The rapid rise of the Islamic State (IS)1 in Iraq — which saw the capture of major Iraqi cities such as Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah and culminated with IS declaring its caliphate in the summer of 2014 — caught the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) unprepared, to the extent that at one point Baghdad itself was within IS's grasp.2 As a response to this existential threat, Iraq's most senior religious cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued an edict for all able-bodied men to join the ISF and help protect the homeland, its people and the holy shrines. Although Sistani's fatwa was based on principles of national unity, rather than any call for a religious jihad, the end result has been more divisive than unifying.3 The ISF suffered from a credibility problem following its collapse in the north, as well as a lack of capacity to absorb a large number of new volunteers on short notice.4 As a result, a plethora of substate armed groups rapidly emerged and congealed under the banner of the Hashd al-Shaabi (HS), or the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Some groups were newly established, others remobilized in response to Sistani's call, and others still were already active on the request of then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and used the fatwa for legitimization.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations
- Security and Resilience