Bolstered by a steady flow of arms and cash from Iran, Shiite militias have increasingly come to dominate the security scene in Baghdad, Iraq, The Washington Post reports.
In many cases, the Shiite militias are an outgrowth of the movements that coalesced against the American occupation following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
These groups, now further rallied by the rise of ISIS, the teetering of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces, and increased patronage from Iran are taking control of entire sections of Baghdad.
The militias “run their own checkpoints, are flush with weapons stocks and Iranian cash, and often drive the same kind of armoured vehicles as security forces,” WaPo notes.
And this increased influence and power allows the militias to “move freely in Baghdad,” Iraqi analyst Hisham al-Hashimi told WaPo.
This rise in influence has given the formerly secular Iraqi society a further religious and sectarian tinge, as the militias target elements in the city they find un-Islamic, such as liquor stores and brothels.
Two Iranian-backed Shiite militias are also thought to be the groups behind the kidnapping of three Americans in Baghdad last weekend. An Iraqi and a Western official told the AP on Thursday that they believed the groups Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Saraya al-Salam were behind the abductions.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the US are by no means on friendly terms. In September, the spokesman for the militia told The New York Times that he believes the US created ISIS and is only paying lip service toward defeating it.
Additionally, the group has only played into the sectarianism that is currently undermining Iraqi society. Al-Haq militants uploaded images of themselves poses with the charred corpses of Sunnis in September 2014. And between June 1 and July 9 2015, Human Rights Watch documented the extra-judicial execution of 61 Sunni men by various Shiite militias in the regions around Baghdad.
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