Iraq Situation Report: September 4 - 8, 2015

Iranian-backed Shi'a militias are challenging PM Abadi's authority through political means and the use of force in the wake of PM Abadi’s recent reforms. The proxy groups' obstruction of the National Guard Law further limits the  government's ability to subordinate the militias to the control of the state.  The National Guard Law is legislation that is critical to empowering Iraqi  Sunnis by  arming them and organizing them in the fight against ISIS.  The Iranian-backed militias have also used violence in Baghdad in ways that challenge the government's control of the capital. The militias are likely responsible for an emerging trend of kidnappings, including Iraqi government figures and Turkish workers. Gunmen likely from Kata’ib Hezbollah, a prominent Iranian-backed militia, also clashed with ISF from the Baghdad Operations Command. The proxies’ unchecked aggression against the ISF and attempts to obstruct the Iraqi legislative system may signal the further erosion of state authority over the militias. The Iraqi government has limited options to put down the militias in Baghdad because it faces numerous security challenges at this time, including the threat of ISIS, potential unrest among protesters in southern Iraq, and a developing trend of Turkish incursions into northern Iraq to chase the PKK. The ISF’s efforts to suppress an anti-government demonstration this week in Basra may represent an inflection point in light of PM Abadi’s previous orders that the ISF serve to protect the demonstrators. It will be important to monitor the Iraqi government’s ability to enforce orders in Basra and other areas far from Baghdad where security forces are thin and the potential for PM Abadi’s rivals to instigate insecurity is high.