Understanding the role of al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq’s national and transnational political field


The US assassination, on the night of 2-3 January 2020, of Qasim Sulimani, the Commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the senior commander of the Iraqi Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi and the founder of the militia Kata’ib Hezbollah, has thrown Iraqi and wider regional politics into turmoil. The murders were certainly the outcome of a struggle for regional dominance between Iran and the United States. However, they were also indicative of the highly fractured, contested but also transnational nature of Iraq’s own political field.

International and regional players, primarily the US and Iran, have since 2003 continually deployed coercive power in pursuit of interests well beyond Iraq’s geographical borders. A number of Iraqi domestic actors have aligned themselves with external players in an attempt to bolster their own power in the competition to dominate and direct national politics. It seemed clear that Iran had succeeded in becoming the dominant power in this transnational struggle to control Iraq. However, in October 2019, a vibrant mass protest movement erupted in Baghdad and across the south of the country. This indigenous movement was avowedly secular, nationalist and anti-Iranian.

The US drone strikes on 3 January have allowed the Iranian aligned militias and politicians to shape Iraqi public opinion against American interference and have used this to marginalize the protestors and their demands. Overall, the outcome of this national and transnational struggle in Iraq is a political field whose boundaries have been broken and stretched well beyond the territory and population of the country itself. The long suffering population of Iraq are caught in the middle of an international struggle whose main protagonists care little for their wellbeing and nothing for their long term future.

Understanding Iraq’s Political Field

Traditional approaches to security forces and their reform have tended to be based on Weberian and Westphalian abstractions, treating the territory and coherent institutions of the state as unambiguously delineated from neighbouring states and from indigenous societies. Under this model, a legal rational and institutionalized military chain of command is augmented by a collective identity and agency, the nationalist esprit de corps of its armed forces separate from but representative of and supported by a homogenous population. All those wielding coercion beyond the authority of state are then classified as illegal and illegitimate. However, this ideal type has little analytical resonance in post-conflict states where central authority and national legitimacy face sustained challenge. Policy prescriptions that have been shaped by this Weberian model, in an attempt to secure security sector reform or post-conflict demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, have found their approach at odds with empirical reality and have hence failed to realise their goals.

Recent studies of states in the Middle East and Africa have critiqued this Weberian and Westphalian approach to security. Yezid Sayigh, focusing on Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Yemen in the twenty-first century, has developed the notion of “the hybridization of security governance.” This, he argues, creates three novel outcomes, those struggling to control the state create “unfamiliar military-security coalitions” containing both government officials and non-state actors. These coalitions, however, remain highly fluid with non-state actors footloose in their alliance building. Finally, competing external powers pursue their rivalries in weak states by aligning with various players, making the hybridization of security a permanent feature.[1] Alice Hills, using case studies from Africa, advances a comparable argument, developing the notion of a ‘security arena’ where “the personalized or neo-patrimonial relationships and inter-agency rivalries conducted amongst and between political elites and security actors” shape realities on the ground.[2]

In developing this approach, Hills deploys Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of the ‘political field.’ It is Bourdieu’s ‘thinking tools’ that can help understand the hybrid, fractured and highly transnational nature in the contest to coercively dominate Iraq’s political field. Two of Bourdieu’s concepts, field and capital, and his understanding of the state, offer especially powerful insights into Iraq and the role of the Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). For Bourdieu, competition within any society takes place in comparatively autonomous fields. Each field is united by the shared logic of the players active in it.[3] These could be the economic field, the field of education, art or politics. “Each field has its ‘fundamental law,’ its nomos: ‘principle of vision and division.’”[4] These ‘principles of vision and division’ dictate the terms under which competition takes place and what is being fought over. The players within each field are trying to amass different forms of capital to use in their struggle for dominance, such as the economic, coercive and social capital that comes from the ability to organize and benefit from networks or group action.[5] People and groups compete over symbolic capital, the power to determine the analytical units used within any field to construct shared meaning.[6] Bourdieu sees competition over symbolic capital by politicians, religious figures, civil servants and, in Iraq’s case, militia leaders, in the political field as having the greatest influence over a given society as they struggle over how society should be organized and who can be a member of it.[7]

