Iraq: US sends more troops —amid reprisals
A new group of 450 military advisors is being dispatched to Iraq, the White House announced June 10, bringing the total of US troops in the country to 3,500. The immediate goal is retaking Ramadi from ISIS. The new advisors are assigned to Taqaddum military base, between Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar governorate, bringing to five the number of bases housing US troops in Iraq. US advisors are currently training some 3,000 Iraqi troops, but news accounts said that the forces to be trained at Taqaddum are to include "local Sunni fighters." (Reuters, Bloomberg, June 10) This is presumably meant to counter-balance the Shi'ite militias that have been leading the fight against ISIS in central Iraq (and are accused of reprisals and war crimes against Sunni non-combatants), but it still represents an official US embrace of sectarian militias rather than the increasingly fictional "official" Iraqi army.
On the same day as the White House announcement, Amnesty International released a new report on growing sectarian reprisals in Iraq. "The heinous crimes of the IS have been met by growing sectarian attacks by Shi'a militias, who are taking revenge for IS crimes by targeting Sunni Arabs," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty's senior crisis advisor.
The new briefing details two such reprisal attacks: the massacre of at least 56 Sunni Arab men in Barwana, a village in Diyala governorate, by Shi'ite militiamen and government forces; and the killing of 21 Sunni Arabs at the villages of Jiri and Sibaya in the Sinjar region by members of a Yazidi militia. The Yazidis also abducted 40 villagers, 17 of whom are still missing, Amnesty researchers found. Half of those killed were elderly or disabled men and women, or children. The report claimed that the killings were carried out "with impunity"—that forces of the Kurdish regional government were nearby but did nothing to interfere. (AI, The Telegraph, June 10)
Last month, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government's representative in the US, spoke in Washington about the ISIS massacre and enslevement of Yazidis after the jihadists took the Sinjar area last year. "What happened to the Yazidis is nothing but genocide," Rahman said. "Anybody who denies that, I think, is just using political maneuvering, which is shameful and despicable in my book." In March, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report, based on more than 100 interviews with survivors, finding that ISIS may have committed genocide against the Yazidi community (HuffPo, May 28; BBC News, March 19)