US officials have for months made it clear that they realize Iraq’s “liberation” of Sunni cities is contingent on keeping the Shi’ite militias involved in those operations from conducting bloody purges against the “liberated” residents. Saying that, however, isn’t the same as doing something about it.
Despite the much-publicized US efforts, the capture of Fallujah away from ISIS back in June wasn’t nearly as successful as initially claimed, and evidence is growing that the militias’ torture and killing of Sunni civilians fleeing the city was far bigger than previously acknowledged.
Reuters is now reporting that a confirmed 66 Sunni civilians were killed and at least 1,500 were roughed up when the militias captured them. That may just be the tip of the iceberg, however, as over two months after this all happened, over 700 others are still missing.
The captured civilians were taken to a military-only portion of an Iraqi military base and beaten, with some of them beheaded. The US warnings had kept the militias from participating in the ground invasion of Fallujah itself, but ultimately they entered the city immediately thereafter, and their forces rounded up many of the civilians chased out by the fighting.
Despite the obvious problems with Shi’ite militias killing all these Sunni civilians, Iraq is so heavily reliant on the militias, and their leadership is so politically influential that there is really little interest in doing anything about it. Instead, most of the effort is put behind downplaying the extent of the ongoing war crimes.