Why did the United States Air Force bomb ISIS target near Tikrit, Iraq, last week? Foreign Policy explains. And it also explains that helping the Shia, Iran-backed militias fight ISIS is a losing gambit. There's little difference between the two.
But the past few months ought to have shown that even indirectly relying on Iranian agents to conduct a credible ground war against Sunni extremists was always a lousy idea for three reasons: those agents hate the United States and have threatened to attack its interest in Iraq; they’re guilty of IS-style atrocities themselves; and they’re lousy at fighting an entrenched jihadist insurgency.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey told Congress on March 3: “What we are watching carefully is whether the militias — they call themselves the popular mobilization forces — whether when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing.” He needn’t watch any longer. They are engaging in exactly that.
On March 10, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a comprehensive study of human rights violations committed by both IS and pro-Iraqi forces. The Islamic State, OHCHR concluded, has likely committed genocide against the Yazidis, a ethno-religious minority in Iraq, in a catalogue of war crimes and crimes against humanity that include gang-rape and sexual slavery. But OHCHR’s language is equally unambiguous in condemning the other side on the battlefield: “Throughout the summer of 2014,” the report noted, “[PMUs], other volunteers and [Shiite] militia moved from their southern heartlands towards [Islamic State]-controlled areas in central and northern Iraq. While their military campaign against the group gained ground, the militias seem to operate with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake [Italics added.]PMU is the acronym for Population Mobilization Units, the main Shiite militia, vastly outnumbering the Iraqi army and directly supported by Iran.
I pointed out in 2013 of the administration's thoughts of arming the Syrian resistance, "Helping the Syrian rebels would be like helping Frank fight Jesse over who would run the James gang." And so Iraq, the battleground between Iran and ISIS. Whomever prevails there, Iraq will still be conquered by one or the other.
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