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Crisis-hit Iraq turns to Shi'ite militias for support

Published on Jul 3, 2014 11:55 AM

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq's government once battled entrenched Shiite militiamen but is now making common cause with them against a jihadist-led onslaught that Baghdad's forces are struggling to contain on their own.

Shiite militiamen are fighting alongside Iraq's flagging forces, bringing experience, morale and increased numbers to the government side, which has lost large areas of five provinces to the Sunni Arab militant offensive.

But even if it pushes back the offensive, the government may have traded that immediate threat for another it cannot control.

"The last time the militias became strong and Baghdad had to contend with them, it led to operation Charge of the Knights," said John Drake, a security analyst with AKE Group, referring to a 2008 operation against Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia that only succeeded with American support.

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