Reports suggest Iran ‘lurks behind’ Iraq sectarian violence

The shadow of a Shiite fighter flashing the 'V' sign while celebrating after taking control of Jurf al-Sakhar from ISIS militants, is cast on a wall October 26, 2014.

The shadow of a Shiite fighter flashing the ‘V’ sign while celebrating after taking control of Jurf al-Sakhar from ISIS militants, is cast on a wall October 26, 2014.

Shiite militias, linked to the Iranian government, continue to commit war crimes and human rights abuses in Iraq in retribution to attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report by Amnesty International.

Reports suggest that these militias, which the Iraqi government is reportedly dependent on, are being funded and supported by Iranian authorities.

The international rights group compiled a report based on dozens of interviews with victims, witnesses, and medics who recounted what seemed to be a series of attacks by Shiite militias as revenge against ISIS.

“Amnesty International has documented dozens of cases of abductions and unlawful killings by Shi’a militias in Baghdad, Samarra and Kirkuk, with many more such cases reported all over the country,” the report stated.

According to a Foreign Policy article authored by Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland focusing on the Middle East, these militants “have deep ideological and organizational links to Iran,” as he described one group as a “direct Iranian proxy.”

Iranian authorities called upon both new and already established Shiite militias in Iraq to fight in Syria, Smyth wrote, who he claims were redeployed to Iraq to develop the militias currently fighting Baghdad’s predicament that is the Sunni ISIS militants.

The danger lies in the claim Smyth makes that the Shiite militants Amnesty International accuses of war crimes and human rights abuses are now embedded “within the structures of the Iraqi government,” which he says has “become far too reliant on their power to contemplate cracking down on them.”

Smyth’s claims are corroborated by Amnesty International’s report which said that the militias are “often armed and backed by the government of Iraq.”

The militias “continue to operate with varying degrees of cooperation from government forces –ranging from tacit consent to coordinated or even joint, operations,” the group said.

Based on witness and victim accounts, the rights group documented “summary killings” since June in revenge for ISIS’ attacks on the various Shiite communities the Sunni group encountered in its offensive to claim large stretches of territory through Northern Iraq and Syria.

Similar to the ways their arch enemies are notorious for, Shiite militias, according to the report, have abducted or killed many whose families now know nothing about.

The group also warned that these militias, whose fighters range in the thousands in Iraq, “appear to have more authority and effective power on the ground than the beleaguered government forces, increasingly seen as weak and ineffective.”

Three of the largest Shiite militias identified by Amnesty International are linked to Iran in Smyth’s article, raising speculation of the Islamic Republic’s role in the escalating sectarian violence in Iraq.

 
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