Iraq: Radical Shiite Militia fights Sunni Extremists as US Carrier reaches Gulf

By Juan Cole

Saturday was a day of militia pushback against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS]. In a sign of growing polarization on both the Sunni and the Shiite sides, the best fighters on the Shiite side against Sunni al-Qaeda wannabes. When the worst elements of two communities go at one another, the communities themselves are gradually corrupted.

Iraqi army, security forces and militias pushed back on Saturday against the radical al-Qaeda wannabe, the hyper-Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) around Baghdad. The radical Shiite militia, the League of the People of Truth, helped security forces take back the town of Muqdadiyah near Baghdad. Local tribal and town forces also pushed the ISIS invaders out of the small town of Ishaqi, and likewise confronted them and pushing them back in Udhaim.

At the same time, President Obama ordered an aircraft carrier and two warships into the Persian Gulf, readying the carrier as a platform for possible US airstrikes on Sunni extremist positions in northern Iraq. The Obama administration says that it wants to see the Iraqi political elite take practical steps toward more cohesion, before it will commit to intervene even by air.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani offered Iranian troops to Prime Minister Maliki, but he said he has not received an explicit request for help from Baghdad. He also admitted that if the US acted against the Sunni radicals, that might form a basis for security cooperation between Tehran and WAshington.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also called on his forces to make a stand at Samarra, a city lying just north of Baghdad. It is the site of a major Shiite co

One problem with al-Maliki unleashing militias like that of the League of the People of Truth is that they are known for their unscrupulous tactics and vicious brutality during the Sunni-Shiite civil war of 2006-2007 and after. It could be argued that they on the Shiite side are not much better than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the Sunni side.

Meanwhile, Kurdistan militias were fighting with ISIS radicals just west of the city of Kirkuk, most of which Kurdish militiamen had taken over a few days ago.

The Kurdistan paramilitary, the Peshmergas (those who stand before death) also took over Tuz Khurmato, a town largely of Shiite Turkmen, near to Kirkuk, and pushed to the outskirts of two largely Sunni town in the area.

So far, in Kirkuk and Muqdadiyah, the most effective response to the radicals of ISIS has come from militias, not from the Iraqi national army. And that isn’t a good sign for the future.


Related video:

AFP: “Iran offers help to US if it acts against Iraq militants”

21 Responses

  1. Here is the big picture as of now. The US invaded and destroyed Iraq and its infrastructure based on lies and at great expense. That eventually resulted in the current mess. The US is unwilling to commit ground troops to help Iraq deal with this mess. Iran is willing and able to field ground troops (probably already did, judging by reports in wsj and ny times).

    It is a no brainer to conclude that Iraqis (at least the Shiite majority) will feel indebted to Iran. So the US spent trillions of dollars, killed over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians, incurred thousands of its own military casualties and summarily handed Iraq over to Iran.

    This is what happens when idiots are put in charge of the worlds largest economic and military power.

    • Some good may come of this yet. If our guys in Washington could get over the hegemony thing, they might realize that Iran as a strong regional power would be in our interest.

      • Sorry. Israel will not allow this.

        The fake Cowboy should have put a Kurd in charge. They have no illusions. They know from here to eternity a Shiite or Sunni will always want to try and kill them. Kurds would have split the country into 3rds with wells as evenly parsed out as possible.

        The future now is even more bloodshed. Yes America recreated Hell. It’s in Iraq.

    • Iraq has not been handed over to Iran. Iran has been supporting the Shia pro-democracy groups for decades, but Iraq’s government is hardly a puppet of Iran.

  2. From the linked article, on Friday Prime Minister Maliki traveled to Samarra and said this “will not be the last line of defense, but a gathering point and a launchpad. This is the beginning of the end for them (ISIS).”

    Maliki could be right. ISIS overrunning and taking control of Sunni towns in northern Iraq without a fight is much different than doing the same thing in mixed cities, especially Samarra with the Golden Dome.. ISIS might have reached their limit and would run up against heavily armed, large Shiite forces if they try to push further south. I don’t think they have the numbers to risk such a big defeat.

    As always, Iran is playing a clever game trying to get Obama to take action so they can claim “security cooperation” between Tehran and Washington. Bibi Netanyahu would have a stroke. The Iranians never miss a beat. Rouhani offered Iranian troops even though he has not received an explicit request.

    Would Iran would be willing to send troops into Syria to fight against ISIS there? The Republicans and John McCain’s reaction would be interesting.

  3. Today, Iran is warning against “any foreign military intervention in Iraq” saying it would only complicate the crisis.

  4. I have this sense of deja vu, an intuition that we are seeing the Old Biden Partition Plan being de facto implemented. I don’t think there is any immediate danger to Baghdad and indeed I expect this “war” to wind down into more or less of a stalemate as the Sunnis and Kurds continue to solidify their positions.

    • This is my thought as well. ISIS has tactics but no strategy (besides bleeding US dry..that one is kinda working). I just wanted to post this so I can be the second one to say “called it”.

