Popular Mobilization Forces: Exploring Iraq’s Armed Groups

The inception of the Popular Mobilization Forces in 2014 followed Shiite leader Ali al-Sistani’s issuance of the Sufficient Jihad fatwa amidst ISIS’s control of a significant portion of Iraq. Consequently, this led to the formal establishment of the Popular Mobilization Authority, endorsed by the Iraqi House of Representatives on November 26, 2016.

Initially spurred by civilian volunteers rallying behind al-Sistani’s call, the Popular Mobilization Forces also absorbed pre-existing Iraqi armed groups. Presently, the majority of armed groups in Iraq are affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces, boasting over 200,000 fighters spread across 67 factions.

Additionally, this figure includes various facets of the organization, regardless of their combat roles. Notably, approximately 25,000 Sunni fighters, organized with the assistance of tribal elders, are also part of the Popular Mobilization Forces. [source]

1. “Saraya Salem” Brigades

Salam Brigades motto [source]

A 2014-established armed group affiliated with the Sadrist movement and led by Muqtada al-Sadr. It is primarily located in the Samarra regions of the Salah al-Din Governorate in northern Iraq and represents brigades (313, 314, and 315) within the Popular Mobilization Forces formations.

Additionally, most of the group’s members previously served as combatants and commanders in the “Promised Day” Brigade, a branch of the Sadrist movement that was integrated into the Mahdi Army before its recent dissolution.

Despite this, the “Salam Brigades” obey Al-Sadr even though he declared his intention to stop taking political action in Iraq, removed his deputies from the Parliament, and did not support any of the military actions carried out against American forces there.

Leader: Muqtada al-Sadr

Headquarter: Najaf, Baghdad

1.1 Organization

The Salam Brigades consist of three divisions, each comprising four brigades, each containing four regiments, each of which houses multiple companies, each ranging from sixty to one hundred individuals.

Between 10,000 and 50,000 individuals constitute the Saraya Salem Brigades, divided into three brigades under the Popular Mobilization Forces and dispersed throughout the Salah al-Din Governorate.[source]

1.2 Recent activities

– On 25 April, unknown assailants kidnapped the leader, Ali Neama, in the “Saraya al-Salam Brigades” in the center of the city of Amara, the governorate’s capital, at gunpoint in the Sector 30 area. [source]

– On 13 January, clashes took place between Saraya al-Salam and Asaib Ahl al-Haq in the city of Kut.
The clashes broke out after the command of the Saraya al-Salam Brigade in Wasit Abu Hassan Governorate was subjected to an assassination attempt. The Iraqi security forces intervened and restored calm to the city.

– On 26 December, armed conflicts erupted between Saraya al-Salam and Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants in the Al-Amil neighborhood of the capital, Baghdad. The removal of banners featuring the pictures of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s “Quds Force,” and Abu Mahdi al-Jaafari, the deputy head of the Iraqi “Popular Mobilization Forces,” served as the catalyst for the clashes. These banners commemorated the engineer who perished in a 2020 US airstrike close to Baghdad.

Social media users were sharing scenes of the two parties fighting, with gunfire erupting as a result.
Witnesses said that in an effort to maintain control over the situation, Iraqi security personnel barred people from entering and leaving the area where the fighting were taking place. [source]

2. Badr Brigade 

In 1982, the group was founded. Imam Khomeini gave the Badr organization a lot of support and attention while it was stationed in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He met many of its members when he went to its headquarters.

Furthermore, a group of resistance soldiers, officers, and commanders from the former Iraqi army who sought sanctuary in Iran and were welcomed and sponsored by that country are part of the Legion.

Initially, the Badr Brigade was first established, and as its membership grew, it became a legion with over 50,000 fighters. Later, following the overthrow of the Iraqi regime, the number of fighters increased to over 100,000, and the Badr Corps changed its name to the Badr Organization, indicating that it was abandoning its role as a military force and shifting its focus to political action.

Consequently, it grew in popularity and became eligible for further representation in the Iraqi parliament. Under the direction of Hadi Al-Amiri, the current Secretary-General and former head of the Supreme Council, the Badr Organization entered the political ring.

