By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.*
Flags of*Iran-backed*Asaib Ahl al-Haq*(League of the Righteous)*— with their distinctive arm thrusting a gun upward*over a green Iraq against a white background, a strip of red and a Quran below — fluttered at the checkpoint into Qaim, above*a dusty, barren wadi below.
When Al-Monitor visited the area*Nov. 6, the checkpoint was manned by Asaib Ahl al-Haq fighters*and members of the fellow Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militia*Kataib Hezbollah, also long backed by Iran*and a part of which continues to fight*on the Syrian side of the border alongside the Syrian regime.
Referring to the capture*of the*Karableh and Saada*areas of Qaim*from the Islamic State (IS),*Col. Moussa Hamad al-Karbouly*told Al-Monitor*in Karableh,*“PMU fighters*from the south were the first to enter.”
Karbouly leads the local Sunni PMU force,*Liwa Aaly al-Furat (Upper Euphrates Regiment).*Many local forces in the area have taken to using the terms “main PMU,” “southern PMU” and “Shiite PMU”*to distinguish among outside paramilitary groups and local fighters, who are often somewhat inappropriately referred to as “tribal forces.”
Aaly al-Furat has members from several different*tribes and receives monthly salaries from the Baghdad government, as do other PMU factions. It does not answer to any tribal leader, although it does maintain good relations with the various sheikhs in the area. Anbar province is a predominantly Sunni region, and tribal traditions and links are strong.
Aaly al-Furat has 500 men, who were trained by Danish Special Forces at the al-Asad air base farther east, also in Anbar, and equipped by the United States, Karbouly said.*Other local forces have received training from the international coalition as well, while many non-local PMU forces*have received support from Iran and Iranian advisers.


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