Tag Archives: mosul

There was never an ideal time in eliminating IS

With the Islamic State (IS) entrenched in Mosul and parts of Iraq since 2014, its reign of terror in Iraq’s second largest city has been almost unhindered. So when the long-awaited battle to liberate the city finally arrived, for many it could not have come soon enough, yet others argue that the battle could have been launched prematurely.

The planning for the liberation of the city has been protracted, bogged down by lengthy negotiations between various sides.

In many ways, these delays, as much as it meant that IS could commit further atrocities and solidify its control over the cities, were unavoidable.

There are a number of angles to this, not least the military side of the equation. The Iraqi army suffered an embarrassing defeat against IS and in many ways, it was the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces that were instrumental in stopping IS on the doorsteps of Baghdad and later in reclaiming lands.

The Iraqi forces needed to take stock, rebuild and revamp its image. Going into Mosul prematurely, especially if it meant a further embarrassing defeat for Baghdad and the Iraqi forces would have been catastrophic.

Both the Iraqi and Kurdish forces needed logistical and military support against a well-armed and well-prepared enemy.

The humanitarian element cannot be ignored; any battle needs meticulous planning to avoid mass civilian casualties. If the human cost was too high, then this would forever stain any victory and worsen local animosity.

Then there is the political angle. Without addressing the fragmented ethno-sectarian landscape that fuelled the advance of IS, Iraqis could not claim a decisive victory and this has proved tough.

Any force needs to be balanced based on these ethno-sectarian sensitivities. The Coalition forces, Kurds, Shia or Sunnis could not take a unilateral role in the liberation or the post IS era.

These elements take time and even today there isn’t a comprehensive agreement on the future make-up of Mosul. However, as the post-2003 Iraq has proved that political agreements in Iraq can take an indefinite amount of time if agreements are achieved at all.

Iraqis and the coalition could not wait endlessly to resolve every aspect and there was never a ‘perfect’ time for any operation. The fact that the battle was eventually launched weeks before US presidential elections and end of Barack Obama’s tenure was bound to stoke the conspiracy theorists, none more so than presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump had strongly criticized the US-led offensive in Mosul as losing the “the element of surprise” and thus allowing IS leaders to escape. “Why don’t we just go in quietly, right?” Trump decried.

Furthermore, Trump alleged that the timing of the offensive was designed to boost Hillary Clinton’s campaign and make her “look good.”

A victory in Mosul would indeed spell a good ending for Obama and a warmer beginning for Clinton, but it’s hardly that simple or predictable.

Against a well-armed, motivated and unpredictable enemy such as IS, no one can guess how the battle would unfold or impact the presidential elections. Ironically, it could suit both presidential candidates. For example, if the Mosul battle takes a turn for the worse, the Trump camp could well capitalize.

Iraqi, Kurdish and Coalition forces have stressed the importance of thorough planning many times over the past 2 years. U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter indicated in February 2015 that success was more important than timing in any attempts to take Mosul.

Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani has long emphasized that “the post-liberation period must be prepared for” to avoid a repeat of these tragedies.

In terms of the element of surprise, it’s almost impossible given the complex landscape. Given the difficulty in capturing cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit that were much smaller than Mosul, any operation needed a sizable force.

It’s hardly possible to discreetly deploy thousands of troops, tanks, and weapons. The IS defence needs to be gradually softened through airstrikes and blocking their supply lines. Any brazen and miscalculated offensive would result in high casualties and hit morale.

This was highlighted by a Mark Kimmitt, a retired army general and former senior Pentagon official, “Strategic surprise is rarely accomplished, but tactical surprise — the how and where of low-level attacks — is kept secret.”

More importantly, civilians needed to be given every opportunity to escape the ensuing violence.

And IS leaders are more intelligent than to wait to be picked off by coalition forces, especially if they escape through mainly barren lands to Syria.

There was a never going to be a perfect timing or political environment to suit all parties. Even today, there are many looming dangers of a post IS Iraq that are unaddressed. Either way, getting rid of the tyranny of IS did not come a day too soon.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Turkish jockeying for influence in Iraq

As the much anticipated battle for Mosul final began, the number of parties vying for a key role in the battle underscores the diverse and complicated ethno-sectarian landscape. Turkey, determined to protect its own interests, is intent on playing a key hand. However, relations between Ankara and Baghdad have become frosty and fueled by mistrust, whilst Kurds are in a difficult position between both sides.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, telling him to “know his place” before adding “you are not my equal.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim threatened Baghdad “not to talk big.”

The presence of Turkish troops at the Bashiqa camp in Iraq has led to deep friction and increasingly tough rhetoric.

Turkish forces have been training predominantly Sunni Muslim forces but also Kurdish Peshmerga forces since 2014. However, relations between Baghdad and Ankara worsened in December 2015 as Turkey sent hundreds of elite troops and tanks to bolster its existing force.

Ankara has insisted that the Turkish troops were deployed at the request of Iraq to train their fighters but Baghdad has viewed them as an occupying force.

Turkey is keen on ensuring that Sunni militias it has trained play a key role to dilute the influence of Baghdad and the powerful Shia militias aligned to Iran in the Post Islamic State (IS) era. The sectarian animosity in Syria and Iraq are very much interlinked.

The Kurds find themselves vital to the liberation of Mosul, but face a somewhat tricky position between Baghdad and Ankara.

The Kurds enjoy strong economic ties with Turkey with independent oil exports enabled by Turkey. In needs Turkish support to maintain economic prosperity, security, Kurdish control of areas liberated from IS and later even outright independence. Therefore, it cannot be an obstacle to Turkish interests. At the same time, Erbil cannot afford to antagonise Baghdad.

As Iraq struggles for any sense of unity, Turkey relies on the Kurds and Sunnis to serve its regional and strategic interests, away from any dependence on Baghdad.

The Turkish military intervention in Syria, after years of criticism that it was sitting on the fence, showed a new willingness for Turkey to play a more proactive hand in determining the outcome of regional storms.

It was faced with a choice. These political and sectarian fires, intensified with the rise of the IS, will forever change the shape of the Middle East. Either Turkey tries to influence these historical events to its benefit or such events force a new reality on Turkey.

The growing power and autonomy of the Syrian Kurds, where Turkey alleges their main force to be the same as the PKK, is a great example of an idle Turkey forced to face such realities.

Erdogan warned that they will take action they deem required to protect their interest, “we don’t need permission from anyone, nor are we going to ask for it.”

In no uncertain terms, Erdogan made clear that Turkish forces will not leave Bashiqa. The decision by Turkish parliament to extend the mandate of the forces in Iraq underpins the long-term role that Ankara views in Iraq.

“We will convey our request to coalition forces that we are determined to take our place in a coalition in Iraq. If they don’t want us, our Plan B will come into effect.” Erdogan said.

That Plan B is not clear, but if Turkey is not allowed to join the coalition in Iraq, then they will take matters into their hand. They are likely to bolster their existing force, embolden Sunni forces to play a crucial role and perhaps endorse the expanded Kurdistan borders.

Equally, Baghdad is likely to have its own Plan B, including the possibility of increased support to PKK or allowing the PKK a role in the Mosul battle.

By virtue of Erdogan’s statement, it’s not just about the liberation of Mosul but also the post IS reality that he wants to protect via direct force or certainly through further training of Sunni forces.

The eventual destruction of IS will end one danger but bring many dangers in its wake, not least potential for another influx of refugees from Mosul and regional proxy wars for sectarian supremacy.

Kurdistan also needs long-term stability in the area as it will face the direct heat of more sectarian bloodshed on its border.

Turkey is unlikely to withdraw their forces, certainly not at the request of Baghdad, placing the United Stated into a tough corner with two vital allies. On the one hand it must support the notion of a unified Iraq and thus central influence of Baghdad, but it can do little to influence the Turks, Kurds, Sunni and Shia, all with different goals and a level of autonomy in their decision making.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

The liberation of Mosul rest on the Kurds

If the liberation of Ramadi, Tikrit, Sinjar and more recently Manbij in Syria proved painful and tricky leading to streams of refugees, then Mosul will prove much worse.

Islamic State (IS) has held Mosul for over two years. If the liberation was anything other than bloody and complicated, then it would not have taken months of planning.

The battle for Mosul raises more questions than answers for Baghdad. IS would not have rolled into Mosul with such ease if it did not have support of some locals and various other armed Sunni groups. Without addressing the sectarian discord that plagued Mosul and Sunni heartlands long before IS was even established, the post-liberation of Mosul will provide much trickier to manoeuvre.

Then there is the thousands of civilians that will flee the city, mostly like to the relative safety of Kurdistan. Kurdistan already houses 1.8 million internally displaces persons at a great financial burden that mostly goes unnoticed.

