Breaking News Emails
Iraq has rebranded a campaign against ISIS militants amid fears the name would inflame tensions between the country's two main Muslim sects.
It had previously been known as "At your service, Hussein," a reference to the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who was killed during one of the sect's defining battles in the seventh century.
More than 20 percent of Iraq's population is Sunni. Enmity has existed between Shiites and Sunnis for around 1,400 years, and stems from the conflicting beliefs on who should lead the faithful. According to Shiites, leadership ought to be handed down through Muhammad's descendants, such as Hussein, while Sunnis believe power should have passed first to the Prophet's companions and then a series of "caliphs" chosen by the faithful.
The United States, which is supporting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's war against ISIS' primarily Sunni fighters with military trainers and airstrikes, called the original name "unhelpful." Al-Abadi is a Shiite.
The decision to referencing a Shiite figure in the name was also controversial in Anbar, which is the country's Sunni Muslim heartland.
However, the country's powerful Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias — also known as "popular mobilization forces" — were satisfied with the decision, according to their spokesman.
"In the end, both names refer to the same goal — to liberate Iraqi territories," Karim al-Nouri said in a statement.
Thousands of Shiite fighters were deployed to Anbar after the country's national army suffered a string of embarrassing defeats, which were capped off by the loss of Anbar's capital Ramadi to ISIS on May 17.