Sunday, December 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rise of Shiite militias poses a threat to Iraq

Mideast Iraq Shiite Militias

Shiite tribal fighters raise their weapons and chant slogans against the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 15, 2014. Emboldened by a call to arms by the top Shiite cleric, Iranian-backed militias have moved quickly to the center of Iraq’s political landscape, spearheading what its Shiite majority sees as a fight for survival against Sunni militants who control of large swaths of territory north of Baghdad. (AP Photo/ Nabil Al-Jurani)

By
From page A1 | June 16, 2014 |

BAGHDAD — Emboldened by a call to arms by the top Shiite cleric, Iranian-backed militias have moved quickly to the center of Iraq’s political landscape, spearheading what its Shiite majority sees as a fight for survival against Sunni militants who control of large swaths of territory north of Baghdad.

The emergence of the militias as a legitimate force enjoying the support of the Shiite-led government and the blessing of the religious establishment poses a threat to Iraq’s unity, planting the seed for new sectarian strife and taking the regional Shiite-Sunni divide to a potentially explosive level.

Iraq’s Shiite militias attacked U.S. forces during the eight-year American presence in the country. They also were in the lead in the Sunni-Shiite killings of 2006-07, pushing Iraq to the brink of civil war. Their death squads targeted radical Sunnis and they orchestrated the cleansing of Sunnis from several Baghdad neighborhoods.

More recently, Shiite militias have been battling alongside the forces of President Bashar Assad and Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah against mostly Sunni rebels and militants in neighboring Syria. Some of them have returned home to Iraq – first to fight Sunni militants in Anbar province, and now on Baghdad’s northern fringes and in Salahuddin and Ninevah provinces.

Those are the areas where the Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, captured cities and towns in a lightning offensive last week. Among their gains were Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

Security officials said Shiite militiamen have been fighting for months on the government’s side against ISIL fighters in areas west of Baghdad in mainly Sunni Anbar province as well as parts of Diyala province northeast of the capital. They also have been fighting Sunni militants south of Baghdad. Their involvement, however, has never been publicly acknowledged by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Their enhanced role in the fight against the Sunni militants will deepen Iran’s influence in Iraq, giving the non-Arab and mostly Shiite country a role similar to the one it plays in Syria. Tehran has thrown its weight behind Assad’s government in his struggle against mostly Sunni rebels and militants from al-Qaida-inspired or linked groups.

Shiite militiamen interviewed by The Associated Press in the past two days talk of undergoing training in Iran and then being flown to Syria to fight on the government’s side. Once there, they say they are met by Iranian operatives who give them weapons and their assignment.

The militiamen, interviewed separately, paint a picture of their groups as being inspired by what they call a “grave” threat to their community. They say they have been motivated by the call to arms by their most revered cleric, the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Ominously, they don’t see the ISIL as their sole enemy; they also list Iraqi Sunnis whom they accuse of supporting the al-Qaida-inspired group in areas now under the militants’ control.

Their comments also suggest a high level of acquiescence by al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government. Six years ago, the government battled the Shiite militias in Basra to establish his authority and project his image as a national leader.

Now, al-Maliki publicly meets with militia leaders, like Qais al-Khazali of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, a group that staged some spectacular attacks against U.S. troops before their withdrawal in 2011.

Hadi al-Amiri, a Shiite Cabinet minister who once led the Badr Brigade militia, created by Iran and trained by its Revolutionary Guard in the 1980s, is now a close ally of al-Maliki and personally directs battles against militants in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, where he won a parliament seat in April elections.

After years of repeated assurances that the Badr Brigade had ceased to exist as a militia, bearded men in military uniform bearing its insignia appeared on state-run TV last week, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with army troops.

The militiamen and their leaders offer a glimpse of what may be in store following the fighters’ public empowerment.

“Anyone who supports or sympathizes with the ISIL is a terrorist,” Abu Wareth al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi al-Nugabaa militia, told the AP from Iran. “We will never allow ISIL to control Iraq, and we will target anyone who supports it.”

Jassim al-Jazaeri, a senior leader of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Brigades, a Shiite militia based in southern Iraq, blames the loss of territory in the north partially on Sunni political leaders. “We know that ISIL has a base of support in Mosul,” he said.

Since al-Sistani made his call to arms Friday through a representative, Shiite militias have flexed their muscles on the streets of Baghdad and in cities across the mostly Shiite south, including Basra. There were parades of pickup trucks carrying armed fighters chanting Shiite slogans and vowing to crush the ISIL.

