[Marxism] Sunni Resentment Muddles Prospect of Reunifying Iraq After ISIS

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 13 07:40:20 MST 2016

(So interesting. This article minces no words about the sectarian 
viciousness of the American-supported Shiite regime in Iraq that is 
punishing the Sunnis in Anbar province in the same fashion as under 
George W. Bush. Ten years ago it was Christopher Hitchens, Kanan Makiya, 
Harry's Place et al cheering on the onslaught. Now it is 
"anti-imperialists" like Phil Greaves, Yoshie Furuhashi and Patrick 
Cockburn making the case for round two in the bogus War on Terror.)

NY Times, Feb. 13 2016
Sunni Resentment Muddles Prospect of Reunifying Iraq After ISIS

AMIRIYAT FALLUJA, Iraq — When Iraqi ground forces and American aircraft 
began assaulting the city of Ramadi more than a month ago, Ghusoon 
Muhammed and her family fled to the government’s front line, as did many 
other Sunni Arab families who had been trapped for months. Soldiers sent 
her and the children one way, and her husband another, to be 
interrogated in a detention facility.

She has not seen him or heard from him since. She and her children, who 
will most likely not be able to go home to Ramadi for months given the 
destruction, have been left to wait in a ramshackle tent camp here in 
Anbar Province. She is desperate, and adamant: “The innocent people in 
jail need to be released!” she said.

Standing nearby on Sunday was another woman, Karima Nouri. Her son, an 
auto mechanic, was also taken away by the authorities, and she has had 
no word about him for weeks. Ms. Nouri said the government considered 
civilians who remained in Ramadi to be sympathizers of the Islamic 
State. “But we had no ability to leave,” she said. “We are very poor.”

The retaking of Ramadi, the provincial capital, has been held out as a 
vital victory by Iraqi officials and their American allies, and one of 
the most crucial first steps in the government’s reclaiming of Anbar 
Province and other Sunni Arab places.

But even as military goals are being met, Sunni families like those of 
Ms. Muhammed and Ms. Nouri are still voicing their fear and resentment 
of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, highlighting that the 
broader goal of political reconciliation is not yet being served. Their 
grievances today echo those that initially allowed the Islamic State, 
also known as ISIS or ISIL, to prosper two years ago as it began seizing 
territory from the Iraqi government.

As the military campaign in Anbar shifts its focus to Hit, an Islamic 
State-controlled town in the Euphrates Valley, critics say the American 
approach to Iraq is shortsighted in its focus on military gains without 
a political program to back them up. At the same time, each victory over 
the Islamic State sets off new humanitarian crises that Iraq and other 
nations have struggled to face. It seems to be the opposite approach to 
Syria, where the Obama administration has long said it sees no military 
solution and has pushed diplomatic efforts to broker a political settlement.

“There is no political architecture that will convince any Sunni over 
the age of 3 that he or she has a future with the Iraqi state,” said 
Ryan C. Crocker, a former American ambassador to Iraq and the dean of 
the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M 

He continued, “The administration is trying to use a limited military 
weapon to defeat an adversary that only a political offensive can 
overcome, and we’re not willing or able to make that effort.”

Without political reconciliation and an ambitious program to rebuild the 
Sunni areas destroyed by the war — or at least restore vital services 
like electricity and water — those places are likely to be fertile 
ground for the Islamic State far into the future.

Kenneth M. Pollack, an Iraq expert at the Brookings Institution in 
Washington, worried that military gains in Iraq without political 
overhauls would be counterproductive. “At some point, they make things 
worse,” he said.

Anbar, a region of vast deserts stretching across about a third of 
Iraq’s territory, is where the Islamic State first flourished, having 
risen here in the crucible of the American occupation as Al Qaeda in 
Iraq. The effort to pacify the province cost the lives of more than 
1,300 American soldiers and Marines, billions of dollars in aid and 
intense efforts at reconciliation that resulted in the Sunni Awakening, 
the program in which tribal leaders were paid to switch sides and fight 
against Al Qaeda.

The group re-emerged as the Islamic State, strengthened, after the 
Americans left and as a response to the sectarian policies of the prime 
minister at the time, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who failed to deliver on a 
promise to incorporate the Awakening groups into the security forces.

“Daesh didn’t come from the moon,” said Sheikh Faisal Essawi, the mayor 
of Amiriyat Falluja, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “It 
did not grow from the earth. Part of our people became Daesh. Because of 
corruption. Because of injustice. Because of the culture of hate.”

Ramadi, a city once numbering hundreds of thousands of residents, is 
free of the Islamic State, but it is ruined. About $10 million has been 
committed to pay for the first steps in restoring services so civilians 
can move home. That money is for the United Nations to buy generators 
and set up rudimentary health clinics. But the Iraqi government, facing 
a financial crisis amid collapsing oil prices, has little to spend on 
programs that would rebuild and stabilize Anbar, said Sohaib al-Rawi, 
the provincial governor.

Ramadi itself is so embedded with explosives left behind by the Islamic 
State that, at the current rate of clearing, it will take nine months 
before civilians can return, said Lise Grande, the United Nations’ 
humanitarian coordinator for Iraq. And that does not take into account 
the rebuilding of homes that will be needed.

“The level of destruction is as bad as anything we have seen anywhere in 
Iraq,” said Ms. Grande, who is trying to raise tens of millions of 
dollars from the international community to at least fix basic services 
in Ramadi.

Col. Hameed al-Janabi, who leads the bomb disposal crew of the Anbar 
Police Department, said more than half of the roughly 40 officers he 
oversaw who had received training in years past from the United States 
were dead.

With few experts available and no money, Mr. Rawi said he had asked 
local men with at least some experience with explosives to do the work, 
on the promise of future payment.

As time stretches on, officials worry that the tent camps that hug the 
winding highway here, and the mosques and squatter settlements in 
Baghdad where civilians from Anbar also live, are only incubating the 
next generation of militants.

In nearby Falluja, under the control of the Islamic State for more than 
two years, longer than any other city in Iraq and Syria, the government 
has the city under siege. In doing so, it is mimicking tactics by 
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria that have outraged the international 

“Falluja is facing a major humanitarian crisis,” Mr. Rawi said.

At least 10 people have starved to death, and medicine is running low, 
he said. The Islamic State has warned civilians — there are tens of 
thousands left in Falluja — that the government will take the men should 
they try to escape.

“This message is to all the honest people in the world,” said a woman in 
Falluja reached by telephone who gave her name as Umm Muhammad. “We are 
caught between the injustice of ISIS and an unknown future with the 
government that will accuse us of being with ISIS.”

The United States has pushed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to offer 
political concessions to Sunnis, such as creating a national guard to 
incorporate more Sunnis into the security forces and criminal justice 
reforms to empty the jails of Sunni men. But those efforts have amounted 
to little.

“He has the willingness, but he hasn’t made any reforms,” Mr. Essawi, 
the mayor, said. “He has no power, to be honest.”

That is because much of the power in Iraq is held by Iran, the region’s 
dominant Shiite power, which controls militias widely seen here as the 
real protectors of society. Those groups, and the politicians allied 
with them, have opposed efforts by Mr. Abadi to accommodate Sunnis.

After the deal last year between the West and Iran to curtail its 
nuclear program, there was hope that the United States and Iran could 
work more closely in Iraq to fight the Islamic State and support the 
Iraqi government. That has not happened. Efforts by American diplomats 
in Baghdad to meet with their Iranian counterparts have been rebuffed.

Mr. Crocker, the former ambassador to Iraq, said he had given up hope 
that the Obama administration would become more deeply engaged in 
seeking a political accommodation among Iraq’s factions. But he and Mr. 
Pollack, along with other experts on Iraq, have joined a task force 
organized by the Atlantic Council, a research organization based in 
Washington, that will make policy proposals on Iraq to the next 

“Unfortunately, that’s 11 months away,” Mr. Crocker said.

“The Islamic State rose because of a political vacuum,” he noted. “It 
wasn’t a military success but a political failure that allowed it to 
take hold.”

Falih Hassan and Omar Al-Jawoshy contributed reporting from Baghdad.

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