Shiite Fighters Pull Out of Anti-ISIS Fight Over U.S. Participation



Most Americans first heard about Shiite and Sunni being different kinds of Islam in the aftermath of 9/11. The over-simplification of the divide helped push forward flimsy arguments for toppling Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime, like the (non-existent) connection with the Sunni terrorist group Al-Qaeda, responsible for 9/11.

85 to 90 percent of the world's Muslims, in fact, are Sunni. Most regimes in the Arab world, including U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, which is now conducting air strikes against Shiite rebels in Yemen, while not democratic or quite representative of their populations, are also Sunni. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, that country became one of the few Shi'ite-led countries in the region—Iran is another. The division, and the alliances that fall along it, is why the conflict in Yemen is considered a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In Iraq, Shiite militias are a major force in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), originally an off-shoot of Al-Qaeda. They make up up to a third of the 30,000 fighters in Iraq mobilized against ISIS, and are now threatening to exit the fight over foreign, and mainly U.S., participation. The New York Times reports:

By Day 2 of the American airstrike campaign against militants holed up in Tikrit, the mission appeared beleaguered on several fronts on Thursday: Thousands of Shiite militiamen boycotted the fight, others threatened to attack any Americans they found, and Iraqi officials said nine of their fighters had been accidentally killed in an airstrike.

In Washington, American military leaders insisted that things were going according to plan. They said that they were stepping into the Tikrit fight only after the Iranian­ and militia-­led advance on the city had stalled after three weeks, and that they welcomed working solely with Iraqi government forces.

The U.S. shouldn't be welcoming working with fewer partners because that means taking up more of the responsibility in the fight. And that only guarantees a more active role for the U.S. in the war against ISIS, not victory. When he committed U.S. forces to the fight against ISIS, President Obama pointed to U.S. operations in Yemen as a model. The U.S. has now pulled out of Yemen after the government was overrun by rebels and as the country slips into chaos.

Hawks like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), now running for president, fault President Obama's policies in places like Yemen for not being interventionist enough. In a January op-ed, Cruz appeared to blame Obama's policies for the Yemen collapse—not the bombings on behalf of an autocratic government but the fact that U.S. counterterrorism policy wasn't aggressive enough in Yemen.

The Jerusalem Post recently posited that the "Sunni-Shiite wars" were going global. Given the U.S.'s goals and alignments in the region, it's found itself at the same time on both sides of the various manifestations of that conflict and against both sides.

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  1. Graham and McCain celebrate.

  2. They apparently don’t give a Shi’ite about their own self-interests.

    1. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite!

  3. So the big bitch was that in fighting ISIS we were supporting Iranian puppet militias. Not that those militias have left, it is now a bad thing that we are not supporting puppet militias.

    I can’t see why this is a bad thing. Fuck the Shia militias. They are not much better than ISIS. Them leaving just leaves the Sunis, who helped us in 2004 and don’t want to live in an Islamic hell hole.

  4. I thought Shiites weren’t allowed to pull out.

    1. Damn. That’s even moar strict than Catholics.

      1. Well yeah, I mean they’re triple Muslims.

  5. OK, so Iran (effectively) couldn’t take Tikrit, and the Kurds haven’t been able to take Mosul or Sinjar yet. Fallujah is still safely in CrazyFuckistan. Sounds like things aren’t really going to plan.

    1. Assuming there is an actual plan, of course.

      1. Simply killing brown people isn’t a plan? If we just kill enough of these bastards, we’ll be safe.

    2. Sure they are, everything always goes according to plan and every outcome is a success, in Obamaland. Just like Yemen.

  6. I always thought Ali had a better claim than Aisha to Mohammed’s legacy.

    1. [ululating cry]

  7. Trying to keep all the religious and ethnic complexities of the region sorted out is so mind-numbingly complex it should be obvious by now it is better to stay the fuck out of all of it.

    1. Eventually we’ll get the hang of it.

  8. They make up up to a third of the 30,000 fighters in Iraq mobilized against ISIS

    Um, didn’t we train and arm an actual army there over the past 10 years?

    1. Um, haven’t we trained an army, navy and air force, members/former members of which have attempted to join ISIS?
      Our training is as bad as our foreign policy.
      We should stop both.

    2. The Top Men in Iraq turned a half decent force into a political football and patronage boondoggle – when it came time to stand up, they were found to be hollow.

  9. This does not seem confusing in any way, and I think we should do our best, as a nation, to become even more involved.

  10. The U.S. has now pulled out of Yemen after the government was overrun by rebels and as the country slips into chaos.

    minor correction:

    “The U.S. has now pulled out of Yemen after the current government was overrun by supporters of the previous government and as the country slips into chaos.”

  11. There may be some mis-read on what’s actually going on here.

    “Protesting US involvement” may be what *they* call it.

    I suspect the US demanded that some of the non-Iraqi-army/ shiite militia elements not be given any further backing from the Iraq Government as precondition of the US air power contribution

    the role the US seems to be playing is less “fighting for the Iraqis on behalf of the expansionary ambitions of Iran“, so much as “playing referee” over where the boundaries of Iranistan(Iraq) and Jihidistan (ISIS controlled territory) are going to lie.

    The Mahdi army guy says it pretty bluntly =

    ” “The participation of the so-called international alliance is to protect ISIS on the one hand, and to confiscate the achievements of the Iraqis* on the other hand.”

    Note: am i saying this is a *@#&$@ good idea? hell no. its retarded. But its consistent with how we’ve chosen to be selectively supportive in Syria, and how we’re cherry picking how and where we support the “official” Iraqi forces.

    notable: we’re simultaneously helping the Saudis attack shiite militias in Yemen.

    I think the Iraqis probably have a clearer understanding of the situation than US journalists. They understand “we’re against ISIS, but we’re not FOR them”

  12. “Arab Spring”.

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