More recent work inspired by Bourdieu has sought to take his insights about fields and apply them to the transnational realm. Under this rubric the state is itself “embedded in an ensemble of transnational fields.”[8] The coherence and autonomy of a state’s political field will be dependent upon the extent to which it has become embedded in and dominated by other overlapping national and transnational fields.[9] If a country’s political field becomes heavily influenced by centrifugal forces emanating from other national and transnational fields, actors in a national political field may become hybridized, effectively double or triple agents, being influenced by the logic of their own national political field but also by differing logics that have originated in other fields.[10]

Bourdieu’s conceptualization of the modern state is especially useful for understanding Iraq. The state, for Bourdieu, is not and cannot be a coherent actor in and of itself. Instead, it is a field where different actors compete against each other to dominate the state’s institutions and to utilize its capital.[11] The state is therefore disaggregated and pulled apart by those competing to utilize its power. Iraq, after the 2003 invasion and regime change, saw its state institutions deliberately disaggregated. The US-led occupation, fearful of renewed authoritarianism, divided power within coercive ministries, especially the Ministry of Interior, amongst competing political parties in order to decentralise control.[12] Iraq’s political field was also coercively transnationalized by an invading American army and its allies. In the first years of the US presence, decisions taken on the basis of knowledge acquired in America’s own political field dominated Iraq and shaped the evolution of its politics.[13] Coercive and economic power that originated in and was controlled from the US recreated Iraq’s political field. Actors from regional states, especially Iran but also Syria, Turkey and the Gulf, seeing either a threat or an opportunity in regime change, moved into Iraq, deploying covert coercive, economic and symbolic capital to gain purchase in the political field. A large number, if not the majority, of the new Iraqi competitors in the country’s post-Ba’athist political field owed their power and position to external players.[14] Iraq, after 2003, had become highly transnationalized, integrated into the political fields of a number of other states. The coherence of its institutions and boundaries were undermined by these sustained exogenous centrifugal forces.

The empowerment of al-Hashd al-Shaabi is a direct result of the disaggregation and transnationalization of Iraq’s state and political field. The Iraqi state’s inability to concentrate coercive capital in its own institutions after 2003 created a space within the country’s political field for a myriad of non-state military actors to flourish. The transnationalization of Iraq’s political field allowed Iran to empower the militias aligned to it. It deployed economic, social, coercive and symbolic capital across its own borders into Iraq, further weakening the Iraqi state while empowering the militias who, after 2014, came to dominate the Hashd.

The rise to dominance of al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq’s political field

The three main militias that dominate al-Hashd al-Shaabi, Badr, Asaib ahl al-Haq (AAH) and Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), were either formed (AAH and KH) or secured national prominence (Badr) in the period between regime change and the formation of the Hashd in 2014. They initially relied on Iran for economic, coercive and symbolic capital. For the majority of the period after 2003, the US should have had the predominant coercive capital in Iraq, with its troops numbers ranging from 150,000 during the invasion to 171,000 at the height of its military engagement in 2007.[15] However, the collapse of the Ba’athist state’s military forces was compounded by the American decision to quickly disband the Iraqi army at the start of its occupation. This allowed numerous players within Iraq’s political field to deploy coercive capital in the struggle for domination. It was in the midst of this spiral of competitive violence that AAH and KH were formed.

All three of these groups, Badr, AAH and KH, have received extensive support from the Iranian government and as such have been labelled the Hashd al-Wala’i, members of the Hashd who are loyal to Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.[16] The senior Badr leader, Hadi al-Amiri and the founder and leader of KH, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, have long and well-documented relationships with Tehran. The leader of AAH, Qais al-Khazali, has also developed a close relationship with Iran and has spent time in exile there. However, simply understanding these three groups and their leaders as ‘Iranian clients’ does damage to their own hybrid position within a specifically Iraqi political field, albeit one greatly influenced by Iran.[17] Erwin van Veen’s research suggests that as Badr and AAH have successfully sought to expand their own role in Iraq’s political field, attempting to use symbolic and social capital to gain greater public support, they have also attempted to distance themselves from Iran.[18] KH, on the other hand, refuses to take an overt role in the political field, instead focusing on developing its covert coercive capital. This has allowed it to remain much closer to Iran in terms of its symbolic, economic and coercive capital.

To simply see the power of these three groups as a direct result of Iran’s influence in Iraq’s political field is to underestimate the powerful indigenous dynamics at work. Al-Hashd al-Shaabi’s origins lie in the policies of Iraq’s Prime Minister from 2006 to 2014, Nuri al-Maliki. In his attempt to outflank his rivals and dominate the political field, Maliki set out to break the Iraqi army’s chain of command, binding senior military commanders to him personally through favouritism and promotion.[19] This, combined with corruption and the wider politicization of the office crops, gravely weakened Iraq’s security services. By early 2014, Maliki acknowledged the lack of coercive capital possessed by the formal institutions of the Iraqi state. However, instead of reversing his previous policies and embarking on security sector reform, he set about empowering and utilizing the more informal coercive capital of those Shi’a Islamist militias, including Badr, KH and AAH, allied with him within the National Alliance.[20] These militias, whose ability to mobilize and operate had been greatly curtailed from 2007 onwards, began to overtly redeploy their forces in Baghdad and across the south.[21] As the Islamic State’s capacity to seize territory and deploy violence increased, this reliance on Shi’a Islamist militias was formalized with the creation of the ‘Popular Defence Brigades.’[22]

It was in the aftermath of the fall of Mosul and the collapse of Iraq’s army in the face of the Islamic State’s advance that al-Hashd al-Shaabi rapidly increased its coercive, social and symbolic capital. As soon as Mosul fell to Islamic State, Maliki announced on national television plans to “provide weapons and equipment to citizens who volunteer to fight against militants.”[23] Three days later this process was rapidly accelerated by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s call for:

“People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defence of their country … should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal.”[24]

The statement was carefully worded to deliver new recruits to the state’s own security forces, as was a clarification issued four days later.[25] However, the state’s institutions, lacking coherence, had neither the social or symbolic capital needed to channel the recruits into government-controlled organizations. Instead, the already established, Iranian-aligned Shi’a Islamist militias, predominately Badr, AAH and KH, used their social and economic capital to co-opt the vast majority of the tens of thousands who volunteered to fight.[26]

The policies of both Nuri al-Maliki and the main militias further accentuated this dynamic. Maliki quickly set up a formal organization, the Commission for the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi), to give government legitimacy to the militias, while the militias themselves seized upon Sistani’s statement, utilizing his symbolic capital for their own ends.[27] In the months and years that followed the fall of Mosul, these militias have used the economic, social, symbolic and coercive capital given to them by their role in the fight against the Islamic State to increase their size but also their dominant role in Iraq’s political field. Michael Knights estimates that KH have increased its membership from 400 in 2011 to 10,000 today. AAH, with under 3,000 members in 2011 now has 10,000 troops. Finally, Badr’s 18,000-22,000 forces are “threaded throughout” the rest of the PMF, giving them the dominant leadership role.[28]

Attempts at state control of al-Hashd al-Shaabi

Since their formation in 2014, three prime ministers, Nuri al-Maliki, Haider al-Abadi and now Adel Abdul-Mahdi have attempted to control the Hashd, placing them under the command of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). However, all of these initiatives have failed because, within Iraq’s political field, the dominant groups within the Hashd, Badr, KH and AAH, have more social and symbolic capital than the Prime Minister. At the height of his power, before the fall of Mosul, Prime Minister Maliki had intended to control the Hashd through the PMO. During his two terms in office, Maliki had expanded the PMO to be the most powerful and coherent institution within the weak and fractured Iraqi state. Maliki had built the PMO’s social capital by creating the ‘Malikiyoun,’ a network of senior civil servants and generals loyal to him, spread across the Iraqi state.[29] He created the Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi, inside the PMO as a way of managing the Hashd in a similar way. However, once he was ousted as prime minister in the summer of 2014, he set about using his still considerable power to defend the autonomy of those militias within the Hashd who remained close to him. Against this background, the militias that dominated the Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi, used the coercive and symbolic power they had amassed fighting the Islamic State, to both defend and increase their autonomy from state control.

