Demonizing Sunni uprising in Iraq

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By : Hani Hazaimeh

After reading countless articles, op-eds and analyzes on the swift takeover of the northern parts of Iraq by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), only very few made sense. While the vast media coverage remained lopsided and contained no in-depth analysis of what has happened and still happening in the war-torn Iraq, less than five pointed out some facts as to what has deteriorated the situation.

While writing this article, only one thought kept hovering my mind that the failure to pay attention to people’s legitimate rights gives rise to extremist tendencies. Let us just pause for a moment and discuss the fast-paced events pushing the region, particularly Syria and Iraq, to an ugly sectarian conflict. Ever since the US ground troops left Iraq, the security situation there never improved. The number of suicide bombings — targeting government installations and popular gatherings — has been a daily routine. The number of people killed in those attacks has been in hundreds.

For many, it is very clear that violence in Iraq is rooted in religion, and basically it is between the Shiite government led for the third time by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and the Sunni rebels, whether they are affiliated with the Al-Qaeda, the ISIL or the banned Baath party, led by Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri, who is allegedly spearheading the Iraqi Sunni opposition since the invasion of Iraq and the ousting of Saddam regime in 2003.

There is no doubt that ISIL is an Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group and targets the unity, stability and security of Iraq and aims to establish an Islamic state in the Levant region at any cost. However, it is in Al-Maliki’s interest to eliminate any form of opposition to his rule and what can be a better way to gain international community’s support than portraying the popular uprising to his unjust and divisive policies as terrorism.

This is the best way for him to get rid of his Sunni opponents once and for all. Just before the situation escalated, there was very little mention of the ISIL as sane elements in Iraq were calling on Al-Maliki to end the military action in Anbar and resort to negotiations with the locals and engage them in a reconciliation process by ensuring social justice to all components and sects of the Iraqi society.

What I still find puzzling and impossible to understand is that how could a few thousand inexperienced, badly equipped fighters beat a well-armed and well-trained army? I strongly disagree with President Obama when he attributed the Iraqi Army’s unwillingness to fight the ISIL fighters to lack of morale and commitment. From my own experience, as an Arab citizen who has lived his whole life in the region, I can say that Iraqis are one of the most stubborn people in the Arab world and when they want to do something they do it by any possible mean. And I know that Iraqis are willing to sacrifice their lives to defend their own country.

So how come hundreds of thousands of Iraqi military personnel chose to drop their weapons and took off their uniforms and fled the battleground in face of a group of fighters who have failed to win the years-long battle in Syria.
Several opinion writers and columnists appear to have fallen for what Al-Maliki aimed to achieve through that dirty game he is playing. They based their analyzes on the theory that ISIL is a terrorist organization and is the only force behind the current mess in Iraq.

By this, what has been written so far in fact is doing Al-Maliki’s sectarian agenda a big favor. Al-Maliki, according to this scenario, will employ the artificial collapse of the Iraqi Army in order to impose a state of emergency, according to the provisions of the emergency law enacted in 2010 to be able to restore security and then have the strongest profile in Iraq.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Arabia TV, Anbar tribal leader Sheikh Ali Hatem underlined that since the first day of the “Iraqi revolution,” the aim of the movement is to fight injustice and to restore the rights of governorates that Al-Maliki has baffled since day one by describing the Iraqi revolution as being messy and non-Iraqi or foreign.

Hatem asserted that the Iraqi revolution had nothing against the regional countries and the world and had nothing to do with terrorism, vowing to keep track of the goal of the revolution and not to harm the interests of regional countries in Iraq. He explicitly made it clear that the revolutionary forces did not want to impose yet another war on the country as Al-Maliki claimed.

The way Al-Maliki has portrayed the Sunni revolution against his brutal sectarian agenda should bring to our minds the brutality of the Bashar Assad’s regime and the atrocities it is committing against its own people for the past few years.

Finally, the international community should be aware of Al- Maliki’s dirty policies and find ways to verify what is happening on the ground in Iraq and to ascertain the plight of the people who have been trying to win their freedom from years of Shiite oppression. Short of that, Iraq would just be another link in the Shiite loop headed by the Iranian regime to further spread Shiite influence and to impose itself as a superpower in the region. By then, it would be too late to take any action to check Iran’s expansionist designs.

On the other hand, if any regional power considers the ISIL the savior of the Sunni populations in pre-dominantly Shiite countries, they should think twice. Forces like the ISIL and its likes can never be trusted for any constructive goal.

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