Iraq Shia militias demand military bases and $500 million

Iraq Shia militias demand military bases and $500 million

2 min read
30 November, 2016
Iraq's pro-government Shia militias have demanded the state grant them military bases and funds of up to $500 million, days after they were granted full legal status.

The Shia militias with around 100,000 fighters are probably Iraq's most powerful fighting force [Getty]

Iraq's pro-government Shia militias have demanded the state grant them military bases and funds of up to $500 million, days after they were granted full legal status.

The controversial Popular Mobilisation Forces [PMF] - known in Arabic as Hashd al-Shaabi - have begun to demand military bases be handed over to them and an allocation of the state's budget, Iraqi officials have said.

"The militias want important strategic bases without understanding the danger, including an air base under its control since 1921," a high-ranking Iraqi military official told The New Arab on Wednesday.

"They already have no less than ten bases, which is normal, however, what is concerning is that their leaders want important bases in and around Baghdad and close to the border. This could cause a future international or domestic crisis."

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has so far approved the takeovers because he does not have the finances to build new bases.

Following Saturday's vote in parliament, PMF Fighters now have state-sanctioned power to "deter" security and terror threats facing the country, after the paramilitaries took a leading role in the battle against Islamic State group [IS].

But this battle has also seen the Tehran-backed militias commit grave human rights abuses against mostly Sunni civilians in territories conquered from IS, and sparked fears of growing Iranian influence in the country.

PMU leader Karrar al-Hasnawi told The New Arab that the militias needed separate bases because its troops were subject to different rules and regulations that the Iraqi army.

An Iraqi member of parliament said that the PMU would be allocated between $300 million to $500 from next year's security and defence budget of $85 billion.

The MP added that this move could anger Erbil as it has long asked for an allocation of the budget to help fund the Peshmerga - a request that Baghdad has repeatedly denied.

The newly enacted law was promptly rejected by Sunni Arab politicians and lawmakers who said it was evidence of what they called the "dictatorship" of the country's Shia majority.

Abadi, however, welcomed the legislation and said that the PMF would "cover all Iraqi sects" - a thinly veiled reference to the much smaller and weaker Sunni tribal forces who have also been accused of harming civilians.