From Sheikh kindled the flame. In Iraq began the Sunni uprising
Material posted: Publication date: 11-01-2014

At the end of 2013 in Iraq's Anbar province began a rebellion of Sunnis dissatisfied with the Shiite leadership of the country and angered by the arrest of his countryman — tribal Sheikh, Deputy of the national Parliament. The government declared the rebels terrorists, and the army began preparations for military operations, which could lead to a civil war with unpredictable consequences.

The Sunnis, who constitute about 25 percent of the population of Iraq, have long complained about the role of the downtrodden and disenfranchised minority, the Shiite allotted to them by the government. Immediately after the withdrawal of us troops in late 2011, the government of Nouri al-Maliki arranged the cleaning in the power structures and bodies of the state control, expelling virtually all of the influential Sunni. Vice-President of Iraq's Sunni Tariq al-Hashimi barely managed to flee from Baghdad, where he was tried in absentia and sentenced to death.

The living conditions of his fellow believers "from the people" all these years also became bezrabotnyi. The Shiites, placed by the authorities on all potentially responsible posts, fast out Sunnis from state enterprises and the bureaucracy. In a country where the private sector is mostly relegated to the level of hairdressers and vegetable stalls, it meant the absence of any prospects for the vast majority of young Sunnis.

But the alternative offered by numerous Islamist and terrorist groups in the West for the sake of simplicity called one name — "al-Qaeda". Sunni formation, generously funded by "charitable" foundations of the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, provide young and full of strength to the activists all you need. There is a clear goal — the elimination of "heretical" mode and build the Caliphate. The means to achieve it — weapons and explosives — in excess. Prospects for growth: due to the nature of activities of the leadership of these organizations often perish "in production", opening the way to a new generation. In addition, the militants receive the allowance, and the families of the victims paid compensation.

На месте теракта в Ираке
On the site of a bomb attack in Iraq
Photos: Akoo Rasheed / Reuters

It is not surprising that in such circumstances, the Iraqi youth have a serious temptation to go to the demolition and killers, not doctors and engineers. For confirmation of this statement are not far to seek: the number of bombings and attacks since the departure of American troops has steadily increased, peaking (so far) values in 2013, when victims of violence were nearly seven thousand people.

Al-Maliki's government, faced with rising terrorist threats, attempted to resolve the issue in his trademark way — using mass repression. The police and security services began thousands seized and put young Sunnis, not especially understanding, they are involved in subversive activities or not. Trials on "terrorism" in Iraq are discussed in a closed and an accelerated mode, dozens of cases end in death sentences. Mass executions of people should be held in a few months. Protests by human rights activists and the Sunnis themselves, the government completely ignores it, insisting that the fight against terror needs to be "ruthless and tough". Had no effect and criticism from the UN, called the tribunals and sentences in clear mockery of justice — even by Iraqi standards are low.

The Sunnis who are no longer able to assert their rights in the Parliament (there is a strong Shiite majority), courts (they are completely controlled by al-Maliki) and the leadership of the country, where expelled their representatives had to choose between two main ways. The most radical were even more active to join the ranks of terrorist organizations, and supporters of peaceful methods have arranged termless protest action near the town of Ramadi in Western Anbar province. At the end of 2012 they pitched their tents and pavilions on the highway linking Baghdad with the Western borders of the country. The main requirement of this Iraqi "Maidan" (the word, incidentally, is of Arabic origin and has the same meaning as in Ukrainian) was the early release of thousands of co-religionists who were arrested without due cause. In addition, the protesters demanded the abolition of "anti-terrorist tribunals", hold transparent and fair processes in each case, as well as the cessation of mass executions of young Sunnis.

The first attempts to disperse the opposition camp in early 2013 was not successful — Sunni tribes joined in a gunfight with police. In the end, al-Maliki waved to the demonstrators hand, benefit assault they didn't gather and March on Baghdad didn't go (although this idea was). However for the past since the year of the "Maidan" has not gone home, as authorities had hoped. Moreover, it has become a separate city, which became the center of political activity by the Iraqi Sunnis. There began to appear new ideas, policy and organisation, which gradually began to cause growing concern of Baghdad.

Город Рамади после разгона лагеря демонстрантов
The city of Ramadi after the dispersal of camps of demonstrators
Photo: Azhar Shallal / AFP

From camp Ramadi under gemmated most radical opponents of the government. They did not hide their intention to implement in Iraq the Syrian scenario to revolt, and with arms to defend their rights. With the support of the Syrian coreligionists in the beginning of 2013 Iraqi jihadists organized a group "Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), from the title which is clear and objective, and geographical ambitions of its leaders. As in Iraq, the uprising did not rise, their main efforts are concentrated on neighbouring Syria. There they gained valuable combat experience and even had some success, but the spread in masses is not received.

In the same Iraq, the evolution protest movement gone a different way. As the government continues to ignore the protesters, their demands began to move in a political dimension. Now the Sunnis have acted for resignation of al-Maliki and recovery system, in which each ethno-religious group would have a proportional representation at all levels of government. In addition, they demanded autonomy from Baghdad for the Kurdish sample.

One of the main exponents of these requirements became influential in Anbar Sheikh, member of Iraqi Parliament Ahmed al-Alvani. He constantly shuttled between Baghdad and camp near Ramadi, trying to convey to the government the position of their supporters and to explain to the demonstrators, what are the plans of the government. Significant progress in this matter, he had not made, but acquired great popularity among his countrymen, because honestly tried to help them, without resorting to force.

The growth of the "Maidan", the appearance of its members the recognized leader and the demands of regime change categorically do not like the current Prime Minister. Nouri al-Maliki realized that this threat must be eliminated, and before the parliamentary elections scheduled for 30 April 2014. In addition, the dispersal of Sunni camp was to demonstrate to Christians about the Prime Minister that he controls the situation in the country and is able to react strongly to the threat of Shia domination. Latest for al-Maliki is particularly important because in the back of the head more he breathe young, very radical and very ambitious Shiite leaders headed the informal "Emir of Basra" by Sheikh Moqtada al-Sadr.

Time for action Prime Minister chose very well: between the Catholic Christmas and New year, when the attention of the working Western media focused on much more pleasant things than arrests and shootings in the remote province of Anbar.

Нури аль-Малики
Nouri al-Maliki
Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP

On December 28, Iