Iran-linked Popular Mobilisation Forces announces establishment of air-defence division
Iraqi local media published a leaked document in which PMF leader Jamal Jafar - also known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis - revealed a decision to form an "air force".
The decision was reportedly made by Muhandis, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and key PMF figure Falih al-Fayyadh, following several attacks on Hashd al-Shaabi bases and weapon depots in recent weeks.
But a government official told The New Arab that the Iraqi government was unaware of the move.
The Hashd al-Shaabi fought the Islamic State group and were incorporated into the Iraqi armed forces in 2016. Iraq's government moved in July to control the powerful militias, placing them under full command of the Iraqi armed forces.
The Iraqi government has faced resistance from the group. In August, dozens of Hashd al-Shaabi members refused to hand over positions in the Nineveh region.
Al-Fayyadh visited Moscow earlier this week as part of an undisclosed visit on military matters, in which he reportedly aimed to secure Russian air defence systems for Iraq.
The visit comes as Iraq's government prepares to submit a complaint to the UN, after it found Israel to have "certainly" been behind several attacks on PMF bases in recent weeks.
Russia has reportedly pledged support for the Iraqi air forces after Israel bombarded military bases belonging to the Shia militia forces.
An Iraqi government official told The New Arab that Al-Fayyadh's visit to Russia was in coordination with one made by Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and that he would discuss the possibility of Russia providing Iraq with air defence systems.
Iraq's parliamentary speaker Mohammed Halbousi announced Moscow's assistance to Iraq last week after his meeting with the Russian ambassador in Baghdad.
Local media in Iraq quoted the Russian ambassador as saying Moscow is keen to support Iraq in the UN Security Council in order to increase its air defence capabilities.
This comes a week after both Russia and the US reportedly gave Israel the green light to strike Iran-linked Hashd al-Shaabi targets in Iraq.
Analysts say Russia's dubious role of endorsing Israel bombing Hashd al-Shaabi targets, whilst pledging to help defend the militia by propping up Iraq's air forces is further evidence of Russia's mysterious role in the Middle East.
Russia is known to be close to both Israel and Iran.
The PMF was established in 2014 from mostly-Shia armed groups and volunteers to fight the Islamic State group.
But the US and Israel fear some units are an extension of their arch-foe Iran and have been equipped with precision-guided missiles that could reach Israel.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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