UPDATED: Al-Sadr wants mobilization forces disbanded after Mosul
Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called upon the government on Friday to disband paramilitary forces fighting Islamic State militants on its side after the end of operations in Mosul.
Addressing supporters during a protest in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, Sadr called for disbanding al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units), an alliance of Shia paramilitary groups formed in 2014 to combat IS, which also won government recognition in November as a national armed forces under the prime minister’s command.
He said the law passed to recognize al-Hashd makes Iraq a country “under the rule of militias”.
In his speech, Sadr said he had received death threats from “many parties”, which he did not name, urging his supporters to keep their protests peaceful if he is assassinated. “I am not going to appease an occupier, a sectarian or a partisan,” he said.
Sadr also threatened that his followers would boycott the upcoming local elections, slated for September 2017 if the current formation of the electoral commission is maintained. The panel’s formation was the main trigger of earlier protests by Sadr’s supporters in February, which tuned violent leaving five dead.
Sadr’s parliamentary bloc has recently boycotted meetings by the country’s leading Shia political alliance, the National Iraqi Alliance, for allegedly ignoring a proposed political settlement and reform project submitted by al-Sadr.
Al-Sadr has been a central player in the political and militancy scene in Iraq, and had for sometime, following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, been branded an enemy to the United States, being an ardent opponent to foreign military presence in the country.
His settlement proposal, besides providing for U.N.-sponsored elections and sureties for minority rights, conditioned withdrawal of foreign, especially American, troops from Iraq.