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Shiite militias mixed blessing in Iraq, Syria

US experts warn about the “Hezbollization” of Iraq and Syria but there is little alternative now to Iranian-backed Shiite militias to push back the group that calls itself the Islamic State.
A Shi'ite fighter holds his weapon while guarding on the outskirts of Diyala province, north of Baghdad February 2, 2015.Picture taken February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT) - RTR4O0KC
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WASHINGTON — A plethora of new and old Shiite militias is dominating battlefields in Iraq and Syria, US experts say, raising concerns about growing Iranian influence that could exacerbate sectarian divisions and ultimately weaken the fight against the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS).

The growth of these groups — known as popular mobilization units — poses a conundrum for the Obama administration and the coalition of about 60 countries it is leading against IS. For the time being, Iran-backed groups are providing most of the “boots on the ground” that are pushing back IS forces from key areas near Baghdad, including Diyala province. These militias are also preventing IS from overrunning even more territory in Syria. But there are disturbing reports of massacres of Sunni civilian populations by Shiite fighters, some of whom have killed Americans in the past.

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