Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of a militia, said last week that he wanted Hashed al-Shaabi to demobilise. Al-Sadr is known for being very anti-American and is popular among the poor people in urban Baghdad.
He is calling for the dismantling of Hashed al-Shaabi – a paramilitary organisation that enjoys heavy support from Iran that has over 120,000 troops.
These comments came during a speech he was giving to supporters in the Iraqi capital after visiting the Saudi crown prince, one of Iran’s biggest enemies in the region.
Others clerics in Iraq are calling for the same thing with many urging authorities to take the arsenal off “all armed groups”.
Shi’ite Sheikh Fadil al-Bidayr is another leading cleric that wants to see the group dismantled. He was one of the leaders that issued an urgent call to arms in 2014 at the time when the Islamic State group swept through the north and the west of the country and managed to obtain Mosul when the country’s army collapsed.
Speaking to the press, Bidayri said that it was inevitable that Iran would use the call to arms to further its own agenda in Iraq, reiterating that there was no other choice at the time. However, he said that the military is coming back together and Mosul has been recaptured, so now is the time to disband Shi’ite militias and expel Iran from the country. This, he said, is essential if sectarian tensions are to ease.
Like his fellow nationalists, the sheik is getting fed up of Iran’s involvement. He said that Iran has taken every opportunity to expand its influence in his country.
The operations to take back the cities of Fallujah and Tikrit, and many other fights against the Islamic State in the past, have involved many sectarian killings and persecution of the Sunnis. Leaders of certain militias have said that there were abuses, but the people responsible have been held responsible and punitive measures have been taken.
Hadi al-Amiri, one of the leaders of the Badr Brigade, a powerful Shi’ite militia in Iraq, said that the insurgent capabilities of the Islamic State is a long-term security threat to the country so his forces have no choice but to stay. He said: “The Hashed will remain…and our relationship with Iran will remain.”