The Iraqi Defence Minister Khalid Obeidi recently warned that the Iraqi government will not allow the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to liberate the city of Mosul. This was compounded by threats from Shia Popular Mobilization Units for Kurdish forces not to enter Mosul.

Ironically, the Shiite militias are likely to play a more effective role than the actual Iraqi army in any battle for Mosul. If Peshmerga are deemed as too sensitive to be deployed within the mainly Sunni city, then the presence of these militias will hardly soothe sectarian tensions. At least, there is a large population of Kurds in Mosul.

For all these warnings, there is no way that Mosul can be liberated without the support of the Peshmerga regardless of any coalition firepower. This was acknowledged by Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, who stated that Mosul operations without the Peshmerga will be impossible. However, Barzani stressed that “they will have supportive role but will not enter the city”.

The importance of the Peshmerga is not lost on the United States who relies heavily on the Kurdish forces. This culminated in a recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between US and Kurdish officials in recent weeks that included provisions of military support to the Peshmerga forces.

Too often US has tip-toed around Baghdad when dealing with the Kurds due to political sensitivities but with the huge sacrifices of the Peshmerga, their critical role both now and the future and the much changed socio-political landscape in Iraq across the Middle East, the Kurds must be dealt with in their own right.

It’s disrespectful to Kurdish sacrifices to deal with Kurdistan through Baghdad when both zones are separated from each other and the Kurds have been all bu

Post IS reality in Mosul as tricky as the protracted liberation of the city

It took the Islamic State (IS) just days to seize Mosul and large swathes of territory, yet the Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition have been planning or trying to liberate Mosul for several months.

As Iraqis were caught up in the prolonged planning for the liberation of the city and the protracted training of a new Iraqi force, IS has become more deeply entrenched.

A new battle for liberation of the city was launched in March but this has quickly stalled. If breaking down the doors of Mosul and eventually eradicating IS wasn’t difficult enough, the future of Mosul is just as precarious.

It was as much as support from disenchanted Sunnis in Iraq and coordination with various Sunni militant groups as IS firepower that helped overrun large stretches of land.

If the root causes of Sunni animosity and discontent is not addressed, then Iraq could end up at square one. The local tribes must play a crucial role in any liberation, but this is difficult when the Iraqi forces rely heavily on Peshmerga forces and Shiite Popular Mobilization Units for any chance of beating IS.

It seems great on paper, Sunnis, Shia and Kurds join forces to launch a national struggle. However, who then retains control of a predominantly and restive Sunni province?

Leaving a weak Sunni force will simply invite IS to quickly regroup and launch more attacks. Leaving a stronger force may well mean presence of Shia militias and Kurdish forces.

The Kurds have already expressed reservation at spear-heading any attack or becoming embroiled in ethno-sectarian violence.

US President Barack Obama recently vowed to clear Mosul of IS by the end of this year which would coincide with the end of his final presidential term. US defense Secretary Ash Carter was in Baghdad this week to provide support to Iraqi forces and pledge another 200 American troops to the fight against IS including deployment of Apache helicopters in combat.

As much as Washington can press Iraqis and set goals, it can only influence the picture so much. The US has been involved in training new Iraqi forces and providing weapons, as well as carrying out thousands of air strikes over the past 18 months or so.

Air strikes and months of training is no match for determined and loyal fighters on the ground. The battle for Mosul with IS deeply entrenched and with widespread booby traps is not one for the faint hearted. IS will fight for Mosul to the death and unless Iraqi forces have a deep belief in the cause, progress will be slow, indecisive and costly.

The bloody and protracted battle for villages on the outskirts of Mosul as well as other smaller cities and towns is a testament to this.

But even if Kurds, Sunni and Shiite forces combine together and are successful in their national battle for Mosul, far too much animosity, mistrust and political instability exists that will quickly extinguish any sense of triumph.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

As Iraq prepares for Mosul battle, sentiments in post-Islamic State Iraq unlikely to change

Fasting approach a year since the Islamic State (IS) darted across the Syrian desert to rapidly occupy Mosul, this week an official from the U.S. Central Command laid out plans for a spring offensive on the city involving Kurdish and Iraqi forces.

The five Iraqi brigades expected to spearhead the attack are subject of frantic efforts by coalition forces to complete training on schedule. The smaller brigades will serve as reserve forces with three Peshmerga brigades playing the crucial role of pinning down IS fighters in the north and west of the city.

