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Second, it heightened the sectarian nature of the conflict by giving these militias a mandate to retake Anbar. Whereas the fight for Ramadi since January 2014 has been a largely nonsectarian affair – with army and police units made up of both Shiite and Sunni personnel fighting against Sunni jihadis – Shiite militias backed by Iran have since moved to the fore.In early 2015, as the situation became increasingly dire, members of Anbar's Sunni political and tribal leadership began to do the previously unthinkable by calling for Shiite militias to intervene. That Ramadi fell after the Popular Mobilization Forces (al-Hashd al-Shaabi) were prevented from participating blew whatever political capital Abadi might have had as a war leader at that point. Nor were militia leaders themselves shy about making clear that Ramadi's fall meant that they were in charge. The Hashd's discordant moves in Anbar – with Ameri first leading Hashd forces out to retake Ramadi only to then shift focus to Fallujah – illustrate how the army's failure, Abadi's enfeeblement, and the militias' empowerment has left pro-government forces in strategic incoherence.
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