The Saladin Provincial Council, leaders of a region just north of Baghdad, have asked the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, to facilitate the withdrawal of the paramilitary Hashd al-Shaabi forces from the region. The head of the provincial council, Ahmed Abdulkarim, cautioned that, “The situation of Saladin province is unstable. Arms and other weaponry have spread beyond the state’s control.” The council has sought Prime Minister Abadi’s influence as Iraq’s commander-in-chief to remove all militant groups under his control that operate outside the realm of Iraq’s conventional security forces. The council members claimed the groups should be removed “in order to protect public stability.” Abdulkarim claimed that their presence would only serve to prolong the region’s security issues.
Abdulkarim’s assertions are not entirely incorrect; the Hashd al-Shaabi’s track record is less than stellar. They were ineffective during offensive military operations against the Islamic State and have failed to serve as reliable security forces after the fact. The disputed territory of Kirkuk is a prime example, as the region has been subject to a growing number of attacks by Islamic State sleeper cells. The Hashd al-Shaabi have done very little to prevent this. On top of all this, it is hard to say where their allegiance lies — considering their close ties to Iran and heavy Shiite influence. They are far from a state-sponsored and grown military branch but rather a nationalized militia that has been given far too much reach. The main concern is that the country has a history of tribal feuding, something that the Hashd al-Shaabi affiliates are all too familiar with.
Tensions are presently running high in Saladin province, the bodies of three sheiks from an opposing tribe were found in Dujail this week. In turn, tribesman and the Hashd al-Shaabi forces there began fighting; this caused the Baghdad-Tikrit road to be temporarily closed. Abdulkarim asked that Prime Minister Abadi deploy the national army to contain the situation within the town. Saladin’s governor, Ahmed al-Jabouri, stated that he and his colleagues have discussed with local officials on multiple occasions possible solutions to calm the current tensions. Al-Jabouri claimed to have mediated a semi-withdrawal by the Hashd al-Shaabi from the territory. The province has been free from the Islamic State’s control since 2016 when the Iraqi Army liberated it. However, since its liberation very little has improved in the way of security and stability, unfortunately.
Featured image: A Saraya al-Ashura fighter. | Twitter