February 8, 2015

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Shiite Militia Drives Back Islamic State, but Divides Much of Iraq (KAREEM FAHIM, FEB. 7, 2015, NY Times)

Speaking at the rally, to an audience that included giddy fighters barely past their teens, the head of the Badr Organization, Hadi al-Ameri, boasted of the towns his men and allied militias had set free. "These were big operations that others must learn lessons from," he said. [...]

At the same time, Mr. Ameri's boast rings true: His militia has been among the most effective fighting forces against the Islamic State, gaining ground even as the Iraqi Army has faltered in many places despite support from American airstrikes and trainers.

Now, the Badr Organization's leaders have asserted that their fighters and other allied militias -- organized under the banner of "popular mobilization" forces -- are ready to advance to neighboring provinces and other Iraqi cities menaced by the Islamic State: a shadow army to Iraq's official security forces, flush with its own success.

At their celebration on Monday, the militia's leaders were feeling expansive. Tribal sheikhs had been invited to Camp Ashraf from around the country, some milling around a small photo exhibit of the Diyala battles. Journalists had been asked to join as well, to listen to speeches and to tour the liberated villages.

A group of young fighters in fatigues gathered in a circle, singing religious hymns, and broke to join the mob that formed around Mr. Ameri, the guest of honor.

Standing in front of a backdrop that said "Diyala Wins. Iraq Wins," Mr. Ameri lightly admonished supporters who chanted his name, telling them to praise Iraq instead. He reached out to Sunnis, pledging that Diyala would be a "safe area," and responded to the accusations of atrocities by his fighters, warning that there would be consequences for abuses, including kidnappings and killings, though he did not explicitly acknowledge that they had happened.

"We are determined to complete our mission," Mr. Ameri added, listing other Iraqi provinces that his fighters would liberate soon. "God willing, we will defeat Daesh in Iraq," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

His fighters seemed to be spoiling for the coming battle. 

Alright, so it took 13 years to realize that we're on the same side, but we did figure it out eventually.

Posted by at February 8, 2015 7:02 AM
  

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