The U.S. military is now training and arming Iranian-connected militias in its anti-ISIS effort, the LA times reports.
The policy is a significant departure from past American requirements that Shiite militias have no official role in the U.S. anti-ISIS effort. Iraq’s parliament officially legalized Shiite militias Nov. 26, removing their quasi-legal status.
A U.S. military spokesman insisted the militias don’t have Iranian connections, saying, “we only train forces we can vet,” according to the LA Times. “You assess to make sure they don’t have association with terrorist groups, or groups associated with the government of Iran. They must be with groups that promote respect for human rights and rule of law.”
The U.S. government’s reversal on working with Shiite militias raises troubling questions for the future of Iraq. The U.S. desires a multi-ethnic unified Iraq, while Iran wants a reliable Shiite proxy state. If Iran pressures Baghdad to continue oppressing Sunnis in Iraq, it may create the same resentment that gave rise to ISIS. Countless experts have expressed anxiety over such a dynamic becoming reality.
Many Shiite militias have been connected to war crimes accusations and receive assistance from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Reuters found that Shiite militias abused and killed hundreds of civilians, after the U.S.-backed security forces retook the city of Fallujah from ISIS.
President Obama’s own special envoy to defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk admitted to CNN, between 15-20% of these Iranian backed militias “are a fundamental problem.” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress a year ago, “I know the total number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that were killed by Iranian activities, and the number has been recently quoted as about 500.”
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