By Sal Bommarito
The political situation relating to the impending ISIS conflict is becoming more discombobulated every day. The U.S. is depending upon the Iraqi government to assist in the fight against the terrorists. The only problem is that the militias that are doing most of the fighting are not reliable allies of the America, and they are backed by Iran.
President Obama has declared war on ISIS in no uncertain terms, even if he disapproves of this vernacular. The U.S. will execute the war from the sky and not employ ground troops, maybe. Already, nearly 2,000 advisers have been deployed in Iraq, and more will be needed to coordinate with the pilots conducting airstrikes and train Iraqis. Just yesterday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff contradicted Obama’s promise not to use ground forces. In conclusion, maybe we are at war (which should be approved by Congress), and maybe we will deploy ground troops (if airstrikes do not impede ISIS). So much for transparency and clarity.
Today, in the New York Times, an interesting story (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/shiite-militias-pose-challenge-for-us-in-iraq.html?_r=0) was published about the ground forces that will be conducting most of the operations against ISIS in Iraq. To refresh your memory, since it is is probably not deploying ground troops, the U.S. needs local ground fighters to flush out the enemy and mop up after the bombing sorties. The Times presented a mosaic of one of the groups that will be fighting against ISIS, named Asib Ahl al-Haq. It is disturbing to say the least.
Asib is the “largest and most formidable of the Iranian-based Shiite militias that dominates Baghdad.” You read this correctly the U.S. is directly or indirectly going to be relying upon a band of sectarian fighters financed by Iran.
“Once a leading killer of American troops, the militia is spearheading the fight against Sunni extremists of ISIS.” The U.S. and Asib are battling the same foe, “though each insist they will not work together.”
In a previous post, I referred to the sectarian division between Shia and Sunnis, and how it might come into play before and after ISIS is defeated. The Times believes Asib and other Shiite militias “pose a central challenge to the creation of a more just and less sectarian government.” The translation is Shia are not going to give Sunnis any meaningful power in the new Iraqi government. Knowing this, can the U.S. expect Iraqi Sunnis to turn against Sunni ISIS?
Other interesting observations in the news article include:
• The Shiite militias are more powerful and more effective than the Iraqi security force.
• The role of the militias has been elevated because they are the principal elements fighting against ISIS in Iraq.
• Under the former Iraqi government, Asib was “encouraged to do dirty jobs like killing Sunnis, and they operated freely.”
• Asib has secured about 80% of Baghdad.
• Asib led the most difficult military operations because it is the most capable force in Iraq.
• Asib killed 109 Sunnis earlier this year in and around Baghdad.
• Asib’s leader says he “could accept American airstrikes or military attacks . . . But, he does not trust Americans.”
• Asib attacked and killed U.S. troops when we occupied the country.
If the U.S. is depending upon militias that are highly sectarian, backed by Iran and unwilling to work with the U.S., how can the American people be confident that the ISIS operation be successful? And why isn’t the administration revealing these potential landmines to the American public and managing expectations?