The paramilitary wing of influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al Sadr on Monday agreed to disband its forces and hand over its cache of weapons to the Iraqi government, making it the first Shia militia to lay down its arms in the aftermath of Islamic State’s defeat in the country.
During a televised speech Monday, Mr. al-Sadr called upon the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi allow members of his militia, known as Saraya Al-Salam, to join the Iraqi security forces or take positions within the federal government. He also demanded Baghdad “look after the families of the martyrs” who were killed during the three-year war against ISIS via compensation and support.
Other Shia paramilitaries, such as the Iranian-backed Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba’, a militia force of roughly 10,000 fighters, vowed last month to turn over any heavy weapons it had to Iraqi security forces once Islamic State had been driven from the country. Despite such promises, Mr. Sadr’s forces remain the only Shia militia under the Popular Mobilization Forces or PMF banner to hand over its arms to government forces.
At its height during the fight against ISIS, Saraya Al-Salam held sway over 2,000 square kilometers of Shia-dominated territory in northern Iraq, mostly in Nineveh province. Militia spokesman Safaa al-Timeemi told the Washington Times last September that the group would acquiesce to Baghdad’s control — but only if Mr. Sadr made the order.