26 September 2017
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Mosul quietly fills with Iran-backed Shiite militias using battle for revenge on Sunnis

Monday, 01 May 2017 07:49
An Iraqi Special Forces vehicle displays a Shiite flag bearing the likeness of Imam Hussein and Imam Ali with Arabic words reading "At your service Hussein" in Mosul, Iraq. State-sanctioned Shiite militias are positioning themselves to control areas liberated from Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, opening the door to fresh domestic and regional conflict and raising concerns among religious and ethnic minorities. (Associated Press/File) An Iraqi Special Forces vehicle displays a Shiite flag bearing the likeness of Imam Hussein and Imam Ali with Arabic words reading "At your service Hussein" in Mosul, Iraq. State-sanctioned Shiite militias are positioning themselves to control areas liberated from Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, opening the door to fresh domestic and regional conflict and raising concerns among religious and ethnic minorities. (Associated Press/File)

HAMAM AL-ALILIraq — The road to Mosul is littered with the detritus from almost three years of war: burned M1117 armored vehicles, sandbagged berms and trenches from defensive positions once manned against Islamic State fighters, houses pancaked by airstrikes. The long supply line of the Iraqi army stretches through villages, with bulldozers, camouflaged trucks and temporary base camps.

Particularly noticeable are the frequent checkpoints manned by young armed men. But the fighters often aren’t from the Iraqi army or the Federal Police, but are members of various Iran-supported Shiite militias in the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units.

While taking part in the U.S.-backed assault on the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, many of these units fly flags celebrating Shiite religious figures such as the Imam Hussein, and some have posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 

Life in those areas under control of the Shiite militias provides a window into Iran’s influence and the sectarian tensions that still dog Iraq as the campaign for Mosul enters its seventh grinding month.

A tour of these areas shows that Shiite militias and Iran have been empowered in the fight and that Iraq remains a state even more divided along religious and ethnic lines.

The battle for Mosul, once a city of more than 2 million residents, began in mid-October. In a lightning assault in 2014, the Islamic State, a radical Sunni Muslim group, took the city, expelled Christians and massacred Shiite and other minorities, and dynamited shrines and archaeological sites as part of its Salafi policy. When the Iraqi army began its campaign last fall, Mosul’s population had been reduced to around 1 million people.

Source: The Washington Times

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