Hadi al-Amiri leader of the Shiite Badr Organization. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Hashd al-Shaabi played a “pivotal role” in the Iraqi takeover of the disputed areas, a high ranking commander in the mainly Shiite force claimed on Thursday, praising the Hashd role in fighting for Iraq.
Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr Organization that operates under the umbrella of the Hashd, said they “played a pivotal role in imposing security over the disputed areas, especially Kirkuk, and persuading Peshmerga brothers to not fight security forces.”
Amiri said security was imposed in the areas “without spilling the blood of Iraqis.”
Most Peshmerga forces were pulled out of the disputed areas, leaving their positions without a fight in the face of advancing Iraqi army and Iranian-backed Hashd forces. Some clashes took place, however, and at least 60 Peshmerga were killed across the disputed areas.
Elements within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have been accused of colluding with the Iraqi forces, allowing them to enter Kirkuk – a charge they have denied.
Thousands of civilians, mainly Kurds, who fled the Iraqi and Shiite forces are unable to return home, fearing targeted attacks, especially Tuz Khurmatu.
Amiri praised the role the Badr militias took on, assisting in “liberating many cities and towns” from ISIS, but said it was now time of the militiamen to sever their ties with the Badr organization, in an apparent attempt to prepare the organization for elections next May. It is forbidden for members of the military to hold elected office.
“We currently have a large number of military forces operating under the command of the Hashd al-Shaabi and military references of the armed forces,” Amiri said, explaining his men “are defending many delicate and important places in Diyala, Salahaddin, Kirkuk, Nineveh, Anbar, and Baghdad.”
The arms in the hands of his men all belong to the state, Amiri asserted. “We do not have special weapons, because we believe arms must be in the hands of the state.”
He urged all the armed forces to leave the liberated areas.
Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr recently warned no party should run under the banner of the Hashd al-Shaabi in the country’s upcoming elections and reiterated his call for Shiite militias to hand their weapons back to the state.
He also instructed his men from the Saraya al-Salam brigade to leave the liberated areas to the Iraqi army after the proclaimed end to the war with ISIS.
The Hashd al-Shaabi was formed after a fatwa by Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the summer of 2014 when ISIS captured several Iraqi provinces. He urged civilians to take up arms and fight. There were formally brought under the umbrella of the Iraqi armed forces in December 2016.