Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered taking control of four Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) combat brigades that fall under the religious authority in Najaf and Karbala.
The four brigades will now fall under the “command and management” of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and no longer under the direct command of the Iran-allied PMF board.
The four brigades include the 2nd, 11th, 26th, and 44th brigades of the PMF, which are all loyal to Iraq’s highest Shiite religious authority.
The four brigades were created in June 2014 following a fatwa, or religious call to action, from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in response to the ISIS insurgency.
In mid-March, a delegation representing the four brigades met with the Minister of Defense Najah Al-Shammari, stressing their keenness on "the unity of Iraq and the independence of its decision."
It was reported at the time that the four brigades were willing to join the Ministry of Defense.
There are frequent reports on Sistani’s concern with the nature of tasks undertaken by the PMF after the war with ISIS has come to an end. Many divisions have risen in the 60-paramilitary umbrella as some factions have pledged their loyalty to Iraq’s highest religious authority and others to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In the past years, several differences have emerged between the PMF and religious authorities in Iraq. Many of the divisions involve financial and military issues.
Iraqi political expert Hisham al-Hashemi sees that Abdul-Mahdi’s decision to take over the four brigades is part of the great disputes between PMF leader Abdulaziz al-Mohammedawi , also known as Abu Fadak, and the PMF factions loyal to Iraq’s religious authority.
“This settlement means the administrative and operational disengagement of the four brigades from the PMF,” AL-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat.