Sunni resentment dims prospect of reunifying Iraq after ISIS

The New York Times reports: 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. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: Powerful Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Saturday the country needed a technocratic government, threatening to quit politics if Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi failed to carry out promised reforms.

The remarks by Sadr, whose Al-Ahrar bloc holds 34 seats in parliament and three cabinet posts, were the first high-level reaction to the premier’s call for politically appointed ministers to be replaced with technocrats.

Struggling to show results from reforms he announced six months ago, Abadi said this week he wanted to make the replacements in a cabinet reshuffle, a shake-up that would alter the delicate balance of government in place since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Abadi provided few details of the planned reshuffle but he is expected to move forward with changes this week after returning to Iraq from a European trip.

Sadr called for “forming a technocrat government away from partisanship that should include all.” [Continue reading…]

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