Between August and December 2018, the original Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi - as a national amalgam of 50-odd armed groups created to fight IS - slowly disintegrated. Some groups concentrated on local-level activities and control, others on political activity while yet others integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces. Yet, the label of the ‘Hashd’ lives on and now refers to a restructured entity in which Iran-affiliated groups increasingly dominate – Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib ahl al-Haq and the Badr Corps especially. This entity aims to gradually increase its socioeconomic influence throughout Iraqi society by leveraging the legitimacy it derived from the fight against IS and by filling the gap created by the absence of public services and disappointing government performance.
While there are upsides to this development, it also risks creating smaller governance units that operate within the Iraqi state with relative autonomy, serving some groups and citizens more than others. The key to mitigating this risk is a stronger Iraqi state that accepts the major Hashd groups as junior partners in Iraq’s governance (in addition to their parliamentary representation) and is capable of setting clear boundaries related to their operations and coercive capabilities. On this basis, it can incorporate Hashd energies and strengths into its own development plans. Initiatives that can help stimulate a development in this direction include strengthening the role of the Iraqi Federal Police and Army at the local level, improving the capacity of local governments to provide services and creating local charters in which local government and Hashd groups agree upon social and economic performance objectives.
Read the full report