Furthermore, besides its political role—being among the first to advocate for the withdrawal of American occupation forces and to vote in Parliament in favor of the withdrawal of all American military forces from Iraq—the Badr Organization is considered one of the main arteries of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Consequently, it is crucial to the liberation of the lands and the expulsion of ISIS terrorists. [source]

Leader: Hadi al-Amiri

Headquarter: Karrada-Baghdad

Badr organization motto
Badr organization motto [source]

2.1 Badr Brigade Organization

  1. First Brigade (Imam Muhammad al-Jawad Brigade): 730 personnel under Major General Mahdi Saleh Abd al-Wahid Abd al-Amir al-Bubasiri Abu Jinan al-Basri, stationed in Basra and Diyala.
  2. Third Brigade (Asad Amerli Formation): 850 members led by Abu Turab al-Tamimi under the Anbar Operations Command, operating in Anbar.
  3. Fourth Brigade (Al-Imam Al-Askari): 1,300 personnel led by Abu Hanan Hassan Ali Aboud Al-Kanaani, stationed in Hamrin Mountains and eastern Diyala under the Diyala Operations Command.
  4. Fifth Brigade (Abu Dargham Haider Youssef Al-Matouri): 700 militants spread across Basra and Diyala under the Al-Karrar Formation.
  5. Ninth Brigade (Karbala Brigade): 300 fighters led by Abu Ali Al-Aboudi, stationed in Salah al-Din Governorate.
  6. Tenth Brigade (Abu Ammar Al-Fartusi Regiment): 300 militants under Abu Sahar Al-Maryani’s command, spread across Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, and Diyala.
  7. 7th-16th Brigade (Turkmen Force): Around 300 militants led by Ali Al-Husseini stationed in various locations within Kirkuk Governorate.
  8. 21st Brigade (Badr Organization): 400 fighters led by Khudair Al-Matrohi stationed southeast of Mosul.
  9. Brigade 22 (Badr Organization): 300 fighters under Abu Kawthar al-Muhammadawi stationed east of Salah al-Din Governorate.
  10. Brigade 23 (Badr Organization): 300 fighters led by Bashir Al-Anbaki stationed in Khanaqin, Baquba, and the Diyala River islands.
  11. 24th Brigade (Badr Organization): 500 fighters led by Ahmed Hussein Saadoun Al-Tamimi stationed north of Muqdadiya and Qara Tabba, and northeastern Diyala.
  12. Brigade 27 (Abu Muntazer al-Muhammadawi Forces): 200 fighters under Abu Ahmed al-Talibawi’s command stationed in the Karma District and eastern Anbar.
  13. 52nd Brigade (Amerli Regiment): 500 personnel led by Ahmed Jassim Al-Amerli stationed in eastern Salah al-Din.
  14. 53rd Brigade (Al-Hussein Brigade): 350 fighters led by Abu Karar Ali Muhammad Saleh Alloush stationed east of Salah al-Din.
  15. Brigade 110 (Faili Kurds Brigade): Members led by Zahir Hamid Al-Mandalawi stationed northeast of Diyala.

2.2 Recent activities

-On 18 February, Sabri al-Amiri, a relative of Hadi al-Amiri, was assassinated in Rashidiya, along with another cousin. The incident raised concerns about security and potential internal unrest within Hadi al-Amiri’s tribal circles. The assassination added to existing tensions and security challenges faced by Hadi al-Amiri and his associates, potentially signaling broader instability within their sphere of influence. [source]

-On 17 February, Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr Organization, reversed his decision regarding the nomination of Muhammad Jassim al-Amiri as governor of Diyala province, citing the candidate’s age as the reason for withdrawal. Hadi’s reversal followed backlash and internal strife within his organization and tribal circles over the nomination of Muhammad Jassim al-Amiri, who did not meet the minimum age requirement for the position. [source]

-On 9 February, Shibl al-Zaidi, leader of Kataib al-Imam Ali, scathingly criticized the Nabni Alliance’s division of provinces in provincial elections. He specifically targeted the Badr Organization’s attempts to expand its control into Maysan, Qadisiyah, and Wasit provinces, highlighting their conflict over the nomination of Muhammad Jamal al-Mayahi as governor of Wasit. Shibl’s remarks came amid tensions between his group and the Badr Organization regarding political influence and nominations for provincial governorships. [source]

3. Hezbollah 

Hezbollah Brigades motto
Hezbollah Brigades motto [source]

This was one of the most well-known armed groups in Iraq when it was established in 2003 following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It states that one of its objectives is “to remove American forces from Iraq and defend the holy sites,” and it has no affiliation with the Hezbollah of Lebanon. Among the loose coalition known as “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” consisting of radical Shiite armed groups claiming responsibility for over 150 attacks on US forces since the beginning of the Gaza War, this outfit stands out as the most potent armed element.

