Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Iraq’s Shiite militias partnering with ISIS militants

IMIS militants
IMIS militias
Iraqi Shiite militia is absorbing former ISIS fighters into their ranks, US magazine Foreign Policy has claimed, citing interviews with several Iraqi government officials and activists.

The Iranian Militias in Iraq (IMIS), the Shiite faction that played a role in the three-year war against so-called Islamic State militants, has reportedly started to join forces with some of their former opponents, in an effort to expand their influence into Sunni-majority areas previously held by ISIS.

Considered by many as an Iranian proxy, IMIS militias constitute a major force, with a coalition of allied groups known as the Fatah Alliance, securing 48 seats in the 320-seat Iraqi parliament earlier this year. The IMIS won an official recognition as a national force late 2016, coming under the command of the prime minister, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces.

In an attempt to expand further, the IMIS has looked to broaden its recruits. The Badr Organisation, one of the largest militias is believed to have recruited some 30 ex-ISIS fighters in the town of Jalula alone, while Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the most extreme IMIS factions has initiated 40 members from the same area, a disputed region between the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces.

For ex-ISIS militants, the opportunity to work within the IMIS allows many to return to their hometowns from which they had been ousted. Many locals had also joined the so-called Islamic State for financial reasons after post-war chaos in Iraq failed to provide them with stable jobs. When ISIS was subsequently defeated, many turned to the IMIS for employment, being unable to otherwise join official security forces or apply for other positions.

However, some senior members of ISIS are also believed to have entered the IMIS’s ranks. According to Kurdish internal security forces, former ISIS commander Mutashar Al-Turki, who led the battle against the Peshmerga in 2014, is one such recruit.

Some IMIS factions have denied the existence of former Islamic State fighters in their battalions, with others admitting that whilst some had joined, they were dismissed after their links to ISIS became known. However other groups admitted that militants had been absorbed and changed their allegiances, with one citing Mutashar Al-Turki as an example of a “good man” who was now charged with securing the town of Tawuq against other militants.

However, the alliance between former ISIS fighters and IMIS groups presents numerous security problems for the Iraqi government in regards to monitoring former members and ensuring they pose no future security threat.

Such recruitment is also likely to further disenfranchise the local Sunni population, who were oppressed by the rule of both so-called Islamic State fighters and Shiite militias. Ongoing sectarian divisions and a lack of representation have cast a persistent shadow on Iraqi politics, with the country’s new leadership facing the challenge of fostering a more representative political climate.