Backed by US airstrikes, Kurdish Peshmerga and Shi’ite militias swept into the Turkomen town of Amerli over the weekend, ending the ISIS siege of the town and giving US officials a chance to pat themselves on the back about the “liberation.”
Yet the complex ethnic and religious lines along which Iraq is divided mean that no town can simply be retaken without having huge consequences. Amerli may be “liberated,” but the move puts Sunni Arab villages nearby directly in the crosshairs of the militias the US airstrikes helped enter the area.
That’s not something that should be surprising. Shi’ite militias have been particularly brutal in Sunni neighborhoods they’ve taken closer to Baghdad, believing the locals are pro-ISIS, and with some of these villages formerly used as ISIS staging areas, revenge killings are a real possibility.
That’s been both a primary cause an ongoing problem with this latest Iraqi War, as the pro-government militias, and the Iraqi military itself, have been hostile toward the Sunni Arab minority nationwide, and have responded to the growing unrest among them with violent crackdowns. The vicious cycle continues.