Small Wars Journal

Security Sector Reform and Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq

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Security Sector Reform and Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq

Andrew Zapf and Joshua Peltier

Summary

The Popular Mobilization Forces comprised of Sunni and Shia tribal militias that have been accepted for registration, salaries, equipping, and supplies by the Iraqi government and trained by the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. Political allegiances, tribal influence, and sectarian identity of the PMFs have become heavily politicized and Shia groups dominate resources and favor with the Government of Iraq. The Popular Mobilization Committee, which oversees the PMFs, exists as a ministerial-level coordinating body, outside the Iraqi Security Force structure. Mobilization of the tribes have reflected and increased the political imbalance in Iraqi politics, but their demobilization could destabilize a government weakened by constant warfare. Arguments over the fate of the PMFs reflect sectarian tensions, political rivalry, and differing ideas on the sectarian future of Iraq.

Shia PMFs are generally military arms of Shia political parties in Iraq. For the most part, these Shia groups enjoy the Iraqi government’s largess in equipping and political cover. However, the recruitment and resourcing of Sunni PMFs have been feeble attempts to bring Anbari and Ninawan tribal militias to the Government of Iraq’s cause. These Sunni PMFs can be compared, historically, to the firqat of the Dhofar War. During the Dhofar Rebellion, 1963-1976, in Oman, the Sultan of Oman granted amnesty and recruited rebelling tribes into firqat battalions to serve as scouts, and soldiers in his war against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG). Accompanied by economic investment and political sensitivity, these firqats were a huge part of winning the peace in Dhofar and, interestingly, the firqat still serve 40 years since their creation in protecting the Omani border with Yemen. The treatment of Sunni PMFs could indicate the political future of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Sunnis in Iraq fear Iranian-influenced Shia domination of the state. Already there are signs that the Shia PMFs will pose significant challenges to the government of Iraq after the defeat of the ISIS threat. Sunni tribal leaders have repeatedly expressed their dismay at the outsized influence and disproportionate support SMGs have compared to Sunni PMFs.[1] The inability of Iraqi politicians to control Iranian-backed SMGs is already worrying Iraqi nationalists. Muqtada al-Sadr has called for the disbanding of some Shia PMFs and confiscation of their weapons.[2] The existence of loosely-controlled, armed militias in Iraq could be severely counterproductive to Iraq’s future stability.

Prosperity in Iraq requires the next generations of Iraqis to move beyond the sectarian violence of the post-invasion AQI and ISIS years and to develop strong civilian and military institutions, respect for the rule of law, and the peaceful transfer of power. The determination of the Popular Mobilization Forces’ role in Iraq, as a conscious effort to reform the Iraqi security structure, accompanied by accommodation of the political security of each of Iraq’s sects, and widespread economic development are all vital components of a positive trajectory for Iraq following the defeat of ISIS and its remnants.

Introduction

On 10 July 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Mosul, over three years since the city’s fall to the terrorist group’s army. [3] Surrounding the prime minister were officers and soldiers of the Iraqi Army, Federal Police, and Counter Terrorism Service – an elite Iraqi commando unit. Along with the organized, formal units of the Iraqi security forces stood elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMFs) called into action when the Iraqi army was at its weakest. The history behind these forces, and their fate in the post-ISIS Iraq, could determine the prosperity and stability of the nascent Iraqi nation.

Mobilized Tribal Forces in Iraq: 2007-Present

Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), an offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and forbearer of ISIS, exasperated sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Iraqis through attacks on civilians designed to provoke violent retaliation.[4] Repeated attempts by the Sunni tribes of Iraq’s Anbar Province to throw AQI out of Anbar had failed until President George W. Bush made the decision to surge US troops into Iraq to calm a deafening roar of violence. General David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I), seized on the anti-AQI sentiments and efforts of the Sunni tribes to create, what would end up being called, the Sons of Iraq.[5] The Sons of Iraq program organized tribal fighters into local militias, armed and equipped by the United States and the government of Iraq, and utilized in an overarching counterinsurgency strategy to secure their home neighborhoods in conjunction with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Coalition Forces of MNF-I.[6] The combination of these, and many other factors, led to operational and tactical success and provided the first steps towards Sunni inclusion in Iraq’s government. However, the US withdrawal from Iraq removed the guiding hand behind Prime Minister Maliki and the gains unraveled.

