Should old acquaintance (not) be forgot : United States’ policies and actions in Iraq and their effects on the lasting presence of Iraqi Shi’i militias (2003-2011)
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It is the goal of this project to survey the period (2001-2003) leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the period of U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) rule over Iraq from 2003-2004, and the subsequent period of U.S. military presence from 2004-2011, in order to assess the effects U.S. policies and actions had on the evolution of Iraq’s Shi’i militias. This assessment will seek to answer the fundamental question: what role did the U.S. play in contributing to the enduring existence of Shi’i militias in Iraq? In brief, at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom Shi’i militias benefited from the rapid outbreak of the violent Sunni insurgency, which diverted the attention of U.S. and Coalition Forces away from the Shi’i militias. In the first years of the U.S. presence, existing Shi’i political movements returned to Iraq from exile and fractured, while new indigenous movements, like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, sprang up and became dominant. Even after the Shi’i militias were deemed to be a credible threat to Coalition forces around 2004-2005, the established, narrow Coalition target set limited combat actions against these militias. With the initiation of the Surge in 2007, U.S. forces were afforded greater freedom to target the militias and made significant gains in degrading the most violent groups. However, soon after the successes of the Surge were becoming evident, the U.S. signed a status of forces agreement with Iraq in 2008, which again reduced the latitude with which U.S. forces could act against the Shi’i militias. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. fully withdrew combat forces from Iraq and the militias were able to regroup at will. Since the U.S. withdrawal, the most violent Shi’i militias have turned to the conflict in Syria, and later, to the fight against IS in Iraq.