[Marxism] Do the Iraq rebels belong to ISIS, the Baath party, or clans?
mkaradjis at gmail.com
Sun Jun 15 06:49:18 MDT 2014
While I don't agree with everything this article in the pro-Saudi
al-Arabiya says (eg, his false equation of the arch-reactionary ISIS
with Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria as both being "al-Qaida terrorists",
representing the Saudi and American view of al-Nusra), overall I find
this a fairly correct version of what is going on Iraq.
Do the Iraq rebels belong to ISIS, the Baath party, or clans?
Sunday, 15 June 2014
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In 2012, controversy regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
(ISIS) and al-Nusra Front first erupted. Some denied their presence
while most people thought the two groups had nothing to do with the
terrorist organization that is al-Qaeda and that they are part of Syrian
national parties but with an Islamist touch.
Some were suspicious of these groups and believed they would work
alongside the Syrian regime which previously funded such groups in Iraq
and Lebanon. The controversy lasted for a year and a half before it
turned out that these groups are actually al-Qaeda and that they've
politically served the Syrian regime by intimidating Syrian minorities,
antagonizing international powers and fighting the Free Syrian Army in
every Syrian area it had liberated. Al-Qaeda has previously done this
under Zarqawi's rule in Iraq and confused its cause with those of
The Sunni Mufti in Iraq has made a progressive move when he frankly
described ISIS as a terrorist group and when he exonerated Baathis and
veteran military figures and clansmen. Truth is, there's neither a Baath
party nor Baathists since the war against Kuwait. These are now old
terms that only represent a gathering of angry Sunni Iraqis.
General Petraeus was aware of this truth when he realized that
categorizing the Sunnis is no longer a valid thing to do because
political circumstances have changed. This is why Petraeus altered his
policy and cooperated with the Anbar clans. The latter became his ally
and fought al-Qaeda, and he also convinced a number of Sunni opposition
figures to return to Baghdad.
The current crisis began with peaceful protests in Anbar on December
2013, ahead of the parliamentary elections. Protesters back then said
they have 17 demands - most of which were just related to demands such
as releasing detainees and suspending executions. Many, including Shiite
leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakeem, understood these
demands. But instead of negotiating with them or letting them be, Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki - who's well-known for his foolishness - upset
What adds to the threat of ISIS and al-Qaeda is Nouri al-Maliki, who
is willing to commit massacres to stay in power
He sent out a big force and arrested Ahmad al-Alwani, an elected member
of parliament who hails from a prominent clan, and killed his brother.
This was a clear violation of the constitution and regulations. Alwani
is still detained while Anbar has taken a turn for the worst.
What about ISIS and al-Qaeda? Truth is, these two organizations are
present in the province as they've been hiding there since the Sunni
tribes overpowered them.
Their story constitutes an important chapter of the history of the
previous war as Abdel-Sattar Abu Risha established the alliance of Sunni
Arab tribes and the Anbar Salvation Council. In just one year, he won
over the al-Qaeda organization which settled in the Sunni province for
years. Abu Risha succeeded at what American troops failed at. However
al-Qaeda killed him in 2007. The tribes' alliance lasted until the
Americans handed governance to Maliki who for sectarian reasons ended
government support to thousands of men who had engaged in the alliance
and became part of the Iraqi army!
It's amid this vacuum that ISIS was reborn and allied with rebels and
armed tribes and engaged in confrontations against Maliki's forces.
Instead of negotiating with tribes, Maliki's forces destroyed Fallujah
and displaced tens of thousands. Despite that, it failed at suppressing
ISIS and the tribes. Maliki thus provoked them into pursuing his forces
Fall of Mosul
Last Wednesday, the Iraqis woke up to the fall of the Mosul and the rest
of Nineveh in the hands of ISIS. Tikrit and most of the Salaheddine
province fell the day after. And now there are groups gathered at the
outskirts of Baghdad itself.
Rebelling groups of former military personnel and tribes are the
majority. At the same time, ISIS is also present and it will later be a
burden on Iraqi rebels and a certain ally of Maliki's forces. This
reminds us of what's happening in Syria as there are three major
players: Assad's forces and his Iranian allies, the Free Syrian Army and
its allies and the terrorists consisting of ISIS and al-Nusra Front.
Iraq will be as such too.
The presence of ISIS will not alter the major facts of the struggle in
Iraq. One third of the population is being punished by the regime for
sectarian and opportunistic political reasons. It's normal that they'd
revolt against the regime and they will continue to be against it. The
al-Qaeda organization has learnt to sneak in where there's an angry
society and major political vacuum, just like it did in Afghanistan and
Syria. But let's keep in mind that the aims of al-Qaeda and its groups
don't meet the aspirations of angry Iraqis and that al-Qaeda views these
Iraqis the same way it views the regime - as religiously lost.
What adds to the threat of ISIS and al-Qaeda is Nouri al-Maliki, who is
willing to commit massacres to stay in power - just like Syrian
president Bashar al-Assad. In order to achieve Iraq's stability, it's a
must to get rid of Maliki and al-Qaeda.
I will continue this discussion tomorrow; on Iran and intervention in
This article was first published on Asharq al-Awsat on June 14, 2014.
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