Following the Iraqi parliamentary elections in mid-October, Western media have rejoiced at what they frame as a clear sign of Iraq’s rejection of the Iranian allied Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU)’s. But despite their wishful thinking, an honest analysis, based on a knowledgable understanding of Iraq’s electoral system, reflects the complete opposite.
The largest problem posed to US hegemony inside Iraq has long been the Iraqi PMU (or Hashd al-Shaabi) — a group of pro-Iran militias who defeated Daesh (IS) in Iraq and have frequently attacked US coalition forces — making the US project for complete domination in Iraq a failed one. Despite having crushed Iraq economically, fragmenting it, looting its resources and stirring sectarian hatred on an institutional level, the “nation-building” that the US government carried out has backfired dramatically.
It is due to Iranian aligned groups, drawing from large support bases, across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and inside of Yemen, that the United States remains bogged down in a seemingly endless Middle East war. The groups that align with Iran view themselves as member parties to a larger ‘Axis of Resistance’ to Western and Israeli hegemony in the region.
When the results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections in October, revealed that the PMU’s Fateh bloc — comprised of parties such as Badr, Sadiqoon and Sanad al-Watani — had won only 16 seats out of a 329-member parliament, Western media began jumping to its uneducated assumptions. ‘Asaeb Ahl al-Haq’ and ‘Kataeb Hezbollah’ took to denouncing the election results as being rigged and even claiming that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had played a role in aiding election fraud.
The biggest winner in the elections was Moqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shia-Cleric whose party ran on a nationalist line of expelling both Iranian and American influence. The Sadrist Movement secured a record 74 seats. So 16-74 should mean an overwhelming defeat and a popular Iraqi rejection of the Iranian aligned PMU right? Not Exactly. Although the numbers look great on paper for propagandists attempting to paint this as a huge anti-PMU statement, the very opposite can be found in the details.
Iraq’s parliamentary system has recently changed, which has meant that winning seats does not necessarily reflect popular opinion at all. Whilst the Iraqi people voted for the Sadr movement in record numbers and Moqtada al-Sadr’s Party came out with the most seats, the popular vote was overwhelmingly won by the PMU. The Sadrists received 650,000 votes, whilst the Iraqi Fateh Party received 670,000 votes. On top of this, a historically pro-PMU candidate, Nouri al-Maliki, also won 37 seats for his ‘State of Law Coalition’. From his campaign it is easy to believe that many soft PMU supporters sought to vote for him and other small parties as an alternative to a Fateh Coalition, previously unable to secure many of their demands.
If we completely take away the claims of election fraud and make our analysis based purely upon the data in front of us from these parliamentary elections, there is no indication that an anti-PMU revolt in Iraq is afoot. This is simply sensationalism from the Western media at best, whilst at worst, it is designed to justify US coalition forces committing military aggression against the Hashd al-Shaabi.
The latest incident that anti-PMU media are seeking to exploit to their favor is the attempted assassination of Iraq’s Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi. The PMU have been openly accused of being involved in the assassination attempt by elements of the Iraqi government, whilst they have strongly denied it. Nevertheless, a dispute has said to have taken place internally regarding this issue, according to unsubstantiated reports.
The PMU were instantly painted as being behind the assassination attempt by Saudi Arabia’s state broadcaster, even prior to Iraqi media uncovering the full extent of the damage and confirming details of the event. Then we have the fact that the Iraqi PM’s residence is located inside the US Embassy’s green-zone, which is heavily protected by state of the art air defense technology. However, the US C-RAM air defenses never activated, nor did the siren systems even begin to blare until after the attack had occurred.
So either the US siren systems in the green-zone were rendered useless before three drones which managed to remain in the area’s airspace undetected for minutes, or there was something else going on. Either the C-RAM air defense systems are useless at confronting relatively basic drone technology, when compared to that of the US, or the systems were not utilized on purpose. There is currently no way of verifying either explanation, but it does beg the question; why was this never reported by Western media?
Whether you believe that the election results were fair or fraud, or that the US government did or did not play a role in the recent assassination attempt of Iraq’s PM, there is no honest indication that the PMU is going anywhere soon. The PMU is the most powerful ground force in Iraq and, despite Fateh not having the largest amount of seats in Parliament, it can still pose problems to the formation of the Sadrist government and force concessions. In all, the recent hyperbole of Western media, suggesting a dramatic shift in Iraq away from Iran, is completely false when we honestly sift through the available data. All we are witnessing here is a failed bunch of Western propaganda outlets, using journalists with no expertise in Middle Eastern politics, making up interesting headlines for an audience who cannot discern between unbiased news reports and the utterly absurd.