Radical and anti-American Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi army fought some street battles against the Americans, has called for parades of Shiite militiamen across Iraq next weekend, evidence of their empowerment.

“The defense of Iraq and its people and holy sites is a duty on every citizen who can carry arms and fight terrorists,” said al-Sistani’s representative, Sheik Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie, in a Friday sermon. “They must volunteer in the security forces for this holy cause.”

His call quickly resonated with Shiites, who wait on every word from al-Sistani or his representatives. It was instantly used by the militias to tout their legitimacy and flex their muscle on the streets.

Authorities looked the other way while the militiamen paraded on the streets since Friday, but the shows of strength prompted al-Sistani’s office to issue a clarification late Saturday, warning against “any behavior that has a sectarian or a nationalist character that may harm the cohesion of the Iraqi people.”

It also called for a halt to armed displays “outside legal frameworks” in mixed Shiite-Sunni area, urging authorities to take measures to stop them.

The words from al-Sistani’s representative on Friday, warning that the Sunni militants would not stop until they reach Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf – home to some of the most revered Shiite shrines – provided the militias with religious cover. The protection of shrines was also the rallying cry of Iraqi Shite militiamen who traveled to Syria to fight Sunni rebels.

“I fight for my faith, country and holy sites,” said Ayad al-Rubaei, a 23-year-old Asaib Ahl al-haq militiaman and veteran of the Syrian civil war.

“It is martyrdom that I seek, and I want it today, not tomorrow,” al-Rubaei told the AP by phone from Anbar province as heavy gunfire rang out in the background.

Prominent Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri told the AP that the shows of force by the Shiite militias and their proliferation “will pose a grave danger to Iraq in the future and threaten an armed conflict.”

“We say ‘no’ to the ISIL and ‘no’ to the militias,” he said.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

The Salvation Army serves 1,000-plus across 2 days

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Blue Christmas service offers reflection, hope

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1

Shining bright for all to see: Locals deck out yards, homes

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Time for annual Solano County quiz

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

Bevy of holiday activities at Western Railway Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
State Fair scholarship applications available

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Get tested, know your status

By Morgan Westfall | From Page: C4

 
Free New Year’s celebration slated

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
 
New development fees start Jan. 1 in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

A word of warning for Senator Warren

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7, 6 Comments

 
New technology chief will join McNaughton Newspapers

By Tanya Perez | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Suisun City police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Fairfield police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Sky-high price has VA rationing hep C drug

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

.

US / World

Air Force admits nuke flaws, but will fixes work?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
AP sources: Cops’ killer angry at chokehold death

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 7 Comments

 
Officials: Missing dog was dyed to deceive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Immigrants build document trails to remain in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California officer kills teen after machete attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
4 teens die in fiery head-on crash in Pennsylvania

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

2 dozen injured in southern Indiana bus crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Texas ranchers seeking alternative incomes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
Panama’s Noriega in prison 25 years post-invasion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

North Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
2 car bombs rock southern Sweden’s city of Malmo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Bombings kill 12 in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
US sends 4 Afghans back home from Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Burying the dead after Pakistan’s school massacre

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
A chance to breach divide for young in Cuba and US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
New school finance strategy lacks accountability

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

Season’s greetings from the Obamas

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Sound off for Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Vatican offers olive branch to US nuns

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3, 1 Comment

Why celebrate Christmas?

By Noel Reese | From Page: C3, 2 Comments

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

Should I ask grandson why we weren’t included in wedding photos?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

Review: ‘Five’ by Ursula Archer is intriguing

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Publisher hopes to sell books through Twitter

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Chris Colfer has multi-book deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jerry Lee Lewis: Sustained by brief blaze of glory

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

New Giants 3B McGehee eager to play back home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Interim coaching jobs present challenges in bowls

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
No. 11 Lady Vols trounce No. 7 Stanford 59-40

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Eagles near elimination, fall 27-24 to Redskins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Raiders place cornerback Brown on injured reserve

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Big moves bring big hope for Chicago baseball

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
US skier Nyman wins Gardena downhill for 3rd time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Vonn wins women’s World Cup downhill in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
This date in sports history for Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
.

Business

Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
On the money: 4 ways to hold on to your cash when renting a car

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Recalls this week: Bean bag chairs, toy monkeys

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Scarecrows outnumber people in dying Japan town

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

.

Obituaries

Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Bart Ferro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Barbara Jean Bidstrup Braker

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Perry Michael Smetts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Luzdivina B. Banks

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Arnold Howard Evans

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Anthony Hanson Elder

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics