Which is why the arrival of hundreds of troops at the Ain al-Asad military base, about 200 kilometres west of Baghdad, for the first time is a big deal. “About 300 members of the Badr forces have arrived at Ain al-Asad military base,” a senior Iraqi army commander told NIQASH; he could not be named because he is not authorised to speak on the subject.
The Badr forces are headed by Hadi al-Amiri, whom Foreign Policy magazine recently described as “unabashedly pro-Iranian” and “focused on building up his network of Shiite loyalists rather than reconciling with his Sunni enemies”. The Badr forces themselves became infamous during Iraq’s most troubled period of inter-sectarian violence for their brutal tactics.
“In addition there were 200 members of the Peace Brigades that also arrived to participate in an attack on Heet, which is currently controlled by the IS group,” the officer said. The Peace Brigades are another Shiite Muslim militia, an offshoot of the huge Mahdi army headed by the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Apparently the reason that the Shiite Muslim militias continue to arrive in Anbar is thanks to the al-Bu Nimr tribe. The Islamic State group has killed or detained hundreds of members of the tribe because the tribe has supported the Iraqi government against them. Desperate for help, the al-Bu Nimr elders asked for aid from the Shiite Muslim militias.
Despite the fact that some have suggested the alliance between Sunni tribal fighters, Shiite militias and the Iraqi army could prove a successful model of sectarian unity for future campaigns against the IS group, the issue remains a troubling one for many Anbar locals.
Tribal heads elsewhere in the province have called meetings with the al-Bu Nimr leaders because the majority of Anbar’s tribes, who are Sunni, have not allowed the Shiite Muslim militias into the province. The tribes hate these militias as much as, and possibly more than, the IS group itself.
“Most of the tribes in Anbar as well as Sunni Muslim militias like the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Mujahideen Army and the 1920s Revolution Brigades, are strongly opposed to what the al-Bu Nimr people did,” one of Anbar’s tribal leaders, Naseer al-Mohammedi, told NIQASH.