Maliki’s replacement as prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, tried on at least two occasions to secure control over the Hashd. In February 2016, he passed Executive Order 61, which formally incorporated the Hashd, as an “independent military formation of the Iraqi armed forces” “linked to the general commander of the armed forces.”[30] It was an indication of the fraught negotiations between Abadi and the leading militias leaders that the text of the order was not made public for five months and then did not mention what the size of the Hashd forces would be.[31] In November 2016, Order 61 was surpassed by the Law of the Popular Mobilization Authority, passed by the Iraqi parliament. In theory this placed the Hashd under the authority of the National Security Council.[32]

Abadi failed in his intention of bringing the Hashd under the control of the PMO. He managed to appoint the long serving National Security Adviser, Faleh al-Fayyadh, as the formal head of the Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi but the Hashd’s symbolic and social capital was such that Fayyadh failed in asserting any formal authority over it. Instead, the recognition of the Hashd as a formal arm of the state’s military forces allowed the deputy head of the Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi and the leader of KH, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, to amass greater economic and social capital. This was demonstrated by his continued and successful public lobbying, from 2015 onwards, for the Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi to get a greater share of the Iraqi state budget.[33] These demands on the state treasury were couched in terms of the myriad sacrifices that the Hashd had made in the fight against the Islamic State and their demand for pay parity with the formal armed services. Both these arguments stressed the Hashd’s symbolic role as protector of a very specific understanding of the nation. In addition, the money allocated was delivered in the form of a block grant given directly to Muhandis, which allowed him to direct resources to those groups within the Hashd who were aligned with him, heavily constraining the ability of those groups not aligned to him to function, let alone expand.

It is against this background that on 1st July, 2019, Iraq’s third prime minister since 2014, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, announced another attempt to impose central state control on the Hashd. This had the appearance of a classic quasi-Weberian security sector reform initiative, subjecting the Hashd to the institutionalized authority of the PMO. It set out a series of rules that, if applied, were meant to force the militias within the Hashd to abandon their names and adopt “military nomenclatures.”[34] They would have to cut any political affiliation with the parties and organizations that created them and close all their political and economic offices. In return the decree further extended state recognition, funding and legitimacy to the Hashd, awarding their forces military ranks comparable to Iraq’s own security forces. All those groups who fail to comply with the edict were to be deemed “outlaws” and “prosecuted accordingly.”[35]

However, the July 2019 initiative raised the question about where power lies in Iraq’s political field and who would benefit from this new push towards consolidation. The Prime Minister’s edict looks very different if Bourdieu’s analytical insights are deployed. If the state is conceived of as a centralized unitary actor, then the edict could be seen as a victory for the institutionalization of coercive power in the PMO. However, if the state is seen as a field, with both national and transnational actors competing within it for power, then the outcome may not be so positive. The edict certainly gave greater symbolic capital to favoured militias inside the Hashd. However, it did not cement central control over them. Instead, it further empowered a set of transnationally aligned players in Iraq’s political field and by implication, at the same time, weakened other coercive actors, those in the Iraqi army and Counter Terrorism Service, who were also attempting to assert their influence. This was for two reasons.

First, the Hashd itself has been undergoing an internal process of consolidation, driven forward by the key leaders of the Iranian aligned militias. This process empowered Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, not the state or the PMO. Muhandis used the block cash transfers he got for the Hashd from the PMO to side-line the Hashd al-Marji’i, those groups aligned and funded by the Shi’a religious authorities in Najaf, in favour of the Hashd al-Wala’i, those who are aligned with Tehran. In effect, Iraqi state money, strategically deployed by Muhandis, was used to fund and expand those militias who aligned themselves with Iran, as opposed to those aligned with Iraqi religious institutions or other national actors in the field.[36]

Secondly, Muhandis and his allies oversaw the centralization of coercive capital in the Central Security Directorate of the Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi.[37] This organization, staffed by members of KH and loyal to Muhandis, started to police the actions of all the militias claiming membership of the Hashd. Individuals and groups that Muhandis labelled as illegitimate were raided, disarmed and locked up. Muhandis argued that,

