Till early 2014, the Americans were putting pressure on Maliki to reign in Shia militias. The argument was that they could destabilize his government, they were proxies of Iran, and were getting combat experience in Syria. The Iraqi government formed brigades like the Wolf (Being led by Abu Al Walid, the commander fighting in Tal Afar), Tiger and Scorpion to counter the threat these militias could pose and primarily as a tool to keep Sunnis in check. Other measures included closing the Iraqi border with Syria and suspending direct flights. Both these measures at the time seemed to target Sunni Jihadist but were in fact meant to restrict the flow of Shia fighters.
Maliki was also half hearted in his attempts. And the latter was a token gesture on the part of the Iraqi government as flights between Iran and Damascus were ongoing. The American threat to create a no fly zone over Syria was meant to stop these flights. The current surveillance flights over Iraq and the taking over of Iraq -Syria land border by Jihadist is also meant to stop this flow of Shia fighters.
The deployment of the Americans to Iraq after Mosul fell is mostly for monitoring the Shia, more than the Sunni. The Americans have checked Sunni revolutions in the past; they know how to turn the tap off. They have relations with Sunni elders and ex Ba'athist they can use to curb any Sunni insurgency. It's the Shias they cannot control. It's what you cannot control that frightens you.
The US was also interested in using moderate Shia clerics like Sistani to contain the allure of the Shia Jihadist groups. But this has now changed to some extent. Sistani's call to arms has been the best recruiting drive the militias could have hoped for. He specified that it's the army the youth should join. But the youth have a mind of their own. They know who kicks ass.
Iraqi Shia fighters in the central Shia city of Karbala, June 21, 2014. MOHAMMED SAWAF, AFP/Getty Images
The Iraqi government is now relying on these militias to contain Daash. The Iraqi government will for the moment not restrict the training of fighters in Iran or their free flow between Syria and Iraq and will oppose any US pressure to stop the same. This can be seen in Maliki praising Syrian airstrikes on Iraq that normally any Prime Minister should oppose. Unlike the Sunni fighters of Daash (Chechens, Afghans, Saudis, Moroccans, Europeans etc) the Shia fighters are mostly Arab, from Iraq and the Levant that Daash so covets. The Sunni Arabs and tribes are on the side of Daash on account of a sense of being left out, part propaganda, part genuine frustration. But this is a problem they have to learn to live with. The power they once wielded is now gone. It is never coming back. The more they fight, the more Baghdad will become a Shia city and the more their frustration will grow. Some will eventually realize this but some will get radicalized by Saudi propaganda.
In the meanwhile, the militias will become the new Fremen against the Empire's (Anglo Zionist) Sadukar (Daash) waiting for their Muad'Dib (Mahdi). It is the harsh environment of Iraq and the threat posed against them that will keep them on their toes, at the ready and well trained, growing stronger day by day, learning valuable combat lessons and outclassing Daash in skill, professionalism and morale.
June 13, 2014: Iraqi Shiite tribal fighters deploy with their weapons while chanting slogans against the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), to help the military, which defends the capital in Baghdad's Sadr City, Iraq.AP
Are the Shia militias tougher than the Sunnis (Wahhabi)?
There is an old colonial joke. The British wanted to raise a Muslim company. They asked the Muslims, who are your fiercest people? The Muslims partly misunderstanding what the Tommy's were asking for said that our butchers (Kassabs) are the fiercest. So a company of butchers was hired. When the fighting started the butchers were not advancing beyond the trenches. The Tommy commander asked them, why don't you advance? Go fight!
The Butchers replied: "buddy tie them up and bring them, we'll do the slaughtering!”
This is what the fighters of Daash are: Butchers that the lambs flee.
I was watching some Jihadi videos last night. Not something very pleasant, but necessary.
Every single Shia militia fighting in Syria is organized militarily. They have brigades. These brigades have battalions of rocket troops, mortar firing, and assault. Each militia has proper uniforms and insignia. There is the ability to work within a command structure, under the Syrian army at times. Weapons being used are almost identical. AKMs, AMDs, PMKs, SVDs, hand held mortar launchers and RPGs. This is almost identical.
Sunni/Wahabbi militants are fierce but operate without any noticeable military organization, no uniform, no standard military equipment. The FSA in Syria is more professional with its army background. But Jihadists lack professionalism. This is also evident from Daash's insistence to control its own allies, infighting over minor issues, its inability to curb its fighters from carrying out atrocities (but this is also a tactic employed), and its inability to fight in a sustained manner in any confrontation.
This may not seem obvious to all. But Shia fighters are drawn to the fight out of love of something that they hold dear, i.e., the AhlulBayt. The Wahabbis on the other hand, from almost every single message, are driven by hatred, of Western values, saints, Shias, Christianity, Jews, everything they assume is corruption.
Jihadist propaganda is based on a puritan message. It requires Sunnis to give up belief systems that have held on for generations (however many Sunnis seem to be dropping earlier concepts of Walis and Wasilah faster than a stripper her "modest” clothing). The Shias on the other hand are being asked to act on something they have always believed in.
Most Jihadists are young men. Most die young as well. But a quick research on the internet will show you that the starting age of a Daash fighter is upward of 10. For the Shia, except in the case of Khomeini's human waves, it is much higher than 18. On an average it is 22.
Here is where the Shias have been unlucky from the nascent stages of Islam. The Sunnis kept wealth to themselves and marginalized Shias throughout. Iraq may eventually change this balance. The oil wealthy of Shia Iraq and Iran may soon dwarf Saudi Arabia. But for now, the Sunnis have it good. The sanctions on Iran keep it poor.
It is strange that the videos of Daash are almost always horrendous. And that the same videos that are used by Daash or Al Qaida for recruitment are used by their detractors (rational human beings) as counter propaganda. Shia militia videos are never of atrocities. They are almost always centered on the cult of martyrdom. The Americans try to highlight the alleged atrocities of Shia militias as counter propaganda but fail as most Shia distrust authority.
Two recent examples of combat effectiveness:
One was Hezballah's takeover of Beirut in May 2008. Hariri's thugs were no match. But I agree Beirut is not Tripoli. Mosul could be a counter example. But Beirut is more of a mixed city and Mosul more of a Sunni Ba'athist city. Moreover Beirut was military style takeover, while Mosul was a planned betrayal and collusion.
The other was Qusayr in 2013. Entrenched Jihadis with the full backing of the Arab states, Turkey and the West broke ranks and fled. The price Hizballah paid was high and Syria did pulverize most of Qusayr, but the fact remains that the Jihadist literally fled for their lives. Compare this to Bint Jabil in 2006 and it becomes clearer. The same odds, or higher if you consider the arsenal at Israel's disposal, stacked against Hizballah and Hizballah humiliates Israel. When Israel leaves a path for escape, more fighters join the fight. Also the assessment Hezbollah gave of their performance. They were critical of two of their commanders being present at the same place at the same time. Qusayr has frightened the Anglo Zionist Empire. Mosul's fall is going to petrify them.