March 6, 2021


Pope Francis has begun his visit to Iraq and already made global news on the first day of the trip. Iraq has experienced a lot of violence recently because of domestic disputes in the country.

Additionally, there have been many issues between the United States and Iranian militaries operating in Iraq.

Protecting the Pontiff

Iraq militias have been granted the duty of protecting Pope Francis in their homeland. A representative for the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq revealed that tens of thousands of troops had been assigned to the mission of keeping the pontiff safe.

The majority of the fighters are scattered throughout Mosul. Mosul is the largest city in Iraq that was once controlled by ISIS, a primary opposition group in the country. The troops will be focused on keeping the areas around the churches under control.

Pope Francis will be visiting many churches in Mosul, so if ISIS were to attack, this is a logical location.

Popular Mobilization Forces

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is given credit for the creation of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Sistani is a famous and influential Shiite Muslim. Sistani called for the creation of the Popular Mobilization Forces in 2014 to combat a growing cohort of ISIS-filled locations throughout Iraq.

The force members are typically Shiite Muslims, but Sunni Muslims, Christians, Kurds, and other religious groups fight for the unit.

Iranians who have been helping Iraq since ISIS began taking over during the Iraq War support the Popular Mobilization Forces. The United States forces joined this fight and battled beside Iraqi and Iranian fighters during the war.

ISIS did not stand a chance in the long term with the United States and Iran militaries joining the fight. This should be a confidence boost for Pope Francis as he embarks on this monumental journey.

Difficult Time to Visit Iraq

On Wednesday, an unidentified rocket strike occurred in Iraq that targeted the Ain Al Asad Airbase. The information of the strike was shared on media channels supporting the “Axis of Resistance.” The Axis is a pro-Iranian group demanding that the United States military withdraw its troops from Iraq.

A United States military contractor died from cardiac arrest during the attack. The United States and the Iraqi military are investigating the attack.

It occurred one week after President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes to target northern Syria, where Iranian-backed militant groups were operating.

There has been back-and-forth tension between the United States and Iran. Still, it’s improbable that anything will occur from an American military perspective with Pope Francis in Iraq.

The pontiff is making the trip to encourage peace for all nations when things could get deadly very quickly. During Pope Francis’ first day in Iraq, he called for the end of weapons spread, no more violence, and religious tolerance.

In his opening speech from the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, Pope Francis stated, “I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness of heaven and my brothers and sisters for so much destruction and cruelty. I come as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the prince of peace.”

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