Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

Iraq’s Al-Hashd al-Sha'abi: four key insights

28 Jun 2018 - 16:30
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Power in perspective: Four key insights into Iraq’s Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi

Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Forces) is an umbrella term for approximately 50 Iraqi armed groups of varying capabilities and interests. This policy brief explores the power base, relationships and attitudes of seven Hashd groups towards the Iraqi government between January and September 2017 to understand the effect they may have on the nature of the Iraqi state in the near future. It identifies and develops four key insights:

  • The Hashd are highly heterogeneous and need to be analysed as individual groups to develop strategies for their peaceful incorporation into the Iraqi security landscape. 
  • The Hashd groups’ sources of power – coercive/security, socio-religious, economic/financial and political – are connected, but not in equal measure. This means that only limited positive and negative power multiplier effects – in which power in one dimension can increase power in another dimension – can be created.
  • All the Hashd groups have at least one vulnerable power dimension at the national level. This gives the Iraqi government leverage to ensure that groups fall in line with national priorities when the stakes are high enough. 
  • Few Hashd groups oppose the Iraqi government and shun political engagement with it. This means that there is scope to negotiate political solutions for incorporating the Hashd into the Iraqi security landscape. It also suggests that the threat of the Hashd to the legitimacy/existence of the Iraqi government is somewhat overstated.