Abadi moves to Demilitarize Iraq's Cities

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi government recently announced the launch of an effort to remove signs of militarization from the country's cities. The Interior Ministry issued a statement July 17 to that effect, based on directives from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, that included such measures as reducing the number of checkpoints and relocating military bases and offices outside the cities.

“Arms have been in the streets and at checkpoints, and men in military uniforms have been deployed in the cities since the 1970s,” said Walid Youssef Atto, a researcher on Iraqi history. The militarization intensified significantly with the recruitment of additional soldiers for the paramilitary People's Army after President Saddam Hussein launched the war against Iran in 1980.

Following Hussein’s ouster and the 2003 US-led invasion, the militarization of civil life again increased, perhaps peaking when the Islamic State (IS) took control of Mosul in June 2014, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's call for Iraqis to mobilize against the extremists led to the reconstitution of previously disbanded militias and the formation of new ones.

“Visible signs of militarization in the cities intensified by both parties, IS fighters and militias members fighting IS,” Jassem al-Moussawi, a political analyst told Al-Monitor. “The militarization has [also] increased due to the war on terrorism. … On the other hand, the security forces are weak, but they are deployed in all parts of Baghdad, which promotes the presence of arms in the streets.”

Concerning the future of militarization, Moussawi said, “It is linked to the country’s security situation, the end of the war on IS and on whether or not new conflicts emerge, leading to the formation of new armed factions whose activities and presence overshadow those of the civil state institutions.”

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