A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 12, 2014

It Gets Worse: Maliki Calls for Help from the "Disbanded" Shi‘ite Militias

And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III. Scene 1
Desperate to find a way to stop the ISIS juggernaut, Prime Minister al-Maliki has called on Iraqi  Shi‘ite militias from the sectarian civil war, most of which had disbanded by 2010, to mobilize and take the field. It may be a practical response to a situation spending out of control, but it exacerbates the polarization along Sunni-Shi‘ite lines in Iraq, already encouraged by the Iraqi government's mistreatment and suppression of Sunni groups such as the Sahwa ("awakening") forces, who had worked with US troops before their departure.

Amid separate reports by The Wall Street Journal that Iranian Al-Quds Force Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are not merely in Iran but that two battalions are fighting to retake Tikrit, comes Maliki's call to the various Shi‘ite armed groups that had been dormant since the winding down of the sectarian civil war of the mid-2000s.

According to The New York Times,
Shiite militia leaders said that at least four brigades, each with 2,500 to 3,000 fighters, had been hastily assembled and equipped in recent weeks by the Shiite political parties to protect Baghdad and the political process in Iraq. They identified the outfits as the Kataibe Brigade, the Assaib Brigade, the Imam al-Sadr Brigade and the armed wing of the Badr Organization.
The first two names likely refer to the ‘Assa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous People) and the Kata'ib Hizbullah (Hizbullah Brigades, not organically linked to the Lebanese group); these, plus the Imam al-Sadr brigades, were originally offshoots of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army which emerged as separate forces during the war; the Badr Organization, which originally was the military wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.  All enjoyed Iranian support.


Paul Mutter said...

The Guards are back, but then, they never left.

David Mack said...

Look for Turkey and Kurdistan Regional Government to form an uneasy alliance to protect their respective interests and both to call for US government support. Look for Washington to give them quite a lot of support, short of boots on the grounds. Maliki government in Baghdad won't be happy, but we will be supplying it with assistance essential to its survival.