Mohammad Sadegh Koushki, a prominent Middle East expert at the University of Tehran, told Al-Monitor that he believes Tehran does not have a clear-cut “special plan” for post-IS Mosul.
He said, “Iran did not get directly involved in the Mosul operation, as the Iraqi government had not asked for it. Iran has only supported the PMU indirectly in this operation, upon the official request of the Iraqi government. But the stability of Iraq is important for the Islamic Republic of Iran, because the future of Iran’s security is tied to it.”
The exact number of fighters serving with active Shiite militias in Iraq is not clear. But there are estimates of between 100,000 to 120,000 militiamen, most of them organized under the banner of the PMU. Although the Iraqi parliament has passed legislation to make the PMU an official wing of Iraqi’s security forces, little is clear about the PMU’s future role within the country’s armed forces.
The United States is worried about the political influence of the PMU, as a large portion of it receives direct Iranian backing. PMU representative Karim al-Nouri said that taking into account the role of PMU militias in defending Iraq against IS, achieving long-term political goals is a legitimate demand on their part.
The United States and Iran look at the Iraqi parliament’s PMU legislation through different lenses. The Islamic Republic supports the Nov. 26 law. Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said in a meeting with Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki in Tehran on Jan. 3 that the legislation was the result of the PMU’s constructive performance. Shamkhani further emphasized that the PMU enjoyed a strategic potential in providing Iraq’s future security.