Iraq’s parliament has voted Saturday to give full legal status to government sanctioned Shiite militias.
According to CNS news, although the legislation was passed by 208 of its 327 chamber members, Sunni Arab politicians opposed it immediately.
Osama Nujafi, A Sunni and one of Iraq’s three vice presidents argued, “The majority does not have the right to determine the fate of everyone else. There should be genuine political inclusion. This law must be revised.”
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) November 26, 2016
Sunni lawmaker Ahmed al-Masary said “the legislation fuels doubts about the participation of all Iraqi communities in the political process. The legislation aborts nation building,” he said, adding that the law created a dangerous parallel to the country’s military and police and that the Shiite bloc in parliament has not provided the Sunnis with the assurances they required.”
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 26, 2016
Sunni Arab community wanted the militiamen to be integrated into the country’s military and police, a proposition long rejected by Shiite militia leaders, some of whom have on occasion spoken about their armed groups evolving into a force akin to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
The Shiite militia has over 100,000 soldiers. They have been funded by neighboring Iran and have been instrumental in keeping the Islamic State from advancing on Baghdad.
CNS reports that, “Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and rights groups have long complained that the militiamen have been involved in extrajudicial killings, abuse and the theft or destruction of property in Sunni areas from which they drove out IS.”
The militias’ commanders, however, deny the charges or insist that the excesses are the work of an isolated few.
Senior Shiite politician Amar al-Hakim sought to reassure the Sunni lawmakers, saying a host of laws to be issued by the prime minister to regulate the work of the militias would allay their fears. The law creates a suitable climate for national unity,” he said.
Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, reassured the Sunni dissenters.
In a statement, al-Abadi welcomed the legislation and said the “Popular Mobilization” forces, the formal name of the militias, would cover all Iraqi sects, a thinly veiled reference to the much smaller and weaker Sunni tribal forces along with armed groups from smaller minorities.
“We must show gratitude for the sacrifices offered by those heroic fighters, young and elderly. It is the least we can offer them,” said the statement.
“The Popular Mobilization will represent and defend all Iraqis wherever they are.”
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