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The link between ISIS advances and Government backed militia

Editorial

The situation in Iraq remains unstable and requires more than any other time a comprehensive policy primarily by the US government followed by the EU and other related regional countries. More than two months after the US started bombing the ISIS, the group is making further advances both in Syria and Iraq. 

The recent advances by the ISIS further highlight this question: 

Why and how ISIS, a terrorist group, manages to make such advances in two countries, facing the coalition of most powerful countries in the world?  

 

The most common answer is that you need boots on the ground to defeat ISIS and it cannot be achieved only by air strike. This is certainly a powerful argument and a right one. But it does not explain as to why there is no one on the ground to fight ISIS? Where are the local population? Why do they not stand up to ISIS? 

The sad and yet simple answer is that unfortunately, in both countries the local people have suffered so much under Assad and Maliki that they see not much difference between the ISIS and the ruling regimes. They have also been betrayed and abandoned by the powerful countries, thereforethey have little trust and hope in them to offer any tangible help if they fight ISIS. Moreover, they see no real sign that the US and other countries of collation really mean business. 

The US insists that its involvement is not against Assad, which is the cause of the problem. On the other hand there are conflicting signs of US possible coordination with the mullahs’ regime which has been and continues to be the root cause of crisis in Iraq and continuation of Assad regime in Syria. Top US officials deny “direct” coordination with Iran, yet acknowledging the presence of Iranian regime and notorious Quds Force in Iraq. This is a tacit confirmation of “indirect” coordination with the root of the crisis to resolve the crisis. No wonder the local people are so disillusioned in fighting the ISIS and even some are being attracted to this terrorist group. 

One striking example is operation of the so called “Shi’a militia”. They are operating with absolute impunity. They are committing the most heinous crimes on daily basis against the Sunni population while the Iraqi Government is backing them or the least to say is incapable of controlling them. The US is also turning blind eye on these crimes as if by ignoring them the situation will improve. This is the same mistake made during Maliki’s tenure. For years the Administration was warned about the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the influence of the Quds Force in the country and crimes committed by the paramilitary groups and Iraqi security forces under Maliki. Little if any was done to contain Maliki and to evict the Iranian regime from Iraq. The crimes committed against MEK, while US soldiers were standing idly by upon the orders of their higher up and watching the massacres in Camp Ashraf in July 2009 and April 2011.  The September 2013 massacre was even worse as the US had effectively guaranteed the safety of the 100 residents remaining in Camp Ashraf.  

These militias are backed, trained and even controlled by the Iranian regime. They are in effect operating under the command of Quds Force. The report issued today, October 14, 2014, by Amnesty International states, “Iraq: Evidence of war crimes by government-backed Shi’a militias” illustrate the seriousness of the problem. The US “indirect” coordination with the Iranian regime is, wittingly or not, lending support and legitimacy to such groups. 

Indeed, there are some indications, that despite its publicly declared position, the mullahs’ regime is happy with the ISIS making advances,  with the view that it would lead to lesser attention on its so far failure to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Moreover, the regime is of the view that the continuation of the current crisis would make US and others more in need of the regime to fight the ISIS through its paramilitary groups. 

Time is of essence. Failure of the US and international community to support the Syrian people and its moderate opposition has already resulted in Assad, supported by the Iranian regime, remaining in power by massacring its own people. Both Tehran and Damascus tacitly supported ISIS fighting the moderate opposition and also to deter international support for the opposition.  

A comprehensive policy requires leadership, being prepared to take tough decisions and be ready to pay the price. Ignoring the problem or refusing to take the hard decision today, will impose a heavier price for the international community in the future. A comprehensive policy must include a firm position against the mullahs’ regime in Iran. No role should be recognized for this regime. Instead of saying there is no “direct” coordination, the US Government is expected to say that the mullahs’ regime is part of the problem. It must be evicted from Iraq. The paramilitary groups must be dismantled. Their brutality provides fertile ground for the ISIS to advance. Only such policy might, to some extent, reassure the local people to have some trust on the new government and the coalition and therefore fight the ISIS. 

No legitimacy should be given to Assad regime. A no fly zone must be set up in Syrian border with Turkey and be extended further to humanitarian shelter for the displaced people and also a safe behind the front lines for the moderate opposition. 

The following was released today by Amnesty International: 

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/iraq-evidence-war-crimes-government-backed-shi-militias-2014-10-14

Amnesty International

14 October 2014

Iraq: Evidence of war crimes by government-backed Shi’a militias 

 

Shi’a militias, supported and armed by the government of Iraq, have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians in recent months and enjoy total impunity for these war crimes, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. 

 Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq provides harrowing details of sectarian attacks carried out by increasingly powerful Shi’a militias in Baghdad, Samarra and Kirkuk, apparently in revenge for attacks by the armed group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). Scores of unidentified bodies have been discovered across the country handcuffed and with gunshot wounds to the head, indicating a pattern of deliberate execution-style killings. 

 “By granting its blessing to militias who routinely commit such abhorrent abuses, the Iraqi government is sanctioning war crimes and fuelling a dangerous cycle of sectarian violence that is tearing the country apart. Iraqi government support for militia rule must end now,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser. 

 The fate of many of those abducted by Shi'a militias weeks and months ago remains unknown. Some captives were killed even after their families had paid ransoms of $80,000 and more to secure their release. 

 Salem, a 40-year-old businessman and father of nine from Baghdad was abducted in July. Two weeks after his family had paid the kidnappers a $60,000 ransom, his body was found in Baghdad’s morgue; with his head crushed and his hands still cuffed together. 

 The growing power of Shi’a militias has contributed to an overall deterioration in security and an atmosphere of lawlessness. The relative of one victim from Kirkuk told Amnesty International: 

 “I have lost one son and don’t want to lose any more. Nothing can bring him back and I can’t put my other children at risk. Who knows who will be next? There is no rule of law, no protection.” 

 Among the Shi’a militias believed to be behind the string of abductions and killings are: ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hizbullah. 

 

These militias have further risen in power and prominence since June, after the Iraqi army retreated, ceding nearly a third of the country to IS fighters. Militia members, numbering tens of thousands, wear military uniforms, but they operate outside any legal framework and without any official oversight. 

 “By failing to hold militias accountable for war crimes and other gross human rights abuses the Iraqi authorities have effectively granted them free rein to go on the rampage against Sunnis. The new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must act now to rein in the militias and establish the rule of law,” said Donatella Rovera. 

 “Shi’a militias are ruthlessly targeting Sunni civilians on a sectarian basis under the guise of fighting terrorism, in an apparent bid to punish Sunnis for the rise of the IS and for its heinous crimes.” 

 At a checkpoint north of Baghdad, for instance, Amnesty International heard a member of the ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia say: “If we catch ‘those dogs’ [Sunnis] coming down from the Tikrit area we execute them…. They come to Baghdad to commit terrorist crimes, so we have to stop them.” 

 Meanwhile, Iraqi government forces also continue to perpetrate serious human rights violations. Amnesty International uncovered evidence of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, as well as deaths in custody of Sunni men detained under the 2005 anti-terrorism law. 

 The body of a 33-year-old lawyer and father of two young children who died in custody showed bruises, open wounds and burns consistent with the application of electricity. Another man held for five months was tortured with electric shocks and threatened with rape with a stick before being released without charge. 

 “Successive Iraqi governments have displayed a callous disregard for fundamental human rights principles. The new government must now change course and put in place effective mechanisms to investigate abuses by Shi’a militias and Iraqi forces and hold accountable those responsible,” said Donatella Rovera.   

 

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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf