Has US found a New Friend in Iraq's Shiite Militias?

Although the National Mobilization is a part of the wider organization, there is disagreement between the two. The National Mobilization does not follow the Popular Mobilization Units administration, and the latter does not provide support to the former.

However, on Feb. 19, Abadi told the parliament that the Popular Mobilization Units will join in the operation to liberate Mosul, and that he will not surrender to pressure exerted by any of the parties to prevent the force from taking part in the battle for Mosul.

The United States seems to stand in solidarity with Abadi’s position on including the Popular Mobilization Units in the battle for Mosul, contrary to its stance in the battles for Tikrit and Ramadi. The United States banned the force from taking part in the Ramadi operation and prevented it from entering Tikrit. Walker was even quoted as saying during his visit to the hospital that the United States does not have a veto on the force's participation in the battle for Mosul, and that it is up to Abadi to decide.

Regional powers have joined the debate. On Jan. 23, Saudi Ambassador to Baghdad Thamer al-Sabhan called the Popular Mobilization Units a sectarian organization with a criminal agenda. His remarks sparked large-scale criticism in the Iraqi street.

Some observers feel that Walker’s visit and remarks reflect a great shift in the US alliances in the Middle East. Following Iran’s nuclear deal, US policy has clearly changed, moving away from its old friends in the region, most notably Saudi Arabia, and closer to Iran.

In an interview with The Atlantic on March 12, US President Barack Obama criticized Saudi Arabia, which “heavily funded Wahhabist madrassas, seminaries that teach the fundamentalist version of Islam.” When asked whether Saudi Arabia is a friend of the United States, he answered, “It’s complicated.” Obama added that the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their Iranian foes.

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