Whilst a spring offensive is highly symbolic for Iraq and the Coalition, it is less a question of training but more whether Iraqi forces will sufficiently motivated to drive out thousands of well-armed IS fighters or if sectarian affiliations will once again prove a handicap.

Moreover, the long-term questions still cast a dark cloud over Iraq – the size and buy-in of any Sunni force, their role in the battle for Mosul and whether they will be sufficiently enticed into an IS-free region after years of animosity and mistrust of the Baghdad government and Shiite dominated forces.

Even if IS driven from Mosul, who assumes control of the city? If Baghdad does not deal with the Sunni card effectively, something that it has failed to properly address since 2003, then any post IS Iraq may not be a far cry from the one before it.

Sunnis continue to view Iraqi forces with mistrust, not to mention the sectarian militias who have for many years been a source of blood-letting.

As for Baghdad-Erbil tensions, although the Kurds have played the pivotal role of containing and driving back IS, the divide with Baghdad has if anything only increased.

The oil exportation deal struck in late 2014 between Baghdad and Erbil, which delivered a glimmer of hope that age-old tension over oil exports and revenues would finally be settled, has once again stalled. You would think that with the menace the IS poses, Baghdad would focus on the task at hand, and not the ubiquitous policy aimed curbing Kurdish drive towards full autonomy.

The Kurds quickly took control of Kirkuk in the aftermath of the IS onslaught as Iraqi forces wilted away. Giving up control of Kirkuk has become a Kurdish red-line, but there are clear signs that Sunnis and Shiites will not accept such a view.

Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani warned that Kurdish control of Kirkuk was not a topic of discussion. “…they must know that either we will all die, or Kirkuk will never fall to the enemy ever again,” Barzani vowed.

Barzani warned that only the Kurds can decide if they needed support in Kirkuk, “unless we make such a decision no other force is allowed in Kirkuk,” Barzani stressed.

However, the growing presence of Shiite militias on the borders of Kirkuk, principally aimed at IS, but certainly as a show of force against the Kurds, demonstrates that in spite of all the Kurdish sacrifices against IS, Baghdad’s stance towards the Kurds remains unchanged.

As Barzani insisted that Shiite militiamen would be “prohibited under any circumstances” from entering the Kirkuk, Hadi al-Amiri, a top Shiite militia commander, vowed that his forces “are able to go wherever if needed”.

The question remains, are such forces really needed to protect Kirkuk or attack Tikrit and Mosul?

If IS can be defeated, then it is likely that Baghdad would insist on a return of Iraqi troops to Kirkuk. It was the lack of competence of the 12th division in Kirkuk that caused the vacuum in the first place.

Barzani urged Arabs who oppose IS to “play your roles” and to come forward “with action, not words alone”.

But are Arabs really ready to reconcile, unite and bridge the sectarian divide? Unfortunately, this is very doubtful.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

As ISIS maneuverers to extinguish Yezidi and Christian communities around Mosul, it’s not only Iraqi borders at threat of vanishing

One of the unique features of Iraq was always its rich ethnic, religious and cultural diversity that spanned thousands of years and across multiple civilisations. Religious co-existence generally prevailed until the fall of Saddam and the rise of extremist groups.

The Christian community from the Chaldeans, Assyrians, Mandeans and various other sects have dwelled in the Nineveh plains for more than 1700 years with Nineveh itself a centre of many biblical prophets and events.

The Christian numbers dwindled from as high as 60,000 before the fall of Saddam Hussein to around 30,000 by June of this year.

On the hand, Yezidi Kurds, number over 300,000 and are one of the world’s old religious communities with roots in Zoroastrianism and a mix of other faiths.

Persecution of the Yezidi and Christian minorities over the past decade or so is not new with thousands driven out, murdered or faced with intimidation and threats.

However, the Christian and Yezidi fate took a new twist as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came storming along in Iraq, changing not only the political and geographic makeup of Iraq but its religious framework.

In recent days, thousands of Yezidis were brutally killed and driven out of their homes as Sinjar was overrun, with thousands more stranded and dying of thirst and starvation in appalling conditions on Sinjar Mountain.

Vian Dakhil, a Yezidi MP, made a passionate plea as the human catastrophe intensified, “There is now a campaign of genocide being waged on the Yezidi…We are being slaughtered…” Thousands of Peshmerga were mobilised as part of an ongoing counter-offensive against ISIS positions.

