Sunday, May 26, 2013

After Sunni Salafis joined jihad in Syria, now it is Iraqi Shiites turn

    Sunday, May 26, 2013   No comments

By Abigail Hauslohner
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi fighters in the video shoulder assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades as they walk down a highway lined with cypress trees. Grinning, some hold up cell phones and camcorders to capture the moment — the aftermath of a victorious battle to secure the Aleppo airport from Syrian rebels who had attempted to take it.

“You are the sons of Iraq, and the sons of Islam!” shouts one of their commanders. The men cheer.

Weeks later in Baghdad, Abu Sajad, the nom de guerre of an Iraqi militia commander who appears in the video, whose location and circumstances were impossible to verify, proudly displayed it as proof that Iraqi Shiites are playing a critical role supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in what has become an increasingly sectarian and regional war.

Until recently, the involvement of Iraqi Shiites in Syria’s war was cloaked in secrecy here in Iraq, whose Shiite government has denied any involvement in the conflict. But recent interviews with militants, analysts, Arab government officials and residents of Shiite cities across Iraq illuminate a trend that is growing increasingly open as Iraqi fighters come to view their participation as part of a regional struggle to defeat al-Qaeda and what they say is a broad effort by the region’s dominant Sunnis to wipe out Shiites.

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