“Hashd al-Sha’abi is today a powerful legal organization in Iraq and recognized by the Iraqi government and parliament,” Iraj Masjidi said in an exclusive interview with Press TV earlier this week.
Hashd al-Sha’abi, a combination of some 40 groups of mostly Shia fighters, was formed shortly after the emergence of the Daesh terrorist group in Iraq in mid-2014.
In the early days of the Daesh’s reign of terror, the then volunteer fighters played a major role in reinforcing the Iraqi army, which had suffered heavy setbacks in the face of lightning advances by the terrorists.
In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate Hashd al-Sha’abi into the military.
On Friday, Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani says the volunteer forces, who helped the army eradicate Daesh, should be “incorporated” into state bodies.
The secretary general of Badr Organization, Iraq’s biggest Shia Muslim paramilitary group, told his fighters on Thursday to take orders from the national military and sever their relations with the group’s political wing, which holds 22 seats in the Iraqi parliament.
Asked about recent calls by the Western countries for dismantling the group, Masjidi said the group’s collapse “has no meaning.”
“If the US and others call [for dismantling Daesh,] firstly, it is none of their business and this decision is upon the Iraqi people. Secondly, in my opinion, it is a necessity for Iraq’s security and its defense,” he added.
The Iranian official further stressed that Hashd al-Sha’abi is a force that has along with other Iraqi armed forces created a big military, defense and defense power for the country.
In the post-Daesh era, he said, Hashd al-Sha’abi would be a “grantee” for the country’s security and serve as a deterrent against future threats to Iraq.
The group belongs to the Iraqi nation and government and defends country's territorial integrity, he noted.
Asked about the security situation on the Iraqi-Syrian border, Masjidi said that only the government of the two countries were responsible to safeguard their frontiers and the US should not interfere in the issue.
He also touched on Iran’s support for the Iraqi government and armed forces in their fight against terrorism, saying that the presence of Iranian military advisers in Iraq in the post-Daesh era depends on the situation and Baghdad’s request.