The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was right when he recently demanded that Iran must stop its backing of the militias inside Iraq.
Pompeo — when outlining the US’s 12 conditions on Iran nuclear deal in a speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C. on May 21 — said:
“Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias”.
If Iranian influence on the Iraqi militias is allowed to continue, these militias would be again encouraged to marginalize and torture the Sunni Arab population, whose sufferings would then become the rallying point for the revival of ISIS or the emergence of ISIS-like new group/s.
What’s more, if Iranian influence continues to prevail on the Iraqi Shia militia groups, the Shias — who are the followers of those schools of thoughts that are different from what these militia groups follow — will also come under attack from the Iran-backed Shia militias.
When the US was largely withdrawing its forces in Iraq, they left an Iraq that was sectarian and chaotic. The Sunni population — specifically of Arab ethnicity — had to face widespread tortures from the hardliner sectarian elements across Iraq.
Before the emergence of ISIS, the continuous protests by the Sunni Arabs in Iraq’s Anbar province (including in Fallujah) and sporadic armed clashes between Sunni protesters and security forces demonstrated the rising frustration of the Sunni Arab population. The Sunnis contend they were being neglected by the sectarian regime in Baghdad and tortured by sectarian elements in the Iraqi army and Iran-backed militias.
After the rise of ISIS, a substantial portion of Iraq’s Sunni Arab population, who were angered and frustrated over perceived maltreatment at the hands of Shia militias and sectarian Iraqi army personnel, either directly joined ISIS after embracing its ideology or at the very least actively cooperated with ISIS n many issues.
Hence, the sufferings of the Sunni Arab tribes in the hands of the sectarian Iraqi regime (under the premiership of Nouri al-Maliki), the sectarian elements in army and the Iran-backed militias had pushed a substantial number of the Iraqi Sunnis (of Arab ethnicity) to align themselves with ISIS.
But once the administration of Haider al-Abadi (who succeeded Nouri al-Maliki) managed to bring the Sunni Arabs on board by marginally winning their trust, the situation took an about-turn. The Sunni Arabs joined forces with the US army, the Iraqi army, the Kurds (the other Sunni ethnic population in Iraq), the Iran-backed militias and the militias of Muqtada al-Sadr to fight ISIS.
The result was obvious. The presence of ISIS in Iraq was substantially diminished.
Now that ISIS’ presence in Iraq has been largely reduced, the Iran-backed militias might turn their guns back on the Sunni Arab population — a scenario that would pave the way for either the revival of ISIS or the emergence of a new ISIS-like group, one that would surely capitalize on the renewed sufferings of the Sunni Arabs.
It is therefore vital to reduce Iranian influence on these militias and to disarm them, so that they can cause no harm to not only the Sunni Arabs, but also Shias from schools of thought that differ from those of the militias.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s aforesaid condition of “Iran must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias” is something that should be taken seriously by governments of stakeholder nations (including Iraq), which then should put concerted efforts to impose pressure on Iran so that it stops — or alteast reduces — its backing of the militias.