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Rise of Iran-backed militias jeopardizes US aid to Iraq

US law prohibits military assistance unless Baghdad reins in PMU.
Shi'ite fighters launch artillery toward Islamic State militants in al-Fatha, northeast of Baiji, October 18, 2015. Iraqi forces backed by Shi'ite militia fighters say they have retaken a mountain palace complex of former President Saddam Hussein from Islamic State fighters, as government forces push ahead on a major offensive against the insurgents.  REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTS4YZX
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Iran-backed majority-Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have been gaining influence as they have helped the Iraqi army kick the Islamic State (IS) out of Anbar province. Iraq's National Security Council recently blessed their participation in the upcoming battle to retake the IS stronghold of Mosul, while Baghdad announced at the end of July plans to incorporate the militias as an "independent" military formation "affiliated" with the Iraqi armed forces.

The militias have also begun to make diplomatic overtures in a bid to attain international legitimacy. Several militia leaders met with European, Canadian and Australian diplomats in Beirut early last month, Al-Monitor reported at the time, hoping to create a back channel with Washington.

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