In recent weeks, ISIS issued a “dhimma” by which Christians and other minorities were given the choices to convert to Islam or pay the “Jizya” protection fee, and in the event they refused “then there is nothing to give them but the sword”.

By noon deadline of the next day, Christians were flocking in the thousands to the safety of Kurdistan.

Patriarch Louis Sako told the AFP, “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” whilst emphasising that “this has never happened in Christian or Islamic history.”

In the past few weeks, ISIS has destroyed religious relics and buildings dating back thousands of years. One of those reportedly destroyed was the tomb of Jonah. History takes thousands of years to build but in the blink of an eye is forever destroyed.

From Sassanid Persian rule to rule under the Umayyads, Abbassid, Hamdanid dynasty, Seljuks, Persian Safawids and the Ottoman Empire, Christian and religious minorities have largely preserved their faith and communities.

Baghdad did little to offer the Christians and other minorities protection since 2003 and under the the latest wave of persecution against Yezidis and Christians, the West and Baghdad watch on as the Islamic State is carved in front of their eyes and religious minorities are driven out of their homes.

The West in particular could have done much more over the past several years to help alleviate the suffering of these communities. Now with yet another humanitarian crisis unfolding at the hands of ISIS with thousands of Yezidi’s under great danger, global powers cannot afford to sit idle.

“The world must act, speak out, consider human rights” warned Chaldean Catholic Bishop Shlemon Warduni.

Indeed, Christian persecution is not new, but the recent events finally caught global attention. With ISIS gunmen now occupying Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in Iraq, the plight of the Christian community there cannot be ignored. The question now is whether widespread condemnation will be met with any real action or international response on the ground.

Expressing grave concern, Pope Francis in his weekly public prayers decried the plight of the Christians, “Today they are persecuted. Our brothers are persecuted. They’ve been driven away. They must leave their homes without being able to take anything with them.”

With its own rich history, Kurdistan has always been a sanctuary for minorities and a symbol of religious and ethnic co-existence. It is the duty to protect any human, regardless of religion or ethnicity when they are faced with death and repression especially when they come running to you as men of understanding, compassion and protection. However, Kurdistan cannot shoulder the burden alone with ISIS becoming anything but a local crisis and now a grave global concern.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani vowed the full support and resources of his government resources to help the displaced families, and asked “the people of Dohuk and Erbil provinces to rush to help the displaced Christian families.”

Barzani appealed for international help to support the ever growing number of refugees in Kurdistan.

Barzani added, “We also encourage them to support the KRG in order to increase its relief efforts and be able to properly assist these families in times of crises.”

Meanwhile, Kurdistan President Massaud Barzani made a passionate pledge to the fleeing Christians,  “We will all either die together or we will live together with dignity.” Barzani also vowed to “defend Shingal and our Yezidi brothers and sisters.”

Rather than attempts at halting the drive towards Kurdish independence, on the contrary the West should support a new Kurdish state that not only will finally give the Kurds a well-deserved and long-denied homeland, but would afford unique protection and preservation of minorities and age-old history.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

How the seeds of Sunni insurgency were sown long before ISIS came to town

Does the US bail out Maliki, who ignored frequent US push for national reconciliation?

The dramatic and rapid advance by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may have caught many by surprise but it was a long time in the making.

The seeds of the sectarian mess that has gripped and paralysed Iraq were sown long before a few thousand ISIS militiamen scored mighty gains against an Iraqi force multiples of its size.

An increasingly desperate Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, sought US airstrikes as the ISIS militants’ arrived at the doorsteps of Baghdad and now after initially successful counter-attacks the Iraqi forces are struggling to dislodge rebels from the symbolic town of Tikrit.

Does a US who has seen Baghdad pay lip service to their frantic attempts to promote national reconciliation and enticing of the Sunnis into the political fold for the past several years, bail out Maliki?

Even then, are US bailing out the Shiites against the Sunnis, or Iraqis against Islamists?

The US congress apprehension in taking action when policies of Maliki and Baghdad have stoked sectarian fires tells its own story. They hesitated to take military action in Syrian, even with thousands dead, a raging sectarian slaughter and even use of chemical weapons. It seems highly ironic that they jump in to rescue a Baghdad who deemed unnecessary to have even a residual US force upon US withdrawal in Iraq and who brought this mess upon themselves.

