Shia cleric says Popular Mobilisation militias commanded by Baghdad

Shia cleric says Popular Mobilisation militias commanded by Baghdad
A prominent Iraqi cleric has told The New Arab that the government should be blamed for the Popular Mobilisation militia's crimes.
2 min read
28 January, 2016
The cleric's followers have a history of protesting at the Iranian consulate [AFP]
A prominent Iraqi Shia cleric told The New Arab that the predominantly Shia Popular Mobilisation militia [Al-Hashd al-Shaabi] had been formed and was commanded by the Iraqi government and Ayatollah Sistani, and described what is happening in Diyala as a "major crime".

Ayatollah Mahmoud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi, who opposes Iranian influence in Iraq, said: "You can't separate Al-Hashd and the government, as it has become a part of the military institution and under [the command of] the commander in chief of the armed forces."

The Popular Mobilisation is an Iraqi government-backed umbrella organisation made up of several Shia militias who were united under the auspices of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in June 2014.

The Shia cleric - who has a sizeable support among Iraqi Shias wary of Iran's growing influence in the country - said that what is happening in the city of Muqdadiyah, in Diyala province, is "a major crime for which the government and those who established this militia and legitimised its work bear responsibility".

He said that the Diyala massacres were one example of hundreds of crimes committed against the Iraqi people, whether by "Shias or Sunnis, Muslims or non-Muslims".

Whomever wants to criticise Al-Hashd and its actions, including "sectarian and ethnic cleansing, destroying mosques, displacing families, killing, and looting, should direct his words to [Atatollah Ali] al-Sistani, the founder of Al-Hashd and its spiritual leader", Sarkhi told The New Arab.

Sistani, himself a grand ayatollah, is the leading Shia religious figure from Najaf, commanding great support across the country and beyond.

But Sarkhi warned that there were many "simple" Iraqis, among both Sunni and Shia, who have been "deluded" and "deprived of their will" through "emotive slogans" about protecting their sect, shrines, holy places, and people, leading them to join Sunni and Shia "takfiri and criminal forces".

"We should not direct all our anger and criticism at our deluded sons alone - and leave those who misled them," Sarkhi added.

The "deluded" who belong to the armed groups and Al-Hashd, he added, were "part of the state's military system and follow the leader of its authority (the state), which is supported with money, arms and the media by Arab and international [states], leaving the simple, ordinary people no choice but to fall into delusion".