A new Iraqi diwan order marginalized Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, the deputy chairman of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), by canceling his seat and instead, strengthening the powers of his chief, Faleh Fayyad.
The decision came after the PMF announced on Saturday a restructure approved by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi as part of the group’s ongoing integration into the Iraqi Army.
Under the new order, Fayyad is now charged with the replacement of all PMF-assigned military titles with those of the Iraqi Army, after presenting the changes to the Prime Minister for approval.
On July 1, Abdul-Mahdi issued a decree allowing all the PMF units until July 31 to integrate into the army.
However, the deadline of the decree was postponed until September 30, 2019, after an official request to postpone the deadline from Fayyadh.
The decree stipulates that forces that choose not to integrate into the army may “transform” into a political party. However, they will not be allowed to carry weapons for any reason other than the protection of its offices.
An informed source, who wished to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday that all PMF factions should respect the new restructure announced by the PM.
However, he predicted that the decision to remove the seat of deputy chairman could cause a problem, particularly if Muhandes is not offered a new important title, such as the Army chief of staff.
In the past months, Muhandes created more than a crisis inside the ranks of the PMF, particularly when he announced early this month the formation of the air force directorate, prompting his chief to deny the reports.
Also, in August, Muhandes held the US responsible for the blasts on PMF camps and depots, threatening to respond to the attacks.
However, Fayyad said he respected the position of the Iraqi government, and therefore, would wait for the release of final results of investigations conducted by a fact-finding committee tasked with probing the explosions.