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US seeking to eliminate Iraqi Hashd al-Sha’abi by force: Report

In this file picture, fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashd al-Sha’abi) gesture to the camera as they warm up around a fire near the village of Tal Afar during a broad offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the city of Mosul from Daesh Takfiri terrorists. (Photo by AFP)

A political adviser to Iraqi officials and leading member of the State of Law Coalition says the United States is trying to eradicate the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha'abi, by force and has even devised an action plan for such a purpose.

Speaking in an interview with the Arabic-language al-Nujaba television network on Sunday, Saad al-Muttalibi said not only have Iraqi authorities been informed of the plan, but also some political factions.

Muttalibi noted that a number of US state institutions have come to the conclusion that Hashd al-Sha’abi can only be removed from Iraq’s arena by military force.

“Accordingly, one of the schemes in this regard is to provoke a kind of confrontation between Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters and other Iraqi armed forces, especially the army,” he added.

Muttalibi went on to say that Washington intends to assassinate some high-ranking Hashd al-Sha’abi commanders and instigate clashes with other Iraqi armed forces as part of preparation for the total annihilation of the PMU.

The prominent Iraqi political advisor said he did not know exactly the Iraqi officials that have agreed to the US plan and those who have opposed it, emphasizing that the plan to eliminate Hashd al-Sha’abi by force has been principally drawn up.

He added that the US plan had reached a number of Iraqi political parties through some American sources.

Muttalibi then described the notion of armed clashes between Hashd al-Sha’abi forces and the Iraqi army as “sheer fantasy,” noting that army forces are in no way willing to engage in skirmishes with Hashd al-Sha'abi fighters, who have obtained their credit from the Iraqi nation.

Hashd al-Sh’abai fighters have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.

Back in November 2016, the Iraqi parliament approved a law giving full legal status to the fighters. It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the forces under the command of the prime minister, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.

On March 27, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon had ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of Hashd al-Sha’abi.

But the United States’ top commander in Iraq has warned at the time that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive.

Lieutenant General Robert P. White wrote in a blunt memo that a new military campaign would also require that thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from the so-called fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

Anti-US sentiments have been running high in Iraq since the assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, along with their companions in a US assassination drone airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill two days later, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

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