The omnipresent sectarian civil war underpinning everything that goes on in Iraq was not unrelated to the ISIS expansion in the nation’s west. Indeed, ISIS took advantage of Sunni unrest, particularly in Anbar Province, to establish its foothold, and secure deals with local tribal factions.
The US never did get the hang of that problem back during the last Iraq occupation, and is quickly running up against it in this new war, as Kurdish fighters and Shi’ite militias alike are eagerly taking advantage of the US airstrikes to carry out revenge attacks on the Sunni Arabs in the areas.
In “liberating” the sieged Turkomen Shi’ite town of Amerli from ISIS, they also exposed myriad Sunni villages in the area to the Shi’ite militias, and as was feared, the militias have quickly started looting those towns, and chasing out the Sunnis.
They’re pretty public about it too, with one commander in an Amerli militia bragging of his faction razing the homes of Sunnis to the ground to ensure they’ll never be able to return to the area.
The villagers say they won’t return, either, even though most of them are basically stuck living inside ISIS territory for the time being. They say they would’ve remained if it was Iraq’s army, despite their notorious crackdowns on Sunnis. The Shi’ite militias have built sectarian reputation far worse, and living as a Sunni civilian under those militias is simply not an option.
That’s going to be a growing problem as the US war escalates across Iraq, aiming to secure Kurdish and Shi’ite rule over the ISIS-held territory which is overwhelming Sunni in nature.