The Atlantic

How Will Iraq Contain Iran's Proxies?

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani may be the only man who can—but he’ll need help.
Source: Nabil al-Jurani / AP

In June 2014, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the leading Shiite clergyman in the world, on all able-bodied Iraqis to defend their country against the Islamic State. Iraq’s U.S.-trained armed forces had collapsed, fleeing the advance of as it seized Mosul and much of northern Iraq. Sistani’s mobilized a 100,000-strong fighting force known as the , or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), whose mostly Shiite fighters were instrumental in the fight against . The PMF is comprised of multiple Shiite militias who were established after 2014 as volunteer groups that took up arms in response to Sistani’s , filling the void left by the collapse of the Iraqi army. The majority of these groups are aligned with the Iraqi state and

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