Moreover, this group is present in the Popular Mobilization Forces’ brigades 47, 46, 45, and 17.

Furthermore, sectarian and ideological ties bind Kataib Hezbollah to Tehran; the group makes no secret of this, having made a number of declarations endorsing Iranian stances and frequently threatening to launch strikes against US interests, including US forces and facilities in Iraq. Consequently, the brigades, who receive backing from Iran, took credit for the majority of combat operations and strikes on foreign military outposts and American forces in Iraq.

However, the Brigades were placed on Washington’s “terrorism” lists in 2009 despite their lack of participation in either the current or prior Iraqi governments. [source]

Leader: Ahmed Mohsen Faraj Al-Hamidawi

Headquarter: Amarah

3.1 Hezbollah Organization

1. The Popular Defense Brigades, 45th Brigade, under the command of “Abu Hassan Ahmed Al-Hamidawi.” The 1,250-fighter faction is part of the Anbar Operations Command and is stationed in the western Anbar regions of Al-Qaim, Okaz, and Al-Obeidi.

2. The Popular Defense Brigades, 46th Brigade, under the command of “Abu Hassan Ahmed Al-Hamidawi.” The group of a thousand fighters is part of the Anbar Operations Command and is present in the Al-Qaim regions.

3. The Popular Defense Brigades’ 47th Brigade, under the command of “Abu Hassan Ahmed Al-Hamidawi.” The group of a thousand warriors is part of the Anbar Operations Command and is stationed in the Jurf Al-Sakhar region north of Babylon and the Baghdad region south.

4. Under the leadership of Hassan Al-Sari and Major General Abu Kazem Al-Mayahi, the 17th Brigade (Jihad Brigades) is in charge. The group, which consists of 250 fighters, is stationed in Akashat and is under the control of Anbar Operations Command.

5. Major General “Abu Taqwa Al-Saeedi” leads the 12th Brigade (Hezbollah Al-Nujaba Movement), headed by “Akram Al-Kaabi.” The faction, consisting of 2000 fighters is stationed in the Al-Tarmiya and Al-Houra regions.

3.2 Recent activities

– On 1 April, the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades announced that it had prepared weapons, anti-armor launchers, and tactical missiles for “fighters in Jordan,” under the name “Islamic Resistance in Jordan,” to meet the needs of 12,000 fighters for light and medium weapons and tons of explosives. [source]

-On 22 April, Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq denied issuing a statement announcing the resumption of attacks on American forces. [source]

– On January 28, Washington charged that Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia, was responsible for an attack on an American base in Jordan that left three of its soldiers dead and forty more injured. [source]

4. Tribal Mobilization

They are Sunni tribal groups from Iraq. They were established in 2014 following the invasion of the nation by ISIS, primarily from Sunni tribes in Iraq. Through a series of battalions and regiments, it took part in the formation of the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Headquarter: Anbar, Salah al-Din and Nineveh governorates

4.1 Tribal Organization

1-54th Brigade: Commanded by “Dia Nasser Muhanna,” responsible for tribal mobilization formations in Anbar. Stationed in Amiriyat Al-Fallujah and Al-Karma, under the Anbar Operations Command.

2-55th Brigade: Led by Major General Salah Taha Al-Faris, comprising 300 fighters under the Anbar Operations Command. Stationed in Husaybah, west of Anbar.

3-57th Brigade: Led by Major General “Faisal Hussein Al-Jughaifi,” stationed in Haditha District, under the Anbar Operations Command.

4-58th Brigade: Commanded by “Nazhan al-Sakhr,” stationed in Qayyarah and Haj Ali, south of Mosul. Part of the Nineveh Operations Command.

5-59th Brigade: Led by “Muhammad Yahya Muhammad al-Talib,” under “Atheel al-Nujaifi’s” leadership. Stationed in Mosul and Sheikhan, north of Mosul, under the Nineveh Operations Command.

6-60th Brigade: Led by Major General “Abdul Khaleq Jassim Al-Shammari,” stationed in Jazirat al-Hatra, al-Baaj, Rabia, Tal Afar, and Zammar. Part of the Nineveh Operations Command.

7-62nd Brigade (Diyala Call): Commanded by Major General “Zahham Ismail Jassim al-Jubouri,” stationed in Diyala villages north of Muqdadiya. Under the Diyala Operations Command.

