Queen's Policy Engagement

Iraq’s security dilemma and the intractable problem of the PMF

Given the current political forces in Baghdad and security realities in Mosul, an incremental approach is needed says Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards and Alexander Brammer.

Iraq’s security dilemma and the intractable problem of the PMF

Nearly a year on from legislation to integrate the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or al-Hashd al-Shaabi) into the Iraq security apparatus, they now constitute half of the security forces nominally under governmental control.

The predominantly Shia PMF were once the most important players in preventing the ISIS advance of 2014 on Baghdad and played a widely acknowledged role in subsequent efforts to liberate ISIS-controlled areas.

Yet, as the threat of ISIS recedes and stabilization becomes the number one priority in Iraq, political disputes over the future of the PMF are intensifying in Baghdad and reverberating throughout the country.

The reasons for the dispute lie with concerns about the true loyalties of those that command the PMF. Those concerns centre on enduring sectarian loyalties that may trump the national effort to rebuild the country for all its citizens.

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Alexander Brammer is a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast and an active duty Infantry officer in the United States Army.


Article originally appeared on the openDemocracy platform.

The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 




Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards
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Beverley Milton-Edwards is a Professor of Politics at the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen's University where she specialises in research and teaching on violence, terrorism and security, as well as the Politics of the Middle East and Political Islam. Professor Milton-Edwards has worked as a Special Advisor to a number of high-level governmental representatives, including the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, and the EU’s Middle East Peace Envoy. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at Brookings Doha Center.

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