June 24, 2014
Obama's America is prepared for armed intervention against one of the Iraqi factions and is therefore prepared to commit a major strategic error in the region that can be added to the continuous mistakes it tends to make. This has led to the decline of its role, influence and reputation in the Arab world.
Who will be Obama's partner in the hypothetical war in Iraq today and, perhaps, in Syria tomorrow? This time, it is Khomeini's Iran, as well as Khamenei and Rouhani, while Qassem Soleimani is a candidate to play the police role "patrolling" the two countries.
There is now a huge propaganda operation in the Arab region and around the world to exaggerate the image of the Iraqi Sunnis as terrorists who pose a danger to world security, the West and American interests. The goal of this propaganda is to facilitate military intelligence and a bombing intervention in Iraq's Sunni areas and its Sunni extension in east Syria.
There is no doubt that Iran is very pleased and welcomes the opportunity to play the role of regional policeman. On the sidelines of the nuclear settlement talks, secret negotiations are being conducted between the US and Iran regarding the limits of the role to be played by the latter, as well as the possibility of Iranian military intervention in Iraq and Syria.
The divisions amongst Iraqi Sunnis weakens their ability to form and take a clear position towards the situation that arose after they expelled Al-Maliki's militia forces from most of the Sunni districts. The Kurds have gained the most from the dispute between the Sunnis and Shiites, as they raided the province of Kirkuk and took control of the city and its oil resources. They also reinforced their presence in Diyala province (north-east of Baghdad) and occupied villages and towns they had originally been demanding.
I am not a supporter of ISIS, nor do I support its radical interpretation and application of Islamic law. However, the information I have documented from sources connected to the leaders of the Sunni movement in Mosul confirms that ISIS is just one of the factions and organisations under a joint Arab-Sunni leadership.
I can also say that former senior officers from the Iraqi army that was disbanded by the Americans, a move they regretted later, make up the senior team in this leadership. Two of these officers assumed leadership of the two provinces of Nineveh (Mosul) in the north, and Salahuddin province in central Iraq, the capital of which is Tikrit.
These officers are the last of those who participated in the Iraq-Iran War; Saddam Hussain killed some of their comrades because he feared them. Al-Maliki's intelligence services and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards arranged a number of assassinations of other officers, targeting pilots in particular.
Yes, some of these officers were involved in leading and guiding the Sunni movement and are affiliated with the Baath Party, but they have conducted a critical review in the last few years and have concluded that a new Iraq must be formed on the basis of political pluralism, democracy and non-sectarianism, and a reconciliation must be made with the neighbouring Gulf states.
However, this new Sunni position faced disappointment, frustration and desperation from the Shiite alliance led by Nouri Al-Maliki and backed by the US and Iran. The Iraqi prime minister has refused to include the Sunnis in political decisions, governance, the army and the police. Al-Maliki has even opened the door to thousands of members of the Revolutionary Guards and the Quds Force, led by Soleimani, who is currently managing the regrouping of Shiite militias in partnership with the premier, in order to utilise them in the sectarian war to regain the "rebel" Sunni region.
The Sunni leadership had believed that the Arab Shiite tribes in southern Iraq, who fought in the ranks of the Iraq army during the war with Iran, would also be mobilised and would prefer their sectarian over their national affiliations. However, these tribes were disciplined, as the Iranian intelligence liquidated a number of their elders and officials, but Al-Maliki demanded that they be bribed in order to ensure their silence and loyalty.
The leaders of the Sunni movement also include independent and Baathist officers, including the Izzat Al-Duri wing and some Islamic organisations, most notably ISIS, which is mostly made up of members of Iraqi and Syrian tribes. Outside of this alliance, there are wings from the "Sahwa" tribes which still hope to join Al-Maliki's security services. There is also the group of Sheikh Harith Al-Dhari, who runs the Islamic Waqf, in addition to political leaders and fronts, such as the Najafi family, although their relationship with Al-Maliki has harmed their position.
I believe that the Sunni movement was able to shake ISIS and prevented the imposition of an extremist application of religion in the "liberated" areas, as well as preventing the destruction of the official civil administration and the seizure of money from the central and commercial banks. Many of those who have been displaced (half a million people) have returned to Mosul and Kurdistan.
Despite this, ISIS has made mistakes lately although they have not issued any threats against America or any provocations. However, the plan to attack Baghdad and the "holy sites" in Najaf and Karbala is beyond its capabilities.
What about the Sunni Iraqi movement's announcement of the disintegration of the Iraq-Syria border? I would like to explain by saying that the Sunni groups on either side of the border have not adhered to it ever since the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. The relationship between the groups remains stronger than the colonially-imposed borders.
Hafez Al-Assad did not dare to sabotage the Iraqi army's relationship during the war with Iran, because the Sunni tribes were attentive and vigilant, but Saddam made a mistake when he refused the unity project with Syria in the late seventies. If the project had been implemented, then the American and Iranian media would not have been able to label the Sunnis as "just a minority" in Iraq.
During these bad time of sectarian "mini-states", I can say that the Iraqi Sunnis have given up on the Shiites' acceptance of a true pluralistic democracy. This drives the Sunni tribal, military and political leaders to take a risk by establishing a Sunni state that declares its Arabism and patriotism and extends from central Iraq to eastern Syria (Al-Riqqa, Deir ez-Zor, Al-Mayadin, and Albukamal) and the major Sunni cities in the west (Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Homs). This large Sunni "bloc" adjacent to the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, would be a barrier that would protect the Arab identity of the region following Iran and Iraq's penetration (and domination) of Syria and Lebanon.
An attempt to break up and fragment the sectarian "mini-states", established by Iran in Al-Maliki's Iraq, Bashar's Syria, and Lebanon, may stem from this Sunni state. This would mean that the new borders in the area will witness clashes and overlapping that will continue for some time.
In Al-Riqqa today, we see the presence of the Syrian ISIS, but the Sunni Iraqi/Syrian forces are also present, gradually expanding to the rest of the area in east Syria. They are advising ISIS to give up its nostalgia for an impossible caliphate state.
I would like to add that a large part of the Syrian Sunni tribes who have migrated to Jordan and the Gulf because of neglect and oppression since the 1950s, have occupied senior positions in civil and military departments.
Perhaps these migrants are willing to use their experience, qualifications and knowledge to contribute to the establishment and development of a Sunni Syrian-Iraqi state if it is established. They may also be able to convince ISIS to give up its mythical state and restore Iraq and Syria's Arab identity.
Source: Arab21 / Asharq Al-Awsat