Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces Are Terrorists
10 July 2015
By Tariq Alhomayed
Since the emergence of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),
we have heard one refrain of politspeak be repeated at any and every meeting
between Arab and Western officials, particularly US officials: "The two sides
agreed on the need for coordination in the fight against ISIS," or something
along these lines. This, of course, is all well and good, but what about
other terrorist organizations?
It is puzzling that there are some terrorist groups that must be fought, and
others that are simply being ignored. Every joint statement issued by Arab
and Western officials calling for "cooperation" in the fight against
terrorism should be clear and comprehensive and, most importantly, call a
thing by its proper name. So the statement that was issued from Camp David
following US President Barack Obama's meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
leaders should also have explicitly named Shi'ite terrorist groups, in the
same manner that it named ISIS and others. There should be Arab and
international cooperation against all terrorist groups in the region, whether
they are Sunni or Shi'ite. Otherwise, we are allowing terrorism in all its
forms to prosper and this is something that harms the very concept of the
state and national sovereignty.
What is happening in Iraq and Syria is the clearest example of this, as well
as the ongoing situation in Yemen. Why don't Arabs and the West label the
Shi'ite armed militias in Iraq and Syria as what they really are? In Iraq we
have the so-called Popular Mobilization forces, which are made up of armed
Shi'ite groups and militias like the Badr Organization, Kata'ib Hezbollah,
Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq, the Peace Brigades and Saraya Tala'a Al-Khorasani, among
others. How can we, in principle, accept hardline Shi'ite armed militias
usurping the role of the state to liberate Sunni-majority Ramadi from ISIS?
What about the official name of this "Labaik Ya Hussein" (We obey you,
Hussein) military operation and the clear sectarian overtones contained
Following Sunni, Iraqi, Arab and international outrage, the name of this
operation was changed to "Labaik Ya Iraq" (We obey you, Iraq), but the point
still stands. How can we accept Shi'ite Iraqi militias being armed to fight
ISIS in Sunni-majority territory, while the calls of local Sunni tribes for
arms and military assistance to combat ISIS are being ignored?
The silence over the Popular Mobilization forces, and other Shi'ite militias
in the region, has emboldened Hezbollah in Lebanon and encouraged it to
interfere elsewhere in the region, including in Syria and Yemen. Hezbollah
Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah recently called for forces similar to that
of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization to be replicated in Syria, Lebanon and
across the region.
So, there are many questions that must be asked, and answered, regarding just
where we are heading. Isn't it the role of the state to deal with threats
like the one posed by ISIS in Ramadi, rather than sectarian militias being
allowed to take charge? How can we defuse the ugly sectarian conflict that is
brewing in the region?
So yes, ISIS is a terrorist group and the Al-Nusra Front is a terrorist
group; The Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces and its militias are also
terrorists, as are the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Our duty is
to confront terrorism in the region, regardless of sectarian differences. We
must confront terrorism across the board and make sure that we name things as
they are. This is the first step to resolving the deteriorating situation
across the region which is striking a blow against the prestige of our states
and creating division between citizens.
This is something that is particularly urgent in Iraq, as well as in Syria
where moderate rebel forces need greater support. It will be a long journey,
but we must take steps in the right direction to defuse the threat of
sectarian terrorism. However if we fail to take this first stepódealing with
terrorism and terrorist groups on an equal footingóthen we are facing a long
and difficult road that will have a prohibitive cost for the region and its
Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr.
Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and
current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held
numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he
was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed
holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in
Jeddah. He is based in London.