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The rise of Shiite militias in Iraq (and what they portend)

Ahlevah

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Many of Iraq’s Shia are taking up arms to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State. However, rather than enlisting with the Iraqi military via the Ministry of Defense (MOD), they are opting to join paramilitary groups under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic), which has become the single largest ground force combating Islamic State fighters in Iraq. Despite Human Rights Watch’s accusation that some groups under the umbrella, such as the Badr Brigades, League of the Righteous (Asaib ahl al-Haq), and Imam Ali Battalions are carrying out widespread and systematic human rights violations, the PMF has maintained its popularity and legitimacy among the Shia base. A recently published poll showed that 99 percent of Iraqi Shia support the PMF in its fight against the Islamic State.As a consequence, the number of recruits rushing to enlist with the PMF is substantial. According to various claims from well-informed sources in Baghdad, more than 75 percent of men ages 18 to30 residing in the Shia provinces have signed up. Although most of these recruits are reservists who will not fight, the mere volume is indicative of the PMF’s support in that region.

The Popularity of the Hashd in Iraq - Syria in Crisis - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

So what we're seeing in the country are Shiite militias under an umbrella group that has no problem getting Iranian weapons and advisers, along with the blessing of Baghdad. Apparently, the Shiite-dominated government is attempting to legitimize these militias by bringing them under state authority, and they seem to be gaining traction at the expense of the U.S.-funded/trained (to the tune of $20 billion and counting and notoriously corrupt) Iraqi Security Forces. I'm starting to think this is just going to be a repeat of Lebanon, with al-Hashd al-Shaabi just the Iraqi version of Hezbollah. Assuming ISIS is defeated (and I think it will be), I don't see the Sunnis just laying down and accepting this state of affairs. What will be interesting to watch is to what degree Saudi Arabia will attempt to counter Iranian influence in their ongoing regional chess match.

Why Saudis may take on Iraq's Shiite militias
 

joG

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So what we're seeing in the country are Shiite militias under an umbrella group that has no problem getting Iranian weapons and advisers, along with the blessing of Baghdad. Apparently, the Shiite-dominated government is attempting to legitimize these militias by bringing them under state authority, and they seem to be gaining traction at the expense of the U.S.-funded/trained (to the tune of $20 billion and counting and notoriously corrupt) Iraqi Security Forces. I'm starting to think this is just going to be a repeat of Lebanon, with al-Hashd al-Shaabi just the Iraqi version of Hezbollah. Assuming ISIS is defeated (and I think it will be), I don't see the Sunnis just laying down and accepting this state of affairs. What will be interesting to watch is to what degree Saudi Arabia will attempt to counter Iranian influence in their ongoing regional chess match.

Why Saudis may take on Iraq's Shiite militias

And,if the Saudis decide a nuclear weapon is necessary to guarantee their security.
 

DaveFagan

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And,if the Saudis decide a nuclear weapon is necessary to guarantee their security.

Would the word "security" be synonomous with "oil profits stream." Noone has attacked Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia seems to be projecting military adventures. Nuke war about oil monies, eh?
 

joG

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Would the word "security" be synonomous with "oil profits stream." Noone has attacked Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia seems to be projecting military adventures. Nuke war about oil monies, eh?

Or the holy places, or their traditions and cultural identity, or the House of Saud and the peace that they have maintained since independence? And as oil is the only thing they have to keep their people in food? Yep, I would guess that oil money is important to them. Hard to say. The Shiites are a historical enemy and these religious things are nasty. Till now they bought weapons, but never really thought to use them. They didn't think they would need to, as we had guaranteed their national independence. Now that we no longer look reliable, they must look to these things themselves. And since everyone suspects that Iran has near nuclear weaponry and possibly usable nukes, it would only appear natural for their enemies to go for nukes too.
 

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So what we're seeing in the country are Shiite militias under an umbrella group that has no problem getting Iranian weapons and advisers, along with the blessing of Baghdad. Apparently, the Shiite-dominated government is attempting to legitimize these militias by bringing them under state authority, and they seem to be gaining traction at the expense of the U.S.-funded/trained (to the tune of $20 billion and counting and notoriously corrupt) Iraqi Security Forces. I'm starting to think this is just going to be a repeat of Lebanon, with al-Hashd al-Shaabi just the Iraqi version of Hezbollah. Assuming ISIS is defeated (and I think it will be), I don't see the Sunnis just laying down and accepting this state of affairs. What will be interesting to watch is to what degree Saudi Arabia will attempt to counter Iranian influence in their ongoing regional chess match.

Why Saudis may take on Iraq's Shiite militias

It really does make you think what was on the minds of the intelligence agencies, during the planning stage of the Iraq campaign. O wait, there was no post conflict planning! As such, what we see now is pretty much inevitable.
 

gunner

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Or the holy places, or their traditions and cultural identity, or the House of Saud and the peace that they have maintained since independence? And as oil is the only thing they have to keep their people in food? Yep, I would guess that oil money is important to them. Hard to say. The Shiites are a historical enemy and these religious things are nasty. Till now they bought weapons, but never really thought to use them. They didn't think they would need to, as we had guaranteed their national independence. Now that we no longer look reliable, they must look to these things themselves. And since everyone suspects that Iran has near nuclear weaponry and possibly usable nukes, it would only appear natural for their enemies to go for nukes too.

The Saudis using nukes; that's a bold claim, you have sources for such a view?
 

joG

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The Saudis using nukes; that's a bold claim, you have sources for such a view?

That is not, what I said. What I said was that it would appear natural for the Saudis to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.
 

