On July 22, Iraqi Defense Minister Erfan al-Hiyali arrived in Tehran to meet Iranian officials. The visit came only three weeks after the liberation of Mosul; significantly, at the top of the Iraqi minister’s agenda was the signing of a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation between the two countries.
“Extending cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism and extremism, border security, and educational, logistical, technical and military support are among the provisions of this memorandum,” the official IRNA news agency reported after the signing of the accord in Tehran.
To those concerned about Iran’s role in Iraq, the main fear now is that the more influence the PMU has in the country, the more Iran will expand its reach. Over time, this might mean that the status of Iraq as a land where external powers share influence might be compromised.
All the while, the formalization and institutionalization of the PMU continues, making it clear that it is a force to be reckoned with in post-Mosul Iraq and it will not leave the stage anytime soon. As such, one important but overlooked option for those concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq would be to consider engagement with the PMU.
If not, Iran will have no competitors in influencing the direction of this nascent force entrusted with protecting Iraq from IS.
(Picture credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)