After freeing the Iraqi town of Amerli, which had been under siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Iranian-backed Shiite militias rampaged through the area carrying out reprisal raids against the Sunni population. This was reported in a document prepared by Human Rights Watch (HRW), as reported Wednesday by Bill Roggio in The Long War Journal.
“After US air strikes and Iraqi fighters broke the siege [of Amerli], pro-government militias began to raid Sunni and mixed Sunni villages in the areas surrounding Amerli,” HRW stated in a report, titled After Liberation Came Destruction, which was released today. ..
HRW was able to confirm that at least 3,200 building were torched during the “militias’ campaign of destruction” after Amerli was liberated on Sept. 1, 2014. The militias looted and burned or bombed buildings in September and “through the months of October, November and possibly December.”
“The widespread burning of civilian homes by the militia groups in areas under their control appeared to have had no clear military objective and to represent collective punishment against residents of local Sunni villages,” HRW stated.
Although American official have portrayed the assistance of the Shiite militias as a net positive as long as their efforts “don’t result in sectarianism,” Roggio observes that “the Iranian-backed groups are already practicing ‘sectarianism.’”
Last week ABC reported on photographs and videos found on social media that documented atrocities committed by the militias.
Aside from the brutality of the Shiite militias, American-interests are hurt by supporting these militias, as David Daoud explained in Is ISIS Distracting Us From a More Serious Iranian Threat?, which was published in the November 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine.
What happened at the northern Iraqi town of Amerli should serve as a warning. In August, President Obama authorized military strikes to support Kurdish militia forces fighting to break ISIS’ stranglehold on the Shi’a town. But it inadvertently played into Iran’s hands by allowing Iranian-backed Shi’a fighters to retake the site. University of Maryland researcher Phillip Smyth noted that these fighters are under Iranian patronage and adhere to its ideology. They are completely loyal to Khamenei, intent on furthering the Iranian revolution, and dedicated to executing Iran’s will in the region. Smyth also discovered that the IRGC-QF’s commander, Qasem Soleimani, was on the ground directing the fighters. Iran also scored a psychological victory, with many Western analysts billing the Islamic Republic as “the one power [emphasis own] capable of stanching ISIS’s advance.” In other words, ground lost by ISIS was gained by Iran—meaning that, either way, the West lost. If the West keeps turning a blind eye to Iran, it risks Amerli becoming a microcosm of the entire war against ISIS, stretching beyond the borders of Iraq.
[Photo: AFP news agency / YouTube ]