It is no coincidence that there are strong parallels between Iraq’s People’s Mobilization Units (PMU) and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Hezbollah’s ability to weaken the central state and implement a policy that does not recognize borders is a model that Iran seeks to replicate in several places in light of the Hezbollah model allowing an extremely dangerous Iranian penetration in Lebanon.
Iraq is heading toward greater political tension following the endorsement of a law that legitimizes the PMU as an official militia. This is quite similar to legitimizing Hezbollah as an armed “resistance” party following the end of the Lebanese war.
The PMU has already committed war crimes and human rights violations, according to reports issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Such violations are documented in reports, photos and videos. This reminds us of the beginnings of Hezbollah, which was formed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon in the 1980s.
At that time, Hezbollah aka Islamic Jihad and Islamic Resistance, got involved in a series of kidnappings and killings of foreign hostages as well as assassinations. In addition, it also fought a fierce war against the Amal Movement before gaining Syria’s support and being declared a legitimate resistance organization following the post-war settlement. It is noteworthy that this particular armed legitimacy has grown parallel to, and even bigger than, the state itself.
The beginning of PMU’s existence in Iraq is very similar to Hezbollah’s existence in Lebanon; both have a legacy of violations and crimes. However, this existence is not all inclusive; it is the predominance of one party over the other in the sectarian-political equation in the two countries.
The undeniable truth is that both the PMU and Hezbollah are sectarian militias. The PMU is funded and officially sponsored by the Iraqi government, but it is actually controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The Hezbollah is, at the same time, recognized by the Lebanese government but it is also under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Iran aspires to achieve its expansionist ambitions through sectarian wars, militias and by doing away with the identities of nations — as seen in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. To achieve this, Tehran seeks to boost sectarian ties and strengthen relations between Shiite groups so that they become disconnected from their identities and national history. As a result, they would be separated into narrower identities instead of guaranteeing equal citizenship.
Tehran sees the countries it has militarily, politically and socially penetrated, such as Lebanon and Iraq, as hybrid fields lacking a specific authority — with its main aim being to turn Shiite groups outside Iran into a base of great influence.
Is Iran seeking to revive its dream of imperial expansion through its several bases of influence? Maybe. But will it succeed in doing so?
In fact, Iran has so far achieved some serious successes in that regard. However, these successes are tinged with feelings of tension, hatred and conflict that will not bring about national unity and stability. The so-called fighting against Daesh and terrorism in Mosul and northern Syria is merely a pretext for making demographic changes and forming a sectarian group that will make us pay dearly for years to come.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.