Two members of the Majlis (Iranian parliament) have bitterly protested the deployment of Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force or PMF) in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, southwest of the country.
Foreign military forces may enter Iran only if the government or parliament issue an entry visa for them, the MPs have argued.
The presence of the Iraqi paramilitary force in Khuzestan has triggered angry reactions among Iranian social media users and also the ethnic Arabs in the Province.
"PMF members were invited by the Chief Commander of Qods Force, IRGC Major General Qassem Soleimani, to help Iranian relief operations, " ultraconservative daily Kayhan reported. A senior commander of PMF, Au Mahdi al Muhandis, had earlier announced that he has entered Iran's Khouzestan Province alongside a number of the forces under his command.
Meanwhile, the pro-reform MP of the city of Naqadeh, Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh has insisted that the presence of foreign forces in Iran without the permission of the government or Majlis is in contrast with the Islamic Republic of Iran's Constitution.
"Didn't the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Army have sufficient forces? Have we called people for help, and nobody stepped in? Is that why Hashd al Sha'abi and Fatemiyoun (Afghan Shi'ites) forces entered the flood-hit areas? Even if that's the case, why have they entered Iranian soil without obtaining permission from the government or Majlis? And why the government and Majlis were not informed about the case?" Hosseinzadeh has tweeted.
Also the pro-reform MP of Shiraz, Bahram Parsaei, has tweeted that "The countries borders are respectable, and passage of foreign military forces through them, without prior permission, is inadmissible."
In the meantime, another pro-reform MP, Alireza Rahimi, has called upon the Ministers of Interior to deliver an official report on the case. He has also demanded "clarifications" from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Rahimi has cautioned that he will officially summon the Interior Minister to Majlis if the parliament finds his report not convincing.
However, the Chairman of the influential Majlis' National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Hashmatollah Falahatpisheh has vociferously supported the presence of Hashd al-Shaabi in Iran, and without any elaboration, Falahatpisheh has asserted that PMF forces have entered Iran through legal channels. "As a matter of routine, such moves are coordinated with Iran’s Interior Ministry,” Falahatpisheh has insisted.
On Thursday, April 18, a picture was published depicting the Chief Commander of the IRGC's extraterritorial force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, attending a session of Khuzestan's Crisis Management Headquarters alongside PMF's senior commander, Abu Mahdi al- Muhandis.
Maj. Gen. Qassemi is currently visiting flood-hit areas in the oil-rich province, while he is in charge of commanding the IRGC's Qods forces exclusively in operations outside Iran.