Shiites in Iraq hail ‘Sheikh Putin’

The New York Times reports: One of the most popular Facebook posts in Iraq’s Shiite heartland is a Photoshopped image of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia dressed in the robe of a southern tribal sheikh.

It was the American-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein and empowered Iraq’s long-repressed Shiite majority. The United States also took the lead more than a year ago to assemble a coalition to conduct airstrikes in Syria and Iraq against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State.

But with the struggle against the Islamic State largely stalemated, it is the naked display of Russian military power in neighboring Syria, as well as the leadership of “Sheikh Putin,” that is being applauded by residents of this Shiite power center. Russian planes continued to hit targets in Syria on Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

“What the people in the street care about is how to get Daesh out of Iraq,” Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, a member of Iraq’s Parliament, said, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “Now they feel Russia is more serious than the United States.” [Continue reading…]

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