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Rise of Shia militias will reshape Iraqi politics

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Subject

The rise of Iraq's Shia militias.

Significance

Shia militias, known as Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs), are the most capable offensive forces at the federal government's disposal in its fight against Islamic State group (ISG). Yet Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's cabinet only exercises limited control over these forces, many of which receive backing from Iran. While Iraq's battle against ISG is progressing steadily, the emergence of these powerful Shia militias could represent a larger medium-term challenge to state stability.

Impacts

  • Shia militias will probably be less effective in Sunni-only areas.
  • Iraq boasts insufficient offensive forces to attack Mosul in the first half of 2015.
  • The National Guard initiative will take months to be ratified in parliament.
  • Politics in the oil-rich south will be complicated by a power struggle between Shia politicians and militia leaders.
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