December 28, 2014

Sunni Tribes of Iraq, Left Out In The Cold, Go Around Baghdad And Ask Washington For Arms To Fight ISIL

"Sunni tribesmen take part in military training, as they prepare to fight against Islamic State militants, on the outskirts of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Nov. 16, 2014.

1. An excerpt from, "Iraq calls on US to arm Sunni tribes against ISIL" Anadolu Agency, December 26, 2014:
Iraq has called on the U.S. to arm 100,000 Sunni tribesmen in the country against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to an adviser to Iraqi parliament speaker.

Wahdah al-Jamili's comments came Friday following a meeting between U.S. Senator John McCain, and Iraqi parliament Speaker Salim al-Juburi in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

"Juburi has called on the U.S. to provide arms to 100,000 Sunni tribesmen living in four regions that are controlled by the ISIL," Jamili told The Anadolu Agency.
2. An excerpt from, "Iraq Fail: Shiite Gov’t asks Sunni tribe to fight ISIL, but Sentences Politician from Tribe to Death" by Mustafa Habib, Niqash, December 6, 2014:
"The fact that some Sunni Muslim tribes had joined with the mostly Shiite Muslim Iraqi army seemed to be good news for the country. It’s well acknowledged that in order for Iraq to resolve the current security crisis, sectarian and ethnic rifts must be healed and in areas held by the IS group, which are home to a mainly Sunni Muslim population, it is the locals – Sunni Muslims – who must push the extremists out.

But almost immediately there was bad news from Baghdad that seemed to negate the good. It also the dispirited Sunni Muslim tribal leaders who had been fighting the IS group. The news: the Iraqi judiciary had issued a death sentence against a prominent Sunni Muslim MP, Ahmed al-Alwani.

As the BBC reported at the time of his arrest in December 2013, al-Alwani had backed Sunni Muslim protests against the government led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Al-Alwani was arrested on charges of terrorism and his capture in Ramadi, after a deadly gunfight, was part of the reason that protests in the area became more heated and violent.

“This verdict is like a knife in our backs from the Iraqi government,” one of the leaders of the al-Bu Ulwan tribe, Hazem al-Alwani, told NIQASH. “The sons of my tribe have been fighting against the IS group for days, helping the Iraqi security forces to prevent Ramadi from falling.”
3. An excerpt from, "Iraq: US dismayed Shiite Gov't hasn't Armed Sunni Tribes Fighting ISIL" by Juan Cole, November 2, 2014
Sha`lan al-Nimrawi, a leader of the Al-Bu Nimr tribe, told al-Hayat that many of his people have been forcibly displaced and are wandering in the desert–women and children included. He said he’s been in touch with the US and the Baghdad government but no one has intervened. He said the al-Abadi administration told him that they were afraid to send out rescue forces because ISIL might be using the displaced civilians as bait to lure government troops into a trap. Nimrawi said that at that point he was angered and hung up.
It is very easy for terrorist groups like ISIL to make ground in the Sunni regions of Iraq by depicting the fight against Baghdad as against the Shiite regime in Tehran, and claiming only they have the power to defend Sunnis from oppression and massacres.

It also doesn't help the image of the government in Baghdad that when Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias defeat ISIL terrorists in captured towns they indiscriminately loot the private property of Sunni civilians, and act above the law in numerous other ways. Instead of practicing forgiveness towards local ISIL sympathizers they're guilty of short-sighted revenge, which is very understandable, but not wise. It's not a good strategy to win Sunni hearts and minds. They're acting like the counter-version of ISIL instead of defenders of a fair, just, and legitimate state that represents all Iraqis regardless of their sect, ethnicity, tribe, or political party.

It looks like the American secular model of government lost in Baghdad, and the Iranian Shiite revolutionary model won, unfortunately, but not surprisingly. Let's hope pluralism ultimately prevails.