11Bravo

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Would the word "security" be synonomous with "oil profits stream." Noone has attacked Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia seems to be projecting military adventures. Nuke war about oil monies, eh?

It's all religious thugary. At the end of the day, that money belongs to allah
 

MadLib

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So what we're seeing in the country are Shiite militias under an umbrella group that has no problem getting Iranian weapons and advisers, along with the blessing of Baghdad. Apparently, the Shiite-dominated government is attempting to legitimize these militias by bringing them under state authority, and they seem to be gaining traction at the expense of the U.S.-funded/trained (to the tune of $20 billion and counting and notoriously corrupt) Iraqi Security Forces. I'm starting to think this is just going to be a repeat of Lebanon, with al-Hashd al-Shaabi just the Iraqi version of Hezbollah. Assuming ISIS is defeated (and I think it will be), I don't see the Sunnis just laying down and accepting this state of affairs. What will be interesting to watch is to what degree Saudi Arabia will attempt to counter Iranian influence in their ongoing regional chess match.

Why Saudis may take on Iraq's Shiite militias

The sectarian nature of the PMUs is overstated. There have been some abuses, and it would behoove the Iraqi government to convert them into a national guard more directly accountable to the Ministry of Defense. Nevertheless, the PMUs were formed as a result of a call by Ayatollah Sistani, who is not an Iranian mouthpiece and has been a positive figure in Iraq; they include Sunni and even Christian fighters. As for the Iranian support, I cannot fault Iraqi Shias from accepting whatever help they get in the fight against a group that would happily slaughter them. Some militias are certainly more aligned to Iran than others, and they need to be made to submit to Iraqi authority once the Islamic State is expelled from the country.
 

Ahlevah

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The sectarian nature of the PMUs is overstated.

The problem is the PMUs are dominated and led by militias under the direct thumb of Iran's Quds force:

Despite protests by Jafari, Soleimani and Qods Force, which serves as the external operations branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, have done more than just advise Iraqi ground forces in their fight against the Islamic State. Soleimani and his deputies have helped create, organize, fund, arm, and deploy the dangerous Shia militias that dominate the Popular Mobilization Forces, which was created in June 2014 after the Islamic State overran large areas of Iraq. And Soleimani, Qods Force and IRGC officers have been providing more than just advice to the Shia militias.

Some of these militias, such as the Badr Brigade, Hezbollah Brigades and Asaib al Haq, were created during the US occupation of Iraq, and are responsible for killing hundreds of US troops. Others, like Harakat al Nujaba and Shahid al Shuhada, were created after the Syrian civil war escalated. Other militias, such as the Imam Ali Brigade and Saraya al Khorasani were created after the Islamic State ran roughshod over northern, central, and western Iraq. Each of these militias were modeled after Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia and organization that dominates inside Lebanon.

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is led by several agents of Iran. Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a former commander in the Badr Organization who was listed by the US government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in July 2009, directs the PMF’s military operations. The US government described Muhandis, whose real name is Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, as “an advisor to Qassem Soleimani,” the commander of the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). In addition to directing the PMF, Muhandis is also said to direct the operations of the Imam Ali Brigade as well as command Hezbollah Brigades.

Qods Force commander an official advisor to government, Iraq’s foreign minister says | The Long War Journal

We have the history of Lebanon to see where this is headed. The Quds Force is about extending Iran's Islamic revolution beyond its borders. Regardless of the true nature of Iran's meddling, the Saudis don't see Iranian intent as benign. And we'll get a better handle on the "non-sectarian" nature of the PMUs when and if Iranian-backed militias enter Fallujah. Personally, I expect they will enter the city and exert quite a bit of payback in an effort to neuter a city that's seen as a hotbed of Sunni extremism and rebellion. But only time will tell.
 

Ahlevah

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These militias are not even in the city yet and already we're getting reports of atrocities and maltreatment of Sunni civilians:

More than 300 Sunni civilians from the Iraqi city of Fallujah have been executed by Shia militias, according to local activist sources.

Oubaida al-Dulaimi, a media activist from Saqlawiya - a suburb north of Fallujah - told ARA News that the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) had been killing civilians fleeing from the besieged city of Fallujah, which is currently controlled by IS.

“Dead bodies of at least 300 civilians were found in the Al-Nourain school yard in the village,” he said. “All the victims were from the al-Saqlawiya tribe.”

Raafat al-Zarari, head of the Ninevah Media Centre, also told ARA News that civilians were being killed under the pretext of supporting IS.

“Most of them were arrested by the pro-government Shia militiamen for being Sunni Muslims, and shot dead under the pretext that they were pro-ISIS,” he said.

Numerous accounts have also been released of PMUs torturing civilians fleeing from Fallujah.

'300 civilians executed' by Iraqi militias during Fallujah fighting: Activists | Middle East Eye
 

RoccoR

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Ahlevah, et al,

From a US perspective, this guy is bad news.

A Press TV (Iranian media shill) interview with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who is arguably one of the most powerful political and military figures in Iraq today but who was sentenced to death in absentia in Kuwait for the 1983 U.S. and French embassy bombings in that country.

PressTV-'Iran advisors in Iraq on govt. request'
(COMMENT)

This is just the kind of person that we want to fade away. And we would have to be very careful that we don't become and indirect supporter of his activities through corrupted Iraqi units. Of course, anything we do in Iraq is throwing good money after bad.

It is not in America's best interest to render assistance to this guy. The Abu Mahdi does not change his stripe. He just camouflages his intentions.

We need to withdraw all SF (etc) out of Iraq. Or we will have another political-military failure. Let's not make the same mistake three-times.

Most Respectfully,
R
 
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