FOREIGN-BACKED CLIENTS AND LEGITIMACY: THE POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT OF IRAQ’S SHIITE MILITIAS (2005–2018)
El Habech, Mohamad
Ostovar, Afshon P.
Robinson, Glenn E.
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From fighting occupying foreign forces to successfully combating ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) across two countries, Iraqi Shiite militias appear to be transforming into a formal military with a transnational reach. What are the implications of the continued formalization of these militias in Iraq, especially since their incorporation into the Popular Mobilization Forces(PMF)—an umbrella organization that serves as an official auxiliary to Iraq’s regular military but which has taken the lead in much of the fighting in the country’s war against ISIS since 2015? The presence of a foreign patron affects an armed group’s legitimacy, which we break down into three levels: popular legitimacy, legitimacy in domestic politics, and international legitimacy. Because some of the militias in the PMF are clients of Iran, this thesis argues that their close ties to Iran have had a broadly negative impact on their national standing and has limited their potential impact on the formation of the post-war Iraqi state.
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