Yet as the war dragged on and with time, harmony was enhanced among fighters. The Iranians for the first time had the chance to oversee one huge military investment in Iraq flourish and become part of the armed forces after the parliament passed a law that was approved later by the president to honor “whoever sacrificed his blood in defense of Iraq” and to “ensure that weapons are only in the hands of the state,” according to a statement by the president’s media office.
While the Iranians were training and organizing the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), US officials were giving mixed signals to the Iraqis as well as the world. Serving and former officials in Washington suggested the fight with IS could take more than 20 years; this alone was a reason for those who saw in IS a real threat or even an existential threat to raise concerns. Meanwhile, the Iranians continued their efforts, establishing themselves on the ground while the United States struck from the air.
On several occasions, both the Iranians and the Americans had to cooperate indirectly through the Iraqis, and the latter were happy as long as the results were serving their interests. In Salahuddin and Anbar provinces and in the city of Fallujah, US planes were hitting IS positions, and later the Iraqi forces, including the PMU, were advancing. On many occasions, the Americans requested that the PMU not take part in certain battles, such as those in Anbar in December 2015.
Yet the fighters were entering battle with different uniforms. Later, the United States drew “red lines,” including that the PMU should steer clear of the border with Syria and that it should not play a part in the liberation of Mosul. Both red lines were crossed.