For a good snapshot of the bizarre place in which the U.S. finds itself in Iraq, let's go to Lt. General James Dubik (ret.) who oversaw training of Iraqi forces as the U.S. prepared to leave. These are the forces that threw down their weapons and fled as the organization then called ISIL advanced into Anbar and Salah-u-Din provinces.
The U.S. is back in Iraq, once again trying to create a viable Iraqi army. But since there isn't one, the Badr Brigade and Iranian Revolutionary Guard are fighting to retake Tikrtit, Sadaam Hussein's home town. The Badr Brigade is a Shiite militia that was formed as the military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and is widely believed to have participated in sectarian atrocities during the civil war that followed the U.S. invasion. It is unlikely that the Sunni population of the region now controlled by IS will view them as liberators. Quoting the Newsweek report on Gen. Dubik's views:
Iranian-backed Shiite militias will do most of the fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Tikrit and other largely Sunni towns and cities in Iraq, raising the chances of more sectarian slaughter. And even if the militias do manage to drive out ISIS, Baghdad doesn't have a viable plan to rebuild what’s likely to be a region reduced to rubble. . . .
In the unlikely event that the Iraqi troops take Tikrit and then Mosul, someone will still have to remain in control of the latter’s one million residents. Right now, that job will go to a brigade of roughly 5,000 Sunni policemen who escaped from Mosul and are now being trained in Kurdistan.
Does not sound like a plan. As for the latest news:
After bulldozing the ancient city of Nimrud, IS has now destroying the 2,000 year old city of Hatra. They have also hung 8 bodies at the entrance to the city of Hawija, which they apparently plan to make their chief administrative city in Iraq.
Five people are killed today and 22 injured in Baghdad in multiple mortar and bomb attacks.
U.S. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will visit Baghdad to try to persuade PM Haider al-Abady to reconstruct the area reconquered from IS and to include its Sunni inhabitants in government and the civil service. "The Obama administration has been scrambling to reassure allies, especially Arab nations which are partnering with the United States against the Islamic State, about Iran’s military rise in Iraq. During the same trip, Dempsey will also meet with officials in Bahrain, a tiny Gulf nation that is a key U.S. military ally but struggles with Shiite-Sunni tensions of its own."
Concerned about IS, Iraqi Shiites have begun to dig a 45 mile trench around the holy city of Karbala, site of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and of the shrine in his memory. As the region includes a Sunni population, this action exacerbates fears of sectarian separation. (Although, in fact, Sunnis were not allowed to travel to Karbala under Saddam Hussein's rule.)
Commentator Abdulrahman Al-Rashed sums it up:
The liberation of Tikrit and every inch of Iraqi territory is a national duty that expresses the integrity of the state’s authority. The city and its suburbs will remain within the boundaries of the Iraqi state. But if the aim is simply to takeover Tikrit and expel the IS with sectarian infighting and political alliances, it will prove to be a temporary gain and the terrorist organization may return to the city with local support. The war has become sectarian in nature and is being fought along ethnic lines with militias receiving support from Iranian forces intimidating the inhabitants of the besieged regions. The West is supporting most of the military activities on the ground. The US is providing precious intelligence information, observing the movements of terrorists and monitoring the status of the territories under their control. The situation gives an impression of a Shiite-Sunni war, which has nothing to do with the state or liberation of lands from the IS. . . .Indeed. Does the Obama administration have any answer to that question?
Although the Americans played an active role in the resignation of Al-Maliki, and later acknowledged that his policies were behind the current disasters, they are now fighting in a trench similar to his camp, helping sectarian groups. They might be able to free all Iraqi territory and eradicate IS and other rebels, but this war will be followed by a sectarian one similar to Syria. How will the US benefit from supporting the Iraqi army without a political process that makes everyone a winner?