Rampage In Iraqi Village Shows Cracks In US Middle East Policy

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Erica Wenig Contributor
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Top U.S. officials say Iranian forces fighting the Islamic State could be positive, but evidence shows these militias are carrying out targeted terror attacks in the aftermath of their military successes.

After Iran-supported Shiite militias freed an Iraqi city from the Islamic State, they carried out revenge attacks on Sunnis by raiding 30 villages and kidnapping at least 11 men in the surrounding area, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

It appears some of the attacks were premeditated, “indicating culpability by government political and military bodies that oversee the militias,” stated the report, titled After Liberation Came Destruction.

Both Sec. of State John Kerry and Gen. Martin Dempsey have expressed support for Iran’s involvement in fighting the Islamic State, despite warnings of Iran’s true intentions dating back to at least 2007.

Gen. David Petraeus sent an angry report to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, alleging Iranian forces were fighting U.S. troops in Iraq, during the height of the insurgency. Petraeus said Iran had gone from merely seeking influence to actually raising up proxies for the purpose of confronting the U.S. 

But the ascension of the Islamic State created a common enemy for the U.S. and Iran, leading to the current situation. The HRW report shows how Iran proxies have sectarian aims in direct opposition to the goal of creating a safe, stable Iraq.

Amerli, a city in Salah al-Din province in northeastern Iraq, was liberated in August of 2014, after a three month-long siege. U.S. and Iraqi air strikes aided Shiite militias and Kurdish and Iraqi ground forces, freeing the area from Islamic State fighters. 

Following the offensive, Shiite militias looted villages around Amerli, taking valuables such as “refrigerators, televisions, clothing and even electrical wiring.” Then, militias burned homes, business and entire villages in the ethnically and religiously diverse Salah al-Din and Kirkuk provinces, according to interviews and satellite imagery analyzed by HRW.

The attacks on Sunni villages were driven by revenge and intended to alter the demographic make-up of the provinces, according to witnesses who spoke to HRW. Assailants may have also been seeking retribution against collaborators with the Islamic State, in addition to targeting victims on the basis of religious sect.

Sectarian reprisals could drive Sunnis to join the Islamic State, as reported by The Long War Journal.

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