Iraqi Shiite militias enter battle against ISIS

AFP reports: Iraq’s government once battled entrenched Shiite militiamen but is now making common cause with them against a jihadist-led onslaught that Baghdad’s forces are struggling to contain on their own.

Shiite militiamen are fighting alongside Iraq’s flagging forces, bringing experience, morale and increased numbers to the government side, which has lost large areas of five provinces to the Sunni Arab militant offensive.

But even if it pushes back the offensive, the government may have traded that immediate threat for another it cannot control.

“The last time the militias became strong and Baghdad had to contend with them, it led to operation Charge of the Knights,” said John Drake, a security analyst with AKE Group, referring to a 2008 operation against Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia that only succeeded with American support.

“This involved heavy fighting in the south of the country,” said Drake. “The difference now is that the government won’t have the same US military support.”

The Shiite militia resurgence also risks further alienating the Sunni Arab minority, which populates most areas overrun in the offensive and was targeted by death squads during a Sunni-Shiite sectarian war, which peaked in 2006-2007 and killed thousands.

“The reinvigoration of Shiite militia groups will, at the very least, be of concern for the Sunni community, given that such groups were involved in widespread sectarian killing,” Drake said. [Continue reading…]

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