Even though sectarian violence had decreased dramatically, sectarian tension in Iraqi politics remained taut. PM Maliki had accepted the Sons of Iraq as a necessary, short-term Sunni empowerment to defeat AQI, but without a reassuring US presence he dismantled the program. Politically, Maliki was not able to tolerate armed Sunni militias and increasing Sunni political strength – a threat to Shia control of Iraq’s government. Beyond dismantling the Sons of Iraq, Maliki arrested many Sunni politicians and tribal leaders, combined two key security ministerial positions into his own hands, and he embarked on a purging of political rivals from the national government.[7] Unsurprisingly, Maliki’s turn toward authoritarianism was rooted in his political insecurity accompanying the US withdrawal from Iraq.[8]

When the conventional military forces of ISIS rolled across Iraqi-Syrian border in 2013 and 2014 the Iraqi military was unprepared, hollowed out by Maliki’s quest for domestic, political security. The Iraqi Army was not able to withstand the assault as Mosul, Tikrit, Ramadi, and Fallujah fell to ISIS’ army – all the way to the doorstep of Baghdad. The Iraqi army was in shambles and into that gap stepped militia groups, organized Peshmerga and Shia militia groups (SMGs), to defend their traditional areas and hold the defensive lines while the Iraqi Government could recover and rebuild itself.[9] [10] [11] The Sunni tribes, which Maliki disenfranchised, would eventually repeat their prior mobilization, AQI being replaced by the ISIS threat.

In 2014, the Iraqi Security Forces were insufficient to defeat ISIS’ army. The Government of Iraq formalized these militias into Popular Mobilized Forces (PMFs). “The PMF formed in 2014 following Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s fatwa to drive the Islamic State from Iraq (though Sistani later clarified that he intended to strengthen Iraqi security forces, not legitimize paramilitary groups).”[12] At first the PMFs were dominated by Shia militia groups that answered Sistani’s call.[13] Bringing Sunni fighters into the PMF structure was a late development, and nowhere near as attractive to the Sunni population as it was to SMGs.[14] [15]

The PMF, unlike the Sons of Iraq, would draw their financial support from the Iraqi government, not the United States or Coalition Forces.[16] The bureaucracy that supplied their arms and equipment, paid their salaries, and organized their training depended heavily on political allegiances, tribal influence, and sectarian identity. Naturally, the PMFs quickly became politicized by their sectarian sponsors. Shia control of the government made it easier for Shia militia groups to navigate the bureaucracy than Sunni PMFs. Although aligned against ISIS, these distinctions and politicking never unified the politicians or PMFs into a national force. The ministerial-level Popular Mobilization Committee, a body to administer the PMF program, exists outside the Iraqi Security Force structure. Differing opinions and agendas regarding the fate of the PMFs reflect sectarian tensions and political rivalry in Iraq and an inability to reach consensus provides an excuse to delay action.

The Dhofar Rebellion in Oman: 1963-1976

The disassociation of Shia PMFs from Shia political parties in Iraq will take significant effort on the part of Iraqi lawmakers, and possibly military action. However, the fate of Sunni PMFs from the Sunni-majority provinces in Iraq may not depend on confrontational politics or military action. Here the British experience in Oman during the Dhofar Rebellion of the 1960s and 1970s can provide a useful history lesson relevant to the Sunni PMF circumstances. However, before drawing historical lessons from Dhofar, there are many differences between the Omani and Iraqi experiences to acknowledged:

First, unlike the tumultuous and contentious leadership of Iraq since the dictator Saddam Hussein’s ouster, the sultan’s position in Muscat wasn’t contested – Sultan Said bin Taimur, and later his son Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, were unchallenged monarchs untroubled by sectarian conflict.