  5. A report in the Telegraph UK seems to indicate that the takeover of Mosul and Tikrit was engineered in collusion with Baathist elements. If true, this means

    A> It’s a resistance movement against the current US installed groomed government.

    B> The Baathists, ALWAYS the moderate ‘protestant-like’ element in the middle east either is colluding with radical islamists now, or we’re being handed a pack of lies again.

    My vote goes towards the latter.

    The Telegraph article

    Corporal Muammer Naser, 35, told The Telegraph that his superiors had sympathised with remnants of the regime of Saddam Hussein, and that the generals essentially passed control of the city to them. Organised militias of Saddam sympathisers are said to have participated in the takeover of Mosul and Saddam’s birthplace, Tikrit, this week.

  6. Let’s all hope and pray these radical Shi’ite militias can stop ISIS; otherwise, we are in trouble. ISIS is estimated to have as many as three to five thousand fighters and we in the US only have about a half million people in our military, six or seven carrier fleets, who knows how many missile-carrying submarines and we’re down to a couple thousand nukes. Woe is me! The sky is falling. Quick. Send the Pentagon another check for a few hundred billion.

    • Three to five thousand marching on Baghdad after they take Samarra and blow up the Golden Dome again. That worked so well for the Sunnis the first time. It was the beginning of the end for the Sunnis. They never recovered.

      I suspect the two Iraqi army divisions that folded in Mosul were mainly Sunnis who saw ISIS as liberators from Maliki. How could 30,000 soldiers with American weapons break and run from a few thousand ISIS fighters?

      In January, 2004, Grand Ayatollah Sistani called for demonstrations in favor of one man, one vote because the Bush administration was dragging their heels. 30,000 Shia marched in Basra. The very next day, 100,000 protested in Baghdad. When Sistani barks, several hundred thousand Shia bite.

      Today, the Republicans are coming out of the woodwork saying the sky will fall if Obama doesn’t do something and quick. Peter King and David Ignatius were on Meet the Press with alarming news. Lindsay Graham said Maliki should resign and Obama should send Petraeus and Crocker to Baghdad and form a NEW GOVERNMENT. Even Tony Blair said the west must intervene.

      The war party regulars will say just about anything to get the war in Iraq restarted.

        • Good point. It just didn’t add up to me.

          Dr. Cole, I haven’t forgotten you’re comments the day after the Golden Dome in Samarra was blown up in 2006. You immediately said it was very bad news and would probably mean real SEVERE conflict between the Sunnis and Shia.” You hit the nail right on the head. That was the beginning of the end for the Sunnis in Baghdad.

          I thought about your comments when Prime Minister Maliki went to Samarra of all places and said the ISIS would be driven back and defeated. I don’t think the ISIS will get much closer to Baghdad or take control of Samarra.The Shia will fight just as hard as the ISIS and they heavily outnumber them. Maliki also has gunships.

          The Shia took all those Sunni bombs in Baghdad and didn’t waver.

      • Any attempt by the US to impose any government on Iraq will FAIL. Neither the Sunnis nor the Shia will accept any government that goes from the US. BTW – Petraeus appears to want to stay out of the whole mess – I suspect he knows that he could only lose.

  7. For anyone who wants their world events all nice and categoried and sanitized and stuff, and who did not have a history professor who filled the old movie screen at the front of the class with actual images of what history looks like, and who are unclear how “hordes” and “bands” operate, here’s a visual aid:

    link to

    For more illustrative imagery of what the GUNmen that everyone wants to differentiate as insurgents or militants or terrorists or whatever, here is one current-events example (caution: hard on delicate sensibilities): link to

    The Baathist armies, the Republican Guards, the various “moderate and less so” gangs and gaggles in Syria, our own GUNloonies here at home, are just a short bit of the human continuum. For lots more learning resources, don’t fail to check out the zillions of bloody snippets now cataloged and preserved at and in youtubespace under topics like ‘syria violence 2014.’ There should be lessons the rest of us can draw from all this. Maybe someone else can think of some, other than “we are one sorry species.” Or “This is why the USS Bush is loitering in the northern Gulf, to do something about that bad stuff,” and then you can tell us what that “something” is and how it will make life generally any better, other than better for the Generals…

  8. I think Obama just moves these carriers to various hot spots and lets ’em sit in the water until the “crisis” is over. He did the same thing with Syria.

    “The Americans are here. We’ve arrived.”

  9. While shia militia are probably quite capable of a much brutality towards their enemies, they don’t have plans to attack anyone outside Iraq. ISIS and the al-Qaeda strand of Sunni thinking do. That’s important to remember when considering the international response.

    • yes that’s what the Leveretts say about Shia too. I’m surprised Shiite terrorists have not attacked the US on US soil yet. CNN ran a story about how US-led sanctions are killing cancer patients in Iran, and generally making life miserable in Iran.

      IMO, the Shiites have more reason to hate America than Sunnis do

Comments are closed.