8-88th Brigade (Umayyad Al-Jabbara Force): Commanded by Major General “Wans Al-Jabbara” under “Representative Jassim Hussein Al-Jabbara’s” leadership. Stationed in Baiji, Al-Alam, Al-Dhuluiya, and Al-Fatha, under the Salah al-Din Operations Command.

9-Brigade 61/56: Originally led by Major General “Issa Mohsen Al-Sabil Al-Jubouri,” stationed in Al-Zab, Hawija, and Riyadh. Part of the Kirkuk and East Tigris Operations Command.

10-51st Brigade: Led by Abu Maryam Ali Khaled Al-Sabhan Al-Jubouri, consisting of 1,300 fighters under the Salah al-Din Operations Command. Stationed in Salah al-Din Governorate, north of Tikrit, the Makhoul Mountains, al-Zawiya, al-Sharqat, Baiji, and Tulul al-Baj.

4.2 Recent activities

– On 2 January, the Joint Operations Command announced the killing of the commander of the Second Regiment, Soran Muhammad Karim, and a fighter in the 51st Fighting Brigade, Radi Al-Daraat, following the explosion of an explosive device in the Tharthar desert between the Salah al-Din and Western Nineveh Operations Commands. [source]

– On 3 November, a member of the tribal mobilization fell victim while confronting an attack launched by ISIS in the desert of the governorate, which lies to the west of Iraq. [source]

– On February 4th, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Naji al-Kaabi, the commander of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia in the eastern Iraqi province of Maysan.. [source]

5. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq

Asaib Ahl al-Haq motto
Asaib Ahl al-Haq motto [source]

In Baghdad in 2007, Qais Khazali, the leader of the Sadrist movement, defected with the assistance of Lebanese “Hezbollah” and the “Quds Force” of the “Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard,” announcing the formation of this group. Many fighters joined, constituting the Popular Mobilization Forces, which encompasses brigades 41, 42, and 43 and operates in southern Saladin, Anbar, and the Baghdad belt. [source]

Leader: Qais Khazali

Headquarter: Sadr City, Baghdad.

5.1 Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Organization

1.Imam Ali Brigade – responsible for southern and central Iraq (the ten Iraqi Shiite provinces: Babylon, Basra, Baghdad Governorate, Dhi Qar, Karbala, Maysan, Muthanna, Najaf, Al-Qadisiyah, and Wasit.

2.Imam Al-Kadhim Brigade – responsible for western Baghdad (mostly in the Shiite areas of Al-Kadhimiya and Al-Rashid, but also some minor activities in the mixed Karkh areas and the Sunni-majority Al-Mansour area)

3.Imam al-Hadi Brigade – responsible for eastern Baghdad (mostly in the areas of Sadr City, New Baghdad, and Karrada, with a Shiite majority, but with some minor activities in the mixed areas of Rusafa and the Adhamiya area, which has a Sunni majority)

4.Imam Military Brigade – responsible for central Iraq (effective in the Shiite areas south of Diyala Governorate, the city of Samarra in Salah al-Din Governorate, and some Shiite areas in Nineveh and Kirkuk Governorates)

5.Haidar Al-Karrar Brigade – responsible for Syria (mostly south of Damascus and west of Aleppo)

6. Kafeel Zeinab Brigade – Syria

5.2 Recent activities

-On 17 March, a homemade device was found placed in front of the political office of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq movement near Al-Mu’allaq within the Minawi Pasha area in Basra. [source]

-On February 20th, two operations targeted two offices of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group in the Babil and Najaf governorates, southern Iraq, just two days after the assassination of the prominent activist in the Sadrist movement, Ayser al-Khafaji.[source]

– On February 4th, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Naji al-Kaabi, the commander of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia in the eastern Iraqi province of Maysan. Within the movement, he served as the director of relations. After opening fire on the vehicle carrying Al-Kaabi, the attackers took off running. [source]

6. Islamic Dawa Party

Islamic Dawa Party motto-Popular Mobilization forces
Islamic Dawa Party motto [source]

The Islamic Dawa Party is one of the most prominent and important Shiite parties in Iraq. It was founded in 1957 and is one of the political parties in Iraq led by Nouri al-Maliki. It has many armed factions, including 5 brigades within the Popular Mobilization Forces. [source]

Leader: Nouri al-Maliki

Headquarter: Najaf, Iraq

6.1 Islamic Dawa Party Organization

1- Brigade 15 (Al-Sadr Forces) under the command of Falah Hassan Awj. The faction consisting of 300 fighters is located within the Kirkuk and East Tigris Operations Command and is deployed in the areas southwest of Kirkuk and Al-Rashad district.

