First Published: 2017-12-15

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control
Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric opposes calls from the West to disband controversial paramilitary force which was instrumental in defeating Islamic State group.
Middle East Online

Fighter from the Hashed al-Shaabi is seen with an image of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on his vest.

KARBALA - Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on Friday opposed calls to disband a controversial paramilitary force which was instrumental in defeating the Islamic State group in the country.

Iraq is "always in desperate need of heroic men who have backed up the army and federal police and who fought alongside them on different fronts", said Abdel Mahdi al-Karabalai, the ayatollah's representative.

"We need to continue to benefit from this important source of energy, within the constitution and judicial framework," he said in a sermon at weekly prayers in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, south of the capital.

Karabalai stressed that the Hashed al-Shaabi's arms belonged to the state and its mission was to defend national security.

The force was established in 2014 after Sistani urged Iraqi citizens to take up arms against IS jihadists who had swept aside government forces and seized control of much of northern Iraq.

But the Hashed, a Shiite-dominated alliance, remains deeply divisive and has been accused of a string of abuses.

Known in English as the Popular Mobilisation Units, the various forces within the Hashed can field a total of between 60,000 and 140,000 fighters.

Iraq's parliament has classed it as a state force operating within the constitution.

Calls have been growing from the West for the Hashed to disband, with French President Emmanuel Macron proposing "a gradual demilitarisation" of the group and for all militias in Iraq to be "dismantled".

But Hashed spokesman Ahmad al-Assadi, who is also a member of parliament, said on Friday that Sistani had stood up for the units to be retained as part of Iraq's security system.

The Hashed suffered 7,637 dead and 21,300 wounded in the three-year war to drive out IS, according to a top Hashed commander, Qais Khazali.

 

UN Security Council lenient to Turkey’s Syria offensive

Washington probes Hezbollah ‘narcoterrorism’

Tillerson to present US strategy on Syria to European, Arab allies

Russia pension funds may invest in Aramco IPO

Iranian woman skydiver looks to break down stereotypes

Turkey arrests dozens accused of ‘terror propaganda’

Three French female jihadists face possible death penalty in Iraq

Women journalists protest separation during Pence visit to Jerusalem

Egypt military accuses presidential hopeful of committing crimes

Israeli minister calls to ban author praising Palestinian teen

Qatar supports Turkey’s offensive against Kurds

World powers meet on Syria chemical attacks

Morocco's king appoints five new ministers

Pence pledges US embassy move by end of 2019 on Jerusalem trip

Russia calls for diplomatic solution to Yemen conflict

Russia invites Kurds to join Syria peace process

Turkey shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria

Closer look at pro-Ankara rebels amassing around Afrin

Pence set for Palestinian snub

Abbas to ask EU to recognise Palestinian state

Saudi-led coalition to give $1.5 bln in Yemen aid

Mattis: Turkey gave US advance warning on Syria operation

Yemen releases budget for first time in three years

Saudi calls for cooperation between OPEC, non-OPEC countries

France presses Turkey to end offensive against Kurds

The changing faces of al-Qaeda in Syria

Kurdish militia fire rockets at Turkish town

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership