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QUOTE: In Tikrit Offensive, Local Sunnis, Shiite Militias Are Unlikely Allies

By Deborah Amos,  April 3, 2015

A Human Rights Watch report this week documents looting and burning of civilian homes in Sunni villages — charges the paramilitary commanders vigorously deny.  Washington has warned Baghdad of funding cuts if the militias are not reigned in. Baghdad has finally gotten the message, says Zaid al-Ali, author of “The Struggle for Iraq’s Future”.  “The prime minister made a very negative statement about criminal elements within the Popular Mobilization Forces,” al-Ali says. “He made big deal that they will be punished.” It’s a crucial message for the major battles to come, he says, especially in Islamic State-controlled Mosul, where there are more than a million mostly Sunni civilians who view Shiite-dominated Baghdad with fear and distrust.  “If there are terrible abuses in Tikrit, then of course ISIS will thrive on that — and they’ll tell people in Mosul ‘this is what’s going to happen to you,’ ” al-Ali says. “Whereas if people are allowed to go back home in Tikrit and the city doesn’t suffer terribly, that will send a powerful message to Mosul: ‘This is the right side of the battle.’ ”

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