see everyone else as inferior to them, and will not accept a democratic situation where shia are the overwhelming majority of the population, and naturally are going to have more government power.

    Sunni’s will not stop until they have regained full power. and they will embrace any scum (isis) and slaughter any minority neighbour to get their way..

  • PRASHANT says:

    What bothers me so much is that the west sees these Iran linked groups as destabilizing. This in contrast to the Saudi version of islam that is destabilizing the middle east and spreading from lybia to the sahel and into Tunisia. Nigeria, chad, niger are dealing with boko haram, a group linked up with ISIS. You have AQIM in Algeria. You have al shabab in somalia. Plus all of the groups linked up with ISIS and al quida in syria and iraq. Plus the latest in Brussels where ISIS took ownership of the attack at the airport that killed 30 and counting.

    All of these groups are Saudi sunni version of islam.

    It is not Iranian shia linked up groups that are destabilizing north Africa and the middle east.

    It wasnt the iranian shia groups that killed thousands of american on 911. 19 out of 20 hijackers were saudi. Its leader was bin laden.

    Yet the US has bases on Saudia Arabia.

    Yet the enemy is IRAN when all of these groups are Saudi wahabi version of sunni islam thats destabilizing countries.

    Why dont we call for what the real causes of the problem?

    Yet Iran is such a problem that the CIA and Eisenhower admin at the urging of the British and overthrew the first legitimate democratically elected government of iran in 1952 and installed an 18 year old, the SHAH of Iran to power and trainef his secret police.

    I rarely hear and see the ELEPHANT in the room.

  • ulises says:


  • Rachel Banks says:

    The U.S. will fight these militias at some point. Iran needs to be held responsible for any war crimes committed by the Popular Mobilization Forces

  • tuffsnotenuff says:

    “All of these groups are Saudi sunni version of islam.

    It is not Iranian shia linked up groups that are destabilizing north Africa and the middle east. ”
    – – – – – – – – – – –

    And it’s not simply that this is Sunni. What differentiates the Saudi beliefs from mainstream Islam is their insistence on ancient Bedouin tribal practices. They reject mainstream Sunni practice going back five centuries. The mainstream stems from Ottoman governance and the Kanun Law system for civil and criminal law, combined with modernized Sharia for religious law.

    The Kanun system was mature by the middle of the 16th Century.

    The Bedouins in Arabia never accepted the Ottoman system. Everybody else did. Now their oil money is used by the billions a year to force their own beliefs. This is recast incorrectly as direct copies of 7th to 9th Century primary text. Their obsession with Mohammad and with their versions of the Koran and Haditths led to 32,000 terrorist killing in 2014 worldwide.

    Several of the mass murderers in Paris and Brussels had very high quality fake passports. You can make your own guess which intelligence service runs that counterfeit operation.

    Iran? The Kurds? Shia/Sunni is not the big difference between them and what you see with the Arabian Bedouins. There’s plenty of Sunni Kurds and millions of Sunnis in Iran. The national laws there come from the Kanun system reforms. Not a match to the Arabian Bedouins. And terrorism deaths financed by Iran/Kurds comes in at zero for years and years. Even Hezbollah has fallen back to tit-for-tat killings with their rivals — about 100 deaths over the last decade and most of that tied to their criminal wing.

  • colin says:

    It is important. there is no doubt that Shia’s will rule what’s left of Iraq, but a PMF, closely linked to the IRGC is one that will not have the long term peace for the region as a priority. If Iraq splits, then the issue is somewhat moot, as long as the new borders are respected. It is true the Sunni’s have been the biggest problem in the region, not not for the want of Iran trying. Iran is set to become a major power and will change it’s tact once it announces a successful nuclear weapons test. that will line it up against KSA and it’s likely that if both have nukes, they will at the very least use tactical nukes on each forces. It’s not average Iranians I fear, but I do fear the clerics and various nutbars that run the IRGC. the best hope for peace ironically is that the leaders in the IRGC are becoming more corrupt and primary interested in economic power and would be content with mere proxy war.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram