Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a decree on Thursday to induct the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) into Iraq’s regular security forces. The PMF, also known as al-Hashd al-Sha’abi, will get the same rights and privileges as the country’s other armed forces. PMF members will receive similar salaries to the members of the military, including access to military institutes and colleges. They will also be subject to Iraqi military service laws and regulations.
Giving PMF members—who played a crucial role in fending off the Islamic State— the same rights as their brethren in regular forces will prove popular for Abadi, particularly amongst his own base, especially that the decree comes two months before the parliamentary elections.
At first glance, the decision might appear to be a mere reward to the PMF, or, if looked at with more skepticism, a nod to Abadi’s Shia base ahead of the election. But a closer look at the decree’s text will reveal that it goes much further than that. What Abadi has effectively done is re-establish the prime minister’s authority over decision-making within the PMF, limit its size, and challenge the influence of pro-Iran leaders, including the PMF’s deputy chairman and its effective leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who is known for his longstanding ties with Iran.