2- The 25th Brigade under the command of “Ammar Al-Waeli”. The faction, comprising 400 fighters, operates under the Nineveh Operations Command and is deployed in the areas of the Nineveh Desert, Hatra Island, and the Hatra District.

3- Brigade 31 (Risalion Brigades) under the command of “Adnan Al-Shahmani”. The faction, comprising 200 fighters, operates under the Salah al-Din Operations Command and is deployed in Baiji, Al-Siniya, and Salah al-Din Island.

4- The 35th Brigade (Al-Sadr Forces) under the command of “Abu Sadiq Al-Mayahi”. The faction, consisting of 400 fighters, is located within the Salah al-Din Operations Command and is deployed in Baiji, Uwaynat, Trablah, Jazrat al-Hawija, Jazrat Razouki, and Makishefa.

5- Brigade 37 (Siffin Brigade) under the command of “Abu Sajjad al-Karbalai.” The faction is located within the Middle Euphrates Operations Command and is deployed in the Karbala desert.

Since its inception in 2014, the Iraqi Armed Groups have employed a multifaceted strategy to arm their fighters comprehensively. Internally, they’ve revitalized and modernized former Iraqi army weapons caches, such as those in the Taji area, Diwaniyah, and Basra, with the assistance of Iranian experts. Consequently, this approach has yielded significant advancements, including the introduction of the “Kafeel-1” tank, showcasing their ability to repurpose existing resources effectively.

Moreover, externally, the forces have capitalized on approved investment budgets to procure weapons from international markets. Formalizing their status as an official force under the Prime Minister’s command has granted them access to specialized military training and directives. This facilitation has further enabled the acquisition of diverse weaponry, including American-made arms supplied by the Iraqi government. [source]

7.1- Light and medium weapons

  • Kalashnikov AK 47
  • RpG 7 rocket launcher
  • PKC machine gun
  • Mortar weapon
  • Mechanism 40 mm

7.2-Missiles

  • “Zelzal” 1
  • “Zelzal” 2
  • Fajr 1
  • Fajr 5
  • IRAM MRLS
  • HM20 MRLS 122mm

7.3- Drones

  • Baseer-1
  • Baseer-2
  • “Ababil” 3
  • “Safi”
  • “Mohajer” 6

7.4-Tanks

  • American Abrams tanks
  • Soviet T-72 tanks
  • BMP-1 armored carriers
  • Russian T-55 tanks
  • M5777

7.5-Improved tanks

  • “Kafil” 
  • “Kafil” 1

7.6-Vehicles

  • LT79 IMVs
  • MRAPs

7.7-Howitzers 

  • Soviet M-46 130mm 

7.8-Rocket launcher 

  • Rpg 7 

In conclusion, the evolution and proliferation of Iraqi Armed Groups within the framework of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq present a complex tapestry of political, sectarian, and military dynamics. Since its inception in 2014, the PMF has emerged as a significant player in Iraq’s security landscape. Various factions have contributed to the fight against ISIS and exerted influence in post-conflict governance.

Moreover, the diverse composition of the PMF, encompassing Shiite, Sunni, and tribal elements, reflects the complex socio-political fabric of Iraq. Additionally, fostering inclusive governance structures that empower marginalized communities, including Sunnis and Kurds, can mitigate sectarian tensions and strengthen Iraq’s resilience against external interference.

Table of Contents

Related Content

Española: The Football Hooligans Fighting for Russia in Ukraine

TYPE:_ Article

JNIM: The Quest for a West African Caliphate

Location:_ West Africa

Takeo Yoshikawa: The Spy Behind Pearl Harbor

TYPE:_ Article

The Failed Assassination Affecting US-India Relations

The 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment

TYPE:_ Article
Location:_ Europe

Volt Typhoon: Taking US Infrastructure by Storm

Location:_ North America

Stay in the loop

Get a free weekly email that makes reading intel articles and reports actually enjoyable.

Log in

Stay in the loop

Get a free weekly email that makes reading Intelligence Reports and Articles actually enjoyable.

Table of Contents

Contact

Contact

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.