Second, Oman by itself is geographically isolated at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean on two sides and bordered to its northwest by the Empty Quarter – one of the most desolate deserts on the face of the earth – Oman existed for centuries with minimal intrusion from foreign influence. The Dhofar Rebellion was successfully isolated further by the Omani military in the Dhofar Governorate – despite the sanctuary for the insurgents in northeastern Yemen. Although there was a threat to Muscat and the northern governorates, the government of Oman had a comparatively easier military problem, geographically speaking. Iraq, the land between two rivers, is centrally located within its region at a cross section of competing ethnic and sectarian groups – a more complex mixture of peoples and tensions exist in few other places on earth.

Third, the role of the British to warfighting and institution building differed greatly from MNF-I and the NATO Training Mission – Iraq (NTM-I). The United States military entered Iraq as invaders. As an occupying force, under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the political and social institutions of Iraq were abruptly dismantled through De-Ba’athification and disbandment of the army. To rebuild Iraq, the CPA and MNF-I had to build and establish trust in Iraqi institutions and leadership that were new in every respect. With this frame of reference, MNF-I and NTM-I designed their training missions in Iraq to create whole, functional, and cohesive Iraqi-only units. Coalition Force trainers conducted the training and Iraqi graduates would join an Iraq army or police unit. The 2007 surge of American troops in Iraq led to a dramatic increase of partnered operations, but the distinction between American and Iraqi units was clear and undeniable.

The British, conversely, were invited and welcomed by the Sultans of Oman and were able to exert immediate positive influence on the warfighting and military modernization efforts. To develop the Omani military, volunteer British officers serving in Oman became “seconded” into the Omani Army. “Seconded” British officers were placed into leadership and staff positions of Omani units – serving as company commanders, regimental staff officers, and at higher echelons – wearing Omani uniforms and within the Omani chain-of-command. The British pre-deployment training focused on giving their soldiers the language proficiency and cultural understanding that they needed to successfully integrate themselves into the Omani Army.  This allowed the authority to remain with the Omani government and augmented the standing military force in Oman until it produced enough properly trained officers and non-commissioned officers to fill its own expanded ranks.[17]

Despite all the differences between the two conflicts, the development of tribal forces in Oman and Iraq are worth comparing. In Dhofar, the tribes that joined the insurgency against the Sultan of Oman were targeted for repatriation. An amnesty program allowed Oman to draw these tribesmen away from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and Arabian Gulf. (PFLOAG) and form them into firqat battalions.  About 3,000 fighters, with their valuable knowledge of the people, geography and culture of Dhofar were turned and became valuable scouts and skirmishers for the Omani army. Additionally, the firqats gained a stake in the future of Dhofar through their participation, laying the foundations for an enduring peace.[18]  As part of his overall counterinsurgency strategy, Sultan Qaboos supplemented the military campaign with a massive economic development, investing in veterinary services, hospitals, roads, and port facilities, demonstrating that the government could provide the stability and modern lifestyle for people of the region if they decided to stand with the Sultanate. 

British presence in Oman did not cease after the Dhofar Rebellion ended in 1976. The British had a clear mission when they entered Oman: “to secure Dhofar for civil development.” [19]  Once they accomplished this mission and the Omani Army had full control of the Dhofar area, the British began their organized exit from Oman.  However, the British forces’ phased withdrawal would take decades. The Omani Military did not want to extract all British officers contained at the company, regiment, division and army command levels simultaneously. Instead British company commanders would identify and groom Omani soldiers for officer and noncommissioned officer positions until eventually, and with great pride, and all leadership positions were filled with Omani officers and noncommissioned officers.[20]  In this way, and over a generation, the British guided the professional development of Oman’s military for decades, exiting the Omani structure incrementally, from the bottom up, until the Omani military was entirely Omani-run.  The firqat, economic development, and military reform of Dhofar and Oman are examples to learn from for both the American and Iraqi governments.

Implications for United States Policy

The counterinsurgency project in Iraq has always involved the rebuilding of Iraqi institutions so that Iraqis could assume responsibility for their own security and prosperity. The insurgency following the invasion of 2003, the emergence of AQI, and the invasion of ISIS’ armies all disrupted that process. The resolution of the PMFs in Iraq, along with the continued development of the Iraq Security Forces, is of long-term concern for stability of Iraq’s security sector. Acknowledging this, the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and the Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq at the US Embassy - Baghdad, are both focused on the improvement in the Iraqi security forces and the security architecture. The Lines of Effort “Enable Sustainable Military Capacity in the CJOA” and “Security Sector Reform” are present in the long-term efforts of CJTF-OIR and OSC-I, respectively. [21] [22] Using the counterinsurgency and modernization of Dhofar as a prism, there are three components to resolution of the PMF question.

Firstly, the Popular Mobilization Forces, and the Sons of Iraq before that, are similar attempts to flip tribal militias to the Government of Iraq’s cause. Looked at differently than the Shia PMFs, the Sunni PMFs of Ninawa and Anbar can be compared to the firqat of the Dhofar War. The firqat were a huge part of winning the peace in Dhofar and, interestingly, the firqat still serve 40 years since their creation. They continue to play a role in protecting the Omani border with Yemen – giving Dhofari tribesman decades of status and relevance with the distant Muscat-based sultan.  Sunni tribes of Anbar and Ninawa have had a distant and relationship of suspicion with the Shia government in Baghdad. Giving the Sunni PMFs a well-resourced and active role in the security of their areas could build satisfaction with the central government in Iraq’s Sunni minority. Sunni PMF battalion commanders have repeatedly and consistently requested training from Coalition Forces and providing these trainings and resources would allow Sunnis to secure their traditional provinces, reduce skepticism in the government, and give them a larger stake in the future. It may not be possible or desirable to sustain Sunni PMFs in the long-term, but consideration for a Sunni-majority Iraqi Army or other units, stationed in Anbar and Ninawa may have the same positive effect on the Sunni tribes as the firqat had in Dhofar. A sizeable place for the Sunni majority must be carved out in the Iraqi Security Forces to balance the Shia majority and control of government. Here, the OSC-I’s Tribal Engagement Coordination Cell (TECC) serves as a valuable touch point for Sunni tribal leaders and influencers at the US Embassy in Baghdad to help monitor this sectarian balancing act.

Shia PMFs are a different problem to solve. Already there are signs that the Shia PMFs, some indistinguishable from Iranian-sponsored Shia Militia Groups (SMGs), will pose significant challenges to the government of Iraq after the defeat of the ISIS threat. Sunni tribal leaders have repeatedly expressed their dismay at the outsized influence and disproportionate support Shia PMFs and SMGs have compared to Sunni PMFs.[23] Groups such as Kita’ib Hizballah and Kita’ib Imam Ali and Asa’ib ahl al-Haq are virtually unimpeded in Iraq. Specifically, Iran-backed Kita’ib Hizballah is so strong that even the Iraqi Army refuses to challenge it in many areas. Additionally, the inability of Iraqi politicians to control Iranian-backed SMGs is already worrying Iraqi nationalists. Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shia cleric and leader of the Ja’ish al-Mahdi who opposed the US occupation of Iraq from 2005-2007, called for the disbanding of some Shia PMFs, confiscation of their weapons, and integrate some members into the ISF.[24] The Iraqi government must differentiate between the Sunni and Shia PMFs when devising a long-term resolution of their status, specifically a strategy that prevents Shia PMF and SMG fighters from enacting agendas counter to the goals of the government of Iraq. The PMF fighters could be assessed into the Iraqi Security Forces, or the PMFs could become another layer in the Iraqi Security Force architecture, but the dismantling of the Sons of Iraq should serve as a cautionary tale and efforts to convert the Sunni tribal forces face an uphill battle after the inglorious end of the Sons of Iraq.[25] [26]  

Secondly, the credibility of Iraq’s government to the Sunni and Shia communities hinges on continued development of developing inclusive governmental institutions adhering to the rule of law. Unfortunately, there is no clean slate to work from for Iraq’s politicians. One tribal leader notably said, “our politicians have left nothing for the devil to do.”[27] Within the security sector, reforms to streamline the security units of the Ministries of Defense and Interior would reduce redundancy, budgetary strain, and sustainment problems. OSC-I’s Security Sector Reform Group (SSRG) is the focal point for US engagement on removing sectarian tensions from the security forces and promoting a unified national identity – the training program of the Counter Terrorism Service serves as demonstration of the possible in this regard. Transitioning PMFs into the Defense or Interior Ministry architecture, with special attention paid to placing Sunni-majority units in Sunni provinces, would alleviate some of the suspicion Sunnis have toward the government.

Third, the government of Iraq must invest heavily in rebuilding the areas destroyed by ISIS occupation or by liberation operations. Iraqi mayors and members of parliament have told the OSC-I’s TECC that hospitals, clinics and homes have been destroyed, water treatment and power plants are overstressed supporting populations three and four times their intended usage. Aggressive investment, especially into Sunni areas, will signal that sectarian favoritism is being replaced by Iraqi nationalism. As several meetings with Sunni tribal leaders have indicated, the increase in security after the defeat of ISIS draws fighters back to the local economies – employment opportunities should be waiting for them as an alternative to their militia salaries.[28]

The great Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, a.k.a. Scipio Africanus, understood that the purpose of war is to create a better peace.[29] A ‘Better Peace,’ or simple prosperity, in Iraq requires the next generations of Iraqis to move beyond the sectarian violence of the post-invasion AQI and ISIS years and to develop strong civilian and military institutions, respect for the rule of law, and the peaceful transfer of power. The determination of the Popular Mobilization Forces’ role in Iraq, as a conscious effort to reform the Iraqi security structure, accompanied by accommodation of the political security of each of Iraq’s sects, and widespread economic development are all vital components of a positive trajectory for Iraq following the defeat of ISIS and its remnants. The US Government has the diplomatic and military offices already in place to help the government of Iraq transition from warfighting to peace by reorienting and reforming the security sector, denying foreign malign influences, and overcoming still-raw sectarian tensions.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Bibliography

Brown, Daniel. 2017. "Dramatic drone footage shows what Mosul looks like after 3 years of ISIS occupation." Business Insider, July 12: URL: http://www.businessinsider.com/drone-footag-before-after-mosul-isis-2017-7.

Bruno, Greg. 23 April 2008. "Finding a Place for the 'Sons of Iraq'." The Council on Foreign Relations (Council on Foreign Relations) URL: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/finding-place-sons-iraq.

Gardiner, Ian. 2006. In the Service of the Sultan. Barnsley, Britain: Pen & Sword.

Gordon, Michael, and Bernard Trainor. 2012. The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, From George W. Bush to Barak Obama. New York: Pantheon Books.

Hart, B.H. Liddell. 2004 c.1926. Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Kilcullen, David. 2016. Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism. New York; London: Oxford University Press.

Leaders, Sunni Tribal, interview by Tribal Engagement Coordination Cell Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq. 2017. (July/August).

Mansour, Renad. 3 March 2016. The Sunni Predicament in Iraq. Paper, Beirut: Carnegie Middle East Center.

Mansour, Renad, and Faleh A. Jabar. 28 April 2017. The Popular Mobilization Forces and Iraq's Future. Paper, Beirut: Carnegie Middle East Center. URL: http://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810.

Middle East Eye. 4 August 2017. "Iraqi Shia cleric Sadr calls on government to disband Iran-backed militia." Middle East Eye URL: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iraqi-shia-cleric-sadr-calls-government-disband-iran-backed-militia-849365799.

Morris, Loveday. 2014. "Shiite cleric Sistani backs Iraqi government's call for volunteers to fight advancing militants." The Washington Post, June 13: URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/volunteers-flock-to-defend-baghdad-as-insurgents-seize-more-iraqi-territory/2014/06/13/10d46f9c-f2c8-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html.

Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq. 2017. "The Five-Year Security Cooperation and Assistance Roadmap for Iraq." Baghdad: OSC-I, US Embassy - Baghdad, August 2.

Peterson, John E. 2007. Oman's Insurgencies: The Sultanate's Struggle for Supremacy. London: Saqi.

Petras, George. 2015. "'Daesh,' other Islamic State names explained." USA Today, November 17: URL: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/11/17/islamic-state-names/75889934/ . https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/11/17/islamic-state-names/75889934/ .

Saadoun, Mustafa. 2016. "It's official: Sunnis joining Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units." Al-Monitor, January 14: URL: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/iraq-sunnis-join-shiite-popular-mobilization-forces.html.

Salih, Mohammed A. 2014. "After taking Sinjar, IS draws Iraqi Kurds into full-scale war." Al-Monitor, August 7: URL: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/iraq-kurdistan-yazidis-peshmerga-isis-islamic-state.html.

Toumaj, Amir. 2017. "Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces an ‘important and blessed phenomenon,’ Khamenei says." Long War Journal, June 20: URL: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/06/iraqi-popular-mobilization-forces-are-an-important-and-blessed-phenomenon-khamenei-says.php.

United States Central Command. 2014. Operation Inherent Resolve. Accessed 2017. http://www.inherentresolve.mil/.

Warrick, Joby. 2015. Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS. New York: Doubleday.

Wilbanks, Mark, and Efraim Karsh. 2010. "How the "Sons of Iraq" Stabilized Iraq." The Middle East Quarterly, February: 57-70. http://www.meforum.org/2788/sons-of-iraq.

Wing, Joel. 2014. "The Risa and Fall of The 'Sons Of Iraq'." Business Insider, November 3: URL: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-sons-of-iraq-2014-11.

End Notes

[1] The author has participated in several Key Leader Engagements (KLEs) while supporting the OSC-I/TECC from 11 July – 13 August 2017 in Baghdad, Iraq. For protection of classified information and the identities of the Iraqi individuals that have met with the TECC, specific names and dates of meetings are not being cited.

Sunni Tribal Leaders, interview by Tribal Engagement Coordination Cell Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq, (July/August 2017).

[2] Middle East Eye. "Iraqi Shia cleric Sadr calls on government to disband Iran-backed militia." Middle East Eye, 4 August 2017: URL: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iraqi-shia-cleric-sadr-calls-government-disband-iran-backed-militia-849365799.

[3] Also known as the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State (IS), and Da’esh – an acronym derived from the Arabic language pronunciation of ISIS.

George Petras, "'Daesh,' other Islamic State names explained," USA Today, November 17, 2015: URL: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/11/17/islamic-state-names/75889934/ .

[4] Joby Warrick, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, New York: Doubleday, 2015.

[5] Michael Gordon, and Bernard Trainor, The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, From George W. Bush to Barak Obama, New York: Pantheon Books, 2012.

[6] “The Sons of Iraq (successors to the tribal Awakening) had expanded massively: 110,000 young Sunni men were now being paid to protect (and incidentally, deterring government abuse of) their communities. These men and their families – another half-million people, since most Iraqi families had four-to-five kids – were partnering with the coalition, when they would otherwise have been in the recruiting base for the insurgency. The money they were paid helped their families, gave them a sense of personal honor and worth, and kept them out of other, less positive pursuits. All this had a huge impact on confidence in the Sunni community, which was no longer so subject to AQI terror or hostile Shi’a occupation.” -

David Kilcullen, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism, New York; London: Oxford University Press, 2016, 46.

[7] Greg Bruno, "Finding a Place for the 'Sons of Iraq'," The Council on Foreign Relations (Council on Foreign Relations), 23 April 2008, : URL: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/finding-place-sons-iraq.

[8] David Kilcullen, 49-50.

[9] ISIS’ version of Sunni Islam labels Shia Muslims as heretics worthy only of destruction.

[10] Loveday Morris, "Shiite cleric Sistani backs Iraqi government's call for volunteers to fight advancing militants," The Washington Post, June 13, 2014: URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/volunteers-flock-to-defend-baghdad-as-insurgents-seize-more-iraqi-territory/2014/06/13/10d46f9c-f2c8-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html.

[11] Mohammed A. Salih,"After taking Sinjar, IS draws Iraqi Kurds into full-scale war," Al-Monitor, August 7, 2014: URL: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/iraq-kurdistan-yazidis-peshmerga-isis-islamic-state.html.

[12] Amir Toumaj, "Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces an ‘important and blessed phenomenon,’ Khamenei says," Long War Journal, June 20, 2017: URL: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/06/iraqi-popular-mobilization-forces-are-an-important-and-blessed-phenomenon-khamenei-says.php.

[13] Renad Mansour and Faleh A. Jabar, The Popular Mobilization Forces and Iraq's Future, Paper, Beirut: Carnegie Middle East Center, 28 April 2017. URL: http://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810.

[14] Mustafa Saadoun, "It's official: Sunnis joining Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units," Al-Monitor, January 14, 2016: URL: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/iraq-sunnis-join-shiite-popular-mobilization-forces.html.

[15] Renad Mansour, The Sunni Predicament in Iraq, Paper, Beirut: Carnegie Middle East Center, 3 March 2016.

[16] Mark Wilbanks and Efraim Karsh, "How the "Sons of Iraq" Stabilized Iraq," The Middle East Quarterly, February 2010, 66.

[17] Ian Gardiner, In the Service of the Sultan, Barnsley, Britain: Pen & Sword, 2006.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Operation Inherent Resolve is the named operation by the U.S. military to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

United States Central Command, Operation Inherent Resolve, 2014, http://www.inherentresolve.mil/ (accessed 2017).

[22] Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq. "The Five-Year Security Cooperation and Assistance Roadmap for Iraq." Baghdad: OSC-I, US Embassy - Baghdad, August 2, 2017.

[23] The author has participated in several Key Leader Engagements (KLEs) while supporting the OSC-I/TECC from 11 July – 13 August 2017 in Baghdad, Iraq. For protection of classified information and the identities of the Iraqi individuals that have met with the TECC, specific names and dates of meetings are not being cited.

Sunni Tribal Leaders, interview by Tribal Engagement Coordination Cell Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq, (July/August 2017).

[24] Middle East Eye. "Iraqi Shia cleric Sadr calls on government to disband Iran-backed militia." Middle East Eye, 4 August 2017: URL: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iraqi-shia-cleric-sadr-calls-government-disband-iran-backed-militia-849365799.

[25] Mark Wilbanks and Efraim Karsh, 70.

[26] Joel Wing, "The Risa and Fall of The 'Sons Of Iraq'," Business Insider, November 3, 2014: URL: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-sons-of-iraq-2014-11.

[27] Sunni Tribal Leaders, interview by Tribal Engagement Coordination Cell Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq, (July/August 2017).

[28] Sunni Tribal Leaders, interview by Tribal Engagement Coordination Cell Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq, (July/August 2017).

[29] B.H. Liddell Hart, [2004] c.1926, Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon, Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

About the Author(s)

Second Lieutenant Joshua Peltier is an Infantry officer and 2017 graduate of the United States Military Academy, where he majored in the Arabic language.

Major Andrew Zapf is a Middle East/North African Foreign Area Officer, formerly an Air Defense Artillery officer. His is a 2004 graduate of the United States Military Academy and holds graduate degrees from Duquesne University and Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He has served at the US Embassy – Rabat, Morocco and in NATO Rapid Deployable – Turkey in Istanbul. He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Arabic at the United States Military Academy.