Since ISIS’s losses of 45% of its Iraqi territory over the past two years, we may be approaching the
end of the war on ISIS. The conflict’s progression nevertheless raises hard
questions on the potential resurgence of Sunni insurgencies like ISIS as American
and Iraqi governments have failed to rein in destabilizing groups operating
in Western Iraq. So long as murder, torture, and other human rights violations
recur with impunity among Shiite forces operating in Sunni Iraqi provinces,
there will be little reason to remain optimistic for the stability of Iraq.
During the capture of major Sunni cities
from ISIS, the Iraqi army’s inefficiency demanded supplementation from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a counterinsurgency
umbrella group composed of 100,000-120,000 volunteers operating under numerous, mostly Shiite, militias. In many of the largest battles, Shia PMF militias have played
a larger role than indigenous Sunni militias – they’ve made up a third of the
forces recapturing Ramadi
and two-thirds of the fighters retaking Baiji
In Tikrit, Shiite PMF outnumbered Sunni militiamen
by 20,000 to just 1,000. In each of these cities, Sunnis comprised the majority of the population, with as many as 90% of Ramadi civilians being Sunni.
Contrary to pro-Shia sources, the PMF’s commitment to the fight against ISIS has demonstrated sectarian
aims with little respect to Sunni civilians, not the rebirth of Iraqi nationalism.
200 Sunni civilians were abducted, and several hundred homes to Sunnis were
demolished by the Shia Hezbollah Battalions and League of the Righteous Forces.
Reports of Shia PMF indiscriminately targeting civilians in Ramadi remain unclear, but more recently in Fallujah, they
tortured more than a thousand civilians, beating them while dragging them by car. In every
Sunni, they see an inhuman enemy, with a militiaman saying that “80%” of Sunnis are part of ISIS.
The PMF’s human rights violations have virtually
become a national security risk – the intelligence community has said that because of fears of the Shia militias’ participation
in the fight against ISIS, “Iraq’s Sunnis will remain willing to endure some
deprivation under ISIL rule.”
To reign the PMF in and perhaps because militias are prohibited by Iraq’s constitution, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi adopted the PMF as
part of Iraq’s armed forces earlier this year, while
calling for the appointment of thousands of Sunnis to the PMF. A prison was also established
for human rights offenders last year, but these measures have translated into