Mark MacKinnon reports: The head of Iraq’s largest Sunni tribe says the uprising that has seen militants conquer much of the west and north of the country will not end until Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is gone from office.
Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleimani, the head of the powerful Dulaimi tribe that has been in open revolt against Mr. al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated government since last year, said the West needs to see the Sunni offensive as a broad rebellion by an “oppressed” people, rather than focusing only on the extremists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that have been the spearhead of the lightning advance towards Baghdad.
He said ISIL – whom he scornfully referred to as “terrorists” – made up just 7 to 10 per cent of the total number of Sunni fighters, and that their role in the uprising had been exaggerated by “social media, Facebook and Twitter.” ISIL has used YouTube and social media accounts to spread often-grisly videos of its advance through the cities of Mosul, Tikrit and Samarra, apparently seeking to both gain new followers and intimidate its opponents.
Sheikh al-Suleimani said that while ISIL and the tribes – along with remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime – shared common cause in wanting to oust Mr. al-Maliki, there was no formal alliance between them. He promised that once Mr. al-Maliki was gone, and the Sunni uprising had achieved its other aims – including a new constitution that would see Iraq made into a federal state, with Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions that would have wide autonomy – the tribal fighters would turn their guns on ISIL and defeat them. [Continue reading…]