Take a look at the complexity of the network of relations in Iraq. The Iraqi government and ISIL terror occupiers are busy battling each other, while the Iraqi government is also reportedly recruiting the Yazidis – a little known minority group that came into prominence in June 2014 after going through a harrowing time when ISIL invaders took over northern Iraq. They are now armed to the teeth and have turned into copy-cats of their ISIL perpetrators slaughtering defenseless Iraqi Sunnis in northern villages to vent fury and boost ego. Iraqi Kurds (as in Syria) have perpetually been facing threats from ISIL, but they have also been facing big trouble from Yazidi commanders who refuse to stand with the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga in confronting ISIL, preferring to do the job as an independent group. And the Laughing Turd (U.S. coalition) continues to fool just about everyone around the world that it’s bombing ISIL strongholds and killing its commanders.
The successive governments of post-Saddam Iraq have overlooked something very basic that it was Saddam's political paranoia (not the Sunni citizens of Iraq) responsible for the repression of Iraqi Shiias. Many Sunni dissidents were persecuted in much the same way including Saddam's two sons-in-law and second cousins - Hussein Kamel and Sadddam Kamel - ambushed and killed in a fierce 13-hour firefight with Saddam's security forces because they disagreed with his administrative policies. Both young men (brothers) were Sunnis and belonged to Saddam's household.
The Sunnis in Iraq seem to be facing much the same plight as the Shiias in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In predominantly Sunni towns like Hawija, Fallujah, Ramadi, Balad, Sammara, Tikrit and more (often referred as the ‘Sunni triangle’), protesters have been demanding that their basic rights be respected since the past several years. Soon after US troops pulled out of Iraq, Iraqi armories were stashed with state-of-the-art weapons only to lose much of that at the hands of ISIL terrorists. The only events seen as opportunities by the Iraqi Army to use those weapons were the periodical and largely peaceful demonstrations led by the Sunni citizens of Iraq that were invariably met with indiscriminate firing using live ammunition, choppers and tanks. Water hoses in trucks have hosed demonstrators with scalding hot water causing third-degree burns and fatalities. The brutal response of the Iraqi police (or probably the gendarmes) at Hawija in April 2013 was particularly horrific.
With no Sunni representation in the government, they were left with just two alternatives to address their grievances – federalism or insurgency. The former was virtually impossible with Noori Al-Malki’s firebrand sectarianism. Obviously the Sunni triangle gradually became a hot bed for insurgency. It was futile to expect anything different.
The Iraqi government’s discreet coordination with Yazidi militants, arming them and giving them a free hand to ransack Sunni villages without the slightest of accountability will only hasten the country’s downhill slide. Vendetta campaigns haven't helped in the past and they won't now. Partisan policies of the government resulted in losing half of Iraq to AQ's Salafist takfiri invaders in the summer of 2014. Noori Al-Malki did his best to alienate the Sunnis and Kurds altogether for eight long years. Iraqi Sunnis were so steeped in misery, disillusioned and insecure to the core that many of them felt they couldn't be any worse off with a 'government' run by ISIL. It explains the depth of their despair as reportedly Iraqi Sunnis in ISIL-held areas are anything but satisfied. Iraq’s moderate Sunni clerics are sickened by IS militants regularly preaching violence against the Iraqi Army in Sunni mosques of occupied Iraq.
Something as catastrophic as that and yet it isn’t enough to learn lessons from. Haidar Abadi has so far done little for anyone to assume that he has successfully balanced the conflicting interests of Sunnis, Shiias and Kurds. His speech in Switzerland at the World Economic Forum in January 2015 on "100 days of achievements of his government" wasn't anything much to write home about, just an empty shell that donned a few cheap frills. While he talked a bit on cementing relations with the Kurds, there were no promises, not even hints, on winning the hearts and minds of Iraqi Sunnis who make up 30% of the country's population. In fact, while he spoke at the World Economic Forum was when the Yazidi militants were preparing their offensive against Sunni Arabs of the Sinjar region in the villages of Jiri and Sibaya resulting in the massacre of scores of unarmed villagers, mostly women, children and elderly, many of whom were invalids on wheel-chairs.
Another recent and a very negative consequence of sectarian policies in Iraq involves ISIL's success in wooing the Sunni population of Lebanon. According to Dr. Franklin Lamb's newest article, ISIL's sleeper cells in Lebanon have already been activated "infiltrating Lebanese communities and offering poor youths cash to attack targets chosen for the political effect of increasing Sunni-Shia tensions." In a political climate as alarming as this, sectarian prejudice by the Iraqi government can only add fuel to the fire.
One can understand the need of providing weapons to Yazidis for self-defense against ISIL terrorists, but it must mandatorily involve stringent rules where the killing of every unarmed civilian - Sunni, Shiia, Christian or whoever - must be seriously investigated. Unfortunately the Iraqi government has itself been so stubbornly embedded in injustice, it doesn't perceive the urgency of reigning others who aren't too different. Freedom of rights for the minority is essential as for all. And freedom from the rule of law is devastating in the case of everyone including the minorities.
Freakish claims of a few odd, roving Yazidis that “Muslims” of the region were either “bystanders or participated” in ISIL attacks against them has yet produced not a single evidence. Considering the history of northern Iraq and Mosul in particular as one of the most cosmopolitan trading cities where Shiia and Sunni Muslims, Kurds, Christians and Yazidis lived in harmony for centuries as the friendliest of neighbors sipping tea together, chatting over the day’s events and attending each others’ wedding parties make those allegations much too questionable. Despite the sectarian discrimination by Al-Malki, there were large numbers of Sunni men in central Iraq who actually fought against ISIL occupation and were martyred in June 2014 and also in March 2015. Quoting Al-Monitor “Sunni tribes played a key role in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) which rose after the US invasion in 2003. ISIL, an offshoot of AQI, has taken over large swathes of the country since June 2014, playing on the distrust of local populations with Baghdad’s Shiite led government of former PM Nouri Al-Malki.”
Stories circulating in Quora – a vile den of trouble-making pro-Zion zealots – that the Yazidis were “brutally persecuted” in Saddam’s era is a load of unprecedented humbug. Until very recently, Yazidis were a bunch of non-political non-entity, never a threat nor a problem for Saddam’s staunchly secular rule.
Needless to say, ISIL terrorists are not interested in protecting those at the receiving end of the Yazidi militants, exposing the plight of the Iraqi Sunnis sandwiched between two sets of murderous anarchists that follows a decade of harsh sectarian rule, preceded by a brutal stretch of US occupation, again preceded by two decades of Saddam’s despotic secular leadership. Those folks certainly don’t deserve this. Both Iraqi Sunnis and Shiias have had more than their share of pain and grief and it’s time for them to unite and work together to kick out ISIL; and men like Noori al-Malki ought to be banished who deserve a fate no different than Saddam Hussein.
From all reports consistently, Iraqi Shiias and Sunnis are more than eager to reach out to one another. Their relations were embittered for the first time only when AQI barged in targeting the Shiias via their Salafist suicide bombers wreaking havoc in neighborhoods and sooqs in Shiia majority localities. The scenario only deteriorated when corrupt puppets such as Alawi and Malki began unleashing more of that toxic sectarianism from their side.
Iraqi leaders seriously need to understand that political participation of the Sunni minority is critical to peace and stability in the country. Political loyalty has been a thing imposed in Iraq for decades. Repressive regimes starting from Saddam Hussein (or earlier) to Haider Abadi have forced the Iraqis to take sides and champion various causes. Will the Sunni Muslims of Iraq - some of whom reportedly collaborated with ISIL forces out of sheer desperation - continue to support it or change sides again? That would depend upon the extent to which the Iraqi government is able to win their confidence.
Image source: Yahoo News
Image source: Yahoo News