Radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr attends the funeral of fighters loyal to his Brigades of Peace, who were killed when an improvised explosive device exploded near the town of Amerli, in Najaf, south of Baghdad September 3, 2014. REUTERS/ Alaa Al-Marjani
Iran’s supreme leader authorized cooperation with the United States to combat the Islamic State in Iraq.
According to the BBC, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave his approval for Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards Qods Force to work with the US and other countries battling IS.
Meanwhile,US and Iranian officials met for a second day of negotiations in Switzerland Friday as they work towards hammering out a full nuclear deal ahead of a November deadline...
Given the hostility of the Iranian regime to the US, this indicates to me that Iran is very, very worried about the Islamic State. But this is not a pleasant ally. Click on post title to read an except from an Economist piece on the subject of co-operating with the Shia...
|Brigades of Peace|
Volunteers of the newly formed "Peace Brigades" participate in a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, June 21, 2014. (voanews.com)
An except from Unsavoury allies: The growing power of Shia militias in Iraq and Syria poses a tricky problem:
As America embarked on air strikes against IS in Iraq on August 8th, it was at pains to stress that it was not siding with the Shias. Indeed it has been keener to use air strikes to help Kurdish forces in northern Iraq than to aid the Shia-led authorities in Baghdad. And when debating possible strikes against IS’s bastion in Syria, American officials say they are “not on the same page” as Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, who comes from the Alawite sect, often regarded as a Shia offshoot.
That said, the recapture on September 1st of Amerli, an Iraqi town home to Shia Turkmen, shows that America will struggle to avoid co-operating with Shia militiamen. The operation was ostensibly led by the Iraqi army, with whom the Americans say they were co-ordinating their air strikes. But it could not have succeeded without several Shia militias. These display stronger fighting spirit than regular Iraqi forces, and have gained experience fighting not only against Americans in Iraq but also for Mr Assad in Syria.
The myriad Shia fighting groups are linked either to Iran’s powerful clandestine arm, the al-Quds organisation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard; or to the Iraqi Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr; or to factions of the Shia-dominated government. They expanded rapidly after America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and were believed to run death squads during the sectarian war in 2006-07. Most of these fighters later put down their weapons, but the rise of IS has prompted a surge in new recruits.
At least four Shia militias took part in the battle for Amerli: the Badr Corps, set up in the 1980s by Iran to challenge the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein; Asaib Ahl al-Haq, which is popular among new recruits because of its audacity and cruelty; Kataib Hizbullah (not directly related to Lebanon’s group of the same name), a well-trained outfit linked to Iran; and Saraya al-Salam, a rebranded version of Mr Sadr’s Mahdi army, which was formally disbanded in 2008. Smaller militias of 100-150 men have popped up since June, when Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shia authority, urged men to volunteer (for the army, not militias) to defend Baghdad after IS took Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city.
If the West wants to counter IS, it may have no choice but to co-operate, explicitly or implicitly, with such Shia fighters. Many Sunni groups that once helped America repel Sunni jihadists have gone over to IS, while the Kurds may have only a limited ability to advance beyond their heartland.
Iraq’s Shias, Kurds, Christians and even many Sunnis initially welcomed the Shia militias because few trust the regular Iraqi army to defend Baghdad. But the very strength of the Shia militias will make it harder to woo disgruntled Sunnis, even with offers of more political power and jobs in the army. Shia militiamen balk at the idea of giving Sunnis more rights, and exert influence through shadowy connections to religious or political figures rather than through parliament. All this bodes ill for Haidar al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister-designate, as he seeks to meet a deadline on September 10th for the creation of a new, more inclusive government—a cornerstone of any American plan.
In Syria the conundrum is even trickier, since the West is at odds with both IS and its ostensible enemy, the regime of Mr Assad. Less extreme Sunni rebels pushed IS out of several towns at the start of the year. But, short of weapons, their campaign has run out of steam.
The Syrian army and its various allies are thus IS’s strongest foes. The thinly-spread Syrian army has been bolstered by several Iraqi Shia militias, often seeking to defend Shia shrines such as Saida Zeinab in Damascus. Many of them pulled back to Iraq this summer. The National Defence Forces, a Syrian paramilitary outfit, was created with Iranian help. Another Iranian protégé, Hizbullah, Lebanon’s Shia militia hardened by wars with Israel, has been prominent in battles near Damascus.
Thanks to Blazing Cat Fur.
Paramilitary wing, Peace Brigades. strike ISIS terrorists
|Volunteers of the newly formed 'Peace Brigades' raise their weapons and chant slogans against the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ...|