Jim Muir reports: Stifled by the Islamic State (IS) militants in their own areas, Iraqi Sunni rebels who took up arms against the Shia-dominated government of Nouri Maliki are signalling for the first time that they are ready to turn against IS if Sunni rights are enshrined in a reformed political order in Baghdad.
The rebels, including tribal militants and former army personnel organised in military councils throughout the Sunni areas, see American and international guarantees as crucial to any such deal.
“We don’t want guns from the Americans, we want a real political solution, which the US should impose on those people it installed in the Green Zone,” said Abu Muhammad al-Zubaai, referring to the Iraqi political leaders who took over after the US-led occupation in 2003.
“The IS problem would end. If they guarantee us this solution, we’ll guarantee to get rid of IS,” said Mr al-Zubaai, a tribal leader from Anbar province speaking on behalf of the rebels, using a nom de guerre.
The tribal and military rebels, who had been fighting government forces since January, played a role in the spectacular advances scored after IS – in its previous guise as Isis – erupted into Iraq from Syria in June and captured the second city, Mosul, among other mainly Sunni areas.
But since then, the Sunni groups have been suppressed, with IS ordering them to join its own ranks or disarm.
“Living with IS is like holding burning coals in your hand,” said Mr al-Zubaai. “They do not tolerate any other flag to be raised. They control all Sunni areas now.”
He said tribal militants from the military councils clashed with IS at Garma, near Falluja recently, killing 16 of the Islamic radicals.
“We had to choose between a comprehensive confrontation with IS, or ceding control of that area and keeping a low profile,” he said.
“We decided to stand down, because we are not ready to fight IS in the current circumstances – who would we be fighting for?” [Continue reading…]