BAGHDAD -- Sunnis -- regular citizens as well as parliamentarians and politicians -- have been demanding the withdrawal of Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) from their areas, a request that has intensified in light of parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12. On Jan. 15, some Sunni personalities publicly called on Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to order the PMU out of Sunni governorates to ensure an uncompromised voting process.
The PMU factions continue to maintain a significant presence in some areas of Diyala, Ninevah, Salahuddin and Anbar after helping liberate them from the Islamic State (IS), which seized some one-third of Iraqi territory in 2014. These factions believe they have the right to remain in Sunni areas as the country's "liberators," noting that they too are Iraqis, not some foreign, occupying force. They also claim that their presence is needed to prevent the re-emergence of terror organizations and reprisals by IS supporters or members, because the Sunni tribal forces are too small and need their support.
The PMU factions have dismissed demands by local Sunni authorities and Sunni political parties in Baghdad to evacuate hundreds of locations in the liberated areas. That said, the Sunni parties have no authority over the PMU, and the factions have not been ordered to withdraw by Abadi's government. Baghdad so far has ignored the Sunnis' complaints, generally viewing the PMU as part of the nation's security forces, deployable anywhere on Iraqi territory.
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