“We will sacrifice a lot of friends when we cleanse our ranks and will face several obstacles. We have a long way to go and we need to be patient.”[38]

An example of this dynamic took place in February 2019, when four bases of the militia, the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Forces, were raided and its leader, Aws al-Khafaji, arrested. The Hay’at al-Hashd al-Shaabi claimed this was a part of the process of cracking down on “fake bases claiming to be affiliated with the Hashd.”[39] However, Khafaji had been a long-term critic of Iranian influence in Iraq. Just before his arrest he had asserted on local television that Iraqis should oppose Iranian interference in Iraq, along with Turkish and American meddling. He had been particularly critical of what he saw as Iranian complicity in the assassination of his cousin, the secular writer Alaa Mushthoub, in Najaf in February 2019. Mushthoub was rumoured to have been murdered because of his own criticism of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.[40]

The use of state resources and the centralization of the Hashd leads to another interpretation of the July 1st edict; it represented the concentration of coercive capital around a new network of power, comparable to the role that the ‘Malikiyoun’ played between 2006 and 2014. The aim of this centralization was to empower the ‘Muhandiseen,’ those through whom Muhandis exercised and increased his own social, symbolic, coercive and economic capital. The plans announced by the Prime Minister represented the next stage in this process, an attempt at merging the different Hashd groups into one coherent force that was to be directly controlled by Muhandis. In spite of the assassination of Muhandis, this force may well grow to be a much more coherent actor in Iraq’s political field but it will also be much more unambiguously aligned with Iran. It will also be more ruthless in its use of violence and much less tolerant of dissent.


In the aftermath of the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State, coercive capital in Iraq’s political field was held by both centralized state forces and decentralized militias. The militias, personified by Badr, Asa’ib Ahl al Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah, are certainly influenced by dynamics within Iraq’s political field but have increased their power by taking economic capital, in the form of funding and symbolic capital, in the form of Shi’a Islamist ideology, from Iran’s political field.

As the protest movement began to spread across Baghdad and southern Iraq in October 2019, the role of these militias in policing Iraq’s political field became clear. Covert coercive capital was continually deployed to enforce the symbolic violence associated with the Hashd al-Wala’i, brutally disciplining society in the name of an Iranian aligned radical Shi’a Islamism.[41] The Prime Minister’s Hashd reforms of July 2019 accelerate the concentration of power in the Muhandiseen’s hands, with the coercive capital of the Hashd al-Wala’i becoming a central tool in the struggle to dominate Iraq’s political field, used to suppress any opposition.

The assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on 2 December 2019, the central Iraqi figure involved in the process of Hashd centralization, may well slow this process down. However, his speedy replacement by Hadi al-Amiri as the dominant figure in the Hashd chain of command indicates the extent to which this centralization and institutionalization has been a success, escaping the power and personality of any one individual. In addition, Iranian aligned politicians within Iraq’s political field have successfully used the violation of Iraq’s sovereignty to mobilize against the US, American allies in Iraq’s political field and the studiously non-aligned protest movement. Against this background, the assassination of Muhandis and Qasim Sulimani has successfully been used to strengthen the power of Iranian-aligned actors in Iraq.

Toby Dodge is a professor in the International Relations Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

End notes

[1] Yezid Sayigh, ‘Hybridizing security: Armies, militias and constrained sovereignty,’ Carnegie Middle East Center, 30 October, 2018, https://carnegie-mec.org/2018/10/30/hybridizing-security-armies-militias-and-constrained-sovereignty-pub-77597.

[2] Alice Hills, ‘Security sector or security arena? The evidence from Somalia,’ International Peacekeeping (2014) 21 / 2, pp. 165–180.

[3] Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 97.

[4] Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), p. 96.

[5] Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The forms of capital,’ in J. Richardson (ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York: Greenwood, 1986),


[6] Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge: Polity, 1991), pp. 160, 167-8.

[7] Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The political field, the social science field and the journalistic field,’ in Rodney Benson and Erik Neveu (eds.), Bourdieu and the Journalistic Field (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005), pp. 36, 39.

[8] Monika Krause, ‘How transnational fields vary,’ Paper delivered at the IR Theory Seminar, International Relations Department, London School of Economics and Political Science, 12 March, 2018, p. 4.

[9] Antonin Cohen, ‘Bourdieu hits Brussels: The genesis and structure of the European field of power,’ International Political Sociology (2011) 5, p. 335.

[10] Yves Dezalay and Bryant G. Garth, ‘Hegemonic battles, professional rivalries, and the international division of labor in the market for the import and export of state-governing expertise,’ International Political Sociology (2011) 5, p. 277.

[11] Pierre Bourdieu, On the State Lectures at the College de France, 1989-1992, edited by Patrick Champagne, Remi Lenoir, Franck Poupeau and Marie-Christine Riviere, translated by David Fernbach (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014), p. 20 and Bourdieu and Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, p. 111.

[12] See Andrew Rathmell, ‘Fixing Iraq’s internal security forces: Why is reform of the Ministry of Interior so hard?’ (Center for Strategic & International Studies, Post Conflict Reconstruction Project Special Briefing, November 2007), http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/071113_fixingiraq.pdf.

[13] See Toby Dodge, ‘Intervention and dreams of exogenous statebuilding; the application of Liberal Peacebuilding in Afghanistan and Iraq,’ The Review of International Studies (2013) 39 / 5, pp. 1189-1212.

[14] See Phebe Marr, ‘Who are Iraq’s new leaders? What do they want?’ United States Institute of Peace, Special Report, March 2006, https://www.usip.org/publications/2006/03/who-are-iraqs-new-leaders-what-do-they-want.

[15] Toby Dodge, Iraq; from war to a new authoritarianism (Abingdon: Routledge, 2012), pp. 37.

[16] Fanar Haddad, ‘Understanding Iraq’s Hashd al-sha’bi. State and power in Post-2014 Iraq,’ The Century Foundation, 5 March, 2018, p. 4, https://tcf.org/content/report/understanding-iraqs-hashd-al-shabi/

[17] See Douglas A. Ollivant and Erica Gaston, ‘The problem with the narrative of “proxy war” in Iraq,’ War on the Rocks, 31 May, 2019

https://warontherocks.com/2019/05/the-problem-with-the-narrative-of-proxy-war-in-iraq/[18] Joel Wing, ‘Expansion of the Hashd al-shaabi’s influence in Iraq, interview with Clingendael’s Erwin van Veen,’ Musings on Iraq, 20 August, 2019, http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2019/08/expansion-of-hashd-al-shaabis-influence.html

[19] Dodge, Iraq; from war to a new authoritarianism, pp. 122-129.

[20] See Renad Mansour and Faleh A. Jabar, ‘The Popular Mobilization Force and Iraq’s Future,’ Carnegie Middle East Center, 28 April, 2017, p. 6, https://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810

[21] See Loveday Morris, ‘Shiite militias in Iraq begin to remobilize,’ Washington Post, 9 February, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/shiite-militias-in-iraq-begin-to-remobilize/2014/02/09/183816c6-8f59-11e3-878e-d76656564a01_story.html, Ned Parker, ‘Iraq: The road to chaos,’ New York Review of Books, 15 April, 2014, http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/apr/15/iraq-road-chaos/?insrc=wblu and Iraq Team, ‘Overt Shi’a militia mobilization in mixed areas,’ Institute for the Study of War, 17 April, 2014, http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2014/04/overt-shi-militia-mobilization-in-mixed.html

[22] Nibras Kazimi, ‘The origins of the PMUs,’ Talisman Gate, Again, 1 July, 2016,


[23] ‘Iraq government to arm citizens to fight militants,’ Associated French Press, 10 June 2014, http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2014/June/middleeast_June93.xml&section=middleeast

[24] Martin Chulov, ‘Iran sends troops into Iraq to aid fight against Isis militants,’ The Guardian, 14 June, 2019, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/14/iran-iraq-isis-fight-militants-nouri-maliki.

[25] Matthew Weaver, Tom McCarthy and Raya Jalabi, ‘Iraq crisis, Obama deploys troops,’ The Guardian, 17 June, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/middle-east-live/2014/jun/17/iraq-crisis-obama-deploys-troops-live-updates

[26] Renad Mansour, ‘The popularity of the Hashd in Iraq,’ Diwan, 1 February, 2016, https://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/62638?lang=en

[27] Mansour and Jabar, ‘The Popular Mobilization Force and Iraq’s Future,’ p. 4.

[28] Michael Knights, ‘Iran’s expanding militia army in Iraq: The new

Special Groups,’ CTC Sentinel, August, 2019, https://ctc.usma.edu/app/uploads/2019/08/CTC-SENTINEL-072019.pdf

[29] See Joel Rayburn, Iraq after America; strongmen, sectarians, resistance, (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 2014), pp. 49-50 and Dodge, Iraq; from war to a new authoritarianism, p. 158.

[30] Bill Roggio and Amir Toumaj, ‘Iraq’s prime minister establishes Popular Mobilization Forces as a permanent “independent military formation” ,’

Long War Journal, 28 July, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/07/iraqs-prime-minister-establishes-popular-mobilization-front-as-a-permanent-independent-military-formation.php

[31] Mansour and Jabar, ‘The Popular Mobilization Force and Iraq’s Future,’ p. 10.

[32] International Crisis Group, ‘Iraq’s paramilitary groups: The challenge of rebuilding a functioning state,’ 30 July, 2018, https://www.crisisgroup.org/file/6788/download?token=N-lGgUex

[33] Michael Knights and Michael Eisenstadt, ‘Mini-Hizballah’s, revolutionary guard knock-offs and the future of Iran’s militant proxies in Iraq,’ War on the rocks, 9 May, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/05/mini-hizballahs-revolutionary-guard-knock-offs-and-the-future-of-irans-militant-proxies-in-iraq/ and Rikar Hussein, ‘Iran-backed Shi’ite groups seek institutionalized role in post-IS Iraq,’ Voice of America News, 3 November, 2017, https://www.voanews.com/a/iran-backed-shiite-groups-seek-institutionalized-role-in-post-is-iraq/4099703.html, Jessa Rose Dury-Agri, Omer Kassim, and Patrick Martin, ‘Iraqi security forces and Popular Mobilisation Forces: Order of Battle,’ Institute for the Study of War, December 2017, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Iraq%20-%20ISF%20PMF%20Orders%20of%20Battle_0_0.pdf

[34] Muhammad al-Waeli, ‘Interpreting the Iraqi Prime Minister’s PMF decree,’ 1001 Iraqi Thoughts, 11 July, 2019, http://1001iraqithoughts.com/2019/07/11/interpreting-the-iraqi-prime-ministers-pmf-decree/

[35] See al-Waeli, ‘Interpreting the Iraqi Prime Minister’s PMF decree.’

[36] See Nancy Ezzeddine and Erwin van Veen, ‘Power in perspective:
Four key insights into Iraq’s Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi,’ June 2018,

https://www.clingendael.org/publication/iraqs-al-hashd-al-shaabi-four-key-insights, pp. 4-8.

[37] Knights, ‘Iran’s expanding militia army in Iraq: The new Special Groups,’ p. 9.

[38] Omar Sattar, ‘PMU whittles membership as Iraqi government absorbs militia,’ 21 February, 2019.

[39] Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, ‘The arrest of Aws al-Khafaji: Looking at the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Forces,’ 2 April, 2019, http://www.aymennjawad.org/22523/the-arrest-of-aws-al-khafaji-looking-at-the-abu

[40] See Renad Mansour, ‘Iraq’s paramilitaries are turning on their own ranks,’

26 February, 2019, https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/iraq-s-paramilitaries-are-turning-their-own-ranks and ‘Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi militia arrest commander who criticised Iran,’ al Araby, 9 February, 2019, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2019/2/9/iraqs-hashd-al-shaabi-militia-arrest-commander-who-criticised-iran.

[41] See, for example, Amnesty International, ‘Iraq: Testimonies emerge of coordinated attacks which killed at least 20 protesters,’ 7 December 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/12/iraq-testimonies-emerge-of-coordinated-attacks-which-killed-at-least-20-protesters/