Sunni militants were already in effective control of Fallujah, large parts of Ramadi and the Anbar province since the turn of the year and always threatened to expand their campaign.

From the onset of the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. had an obsession of building a democratic, pluralistic, sovereign and inclusive Iraq. Reinforcing the unity of Iraq or indeed that of national reconciliation have been frequent themes that saw the US invest trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.

It is no surprise that US President Barrack Obama, in weighing up ways to counter the swift ISIS and Sunni militant drive towards Baghdad, emphasised the political measures and national reconciliation that must accompany any US support.

Such a line is no different to that of former US President George W. Bush who on condition of the greater surge strategy in 2007-2008, set a number of benchmarks for the Iraqi government. Amongst such benchmarks were a representative national government, a national hydrocarbon law, provincial powers and above all national reconciliation that can entice the disenfranchised Sunni’s into the political fold.

Such US wishes often proved illusionary and were never implemented on the ground.

It is not the first time that key cities such as Mosul and Fallujah and large parts of the volatile Anbar region are in the hands of the Sunni militants. Indeed ISIS may have gained strength from the Syrian war but the birth of ISIS has roots in the original insurgency in Iraq.

Furthermore, the media coverage may be dominated by ISIS, but many other Sunni rebel groups and Baathists have bolstered the current advance. It’s hard to believe that a force of a few thousand rebels can make such rapid progress without local support and sympathy on the ground.

While Bush’s surge strategy was credited with ending the bloody insurgency that crippled Iraq, ironically it was the Sunnis themselves that were at the forefront of driving out al-Qaeda through Sunni Sahwa councils established at the time.

Arming the Sahwa councils were akin to a ticking time bomb and the support of key Sunni tribes was expected to be matched with real concessions from Baghdad, including a bigger slice of the political cake, the inauguration of the Sunni militias into the Iraqi security forces and ultimately an overhaul of the constitution.

A relative lull in sectarianism was not matched by practical steps to entice and appease the Sunnis and centralist tendencies of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki slowly drove a larger wedge between the Sunnis and Shiites with a shaky coalition government soon falling apart.

Maliki’s second term in particular saw many key Sunni figures sidelined or exiled from the political fold further antagonising moderate Sunnis

Iraqi forces may be large on paper but are often viewed with great suspicion by the Sunnis and deemed as Shiite dominated with sectarian agendas. It is not for a lack of training or firepower that they wilted away, those Iraqi forces simply didn’t have the stomach for the fight in Sunni heartlands. Any Sunnis within those forces did not want to stand in the way of a new Sunni ascendancy.

Sectarianism breeds loyalty in Iraq and ISIS will face a completely different picture in Baghdad and Shiite strongholds.

Much like the general Sunni sentiment that drove al-Qaeda out of the Sunni neighbourhoods at the height of the insurgency, it is not that all Sunnis welcome ISIS or endorse their tactics or ideology. But for many their despise of the central government and Maliki is greater.

After decades of power, Sunnis were suddenly frozen out in 2003 and affectively played second fiddle to the Shiite majority and this is a fact that most Sunnis still fail to stomach.

The US simply could not comprehend the fierce rivalry and sectarian passion that underpinned the gulf between the factions in Iraq. Sectarian animosity lasting hundreds of years cannot be healed in a matter of years.

US obsession with the unity of Iraq aside, Iraq was a fractured society and a divided state from the first moment it was stitched together artificially.

Iraq had a de-facto partition into three state lets since 2003, with the Kurds enjoying near independence in the north, the Shiites control of the south and with the Sunnis in the west. The only difference was that while the Kurdish partition and Shiite dominated Baghdad and the south had political power and economic clout, the Sunni side didn’t.

ISIS looks to change all that with a more powerful Sunni region that stretches not only in Iraq but well beyond the borders of Syria and with it key oil producing areas.

The US can intervene, Iraqi forces can launch a fierce counter offensive or the Iranian revolutionary guards can add their weight to the battle but like a yo-yo that has already plagued the sectarian divide, the Sunni headache will not go away. The branches can be cut but as we have seen through a number of Sunni insurgencies since 2003, the root firmly remains intact.

If Iraq saw a soft-partition into 3 federal entities as many in Washington and the international community deemed as the only solution at the time of US occupation, and away from the fixation of elusive national unity, there would have been a greater chance of fostering a more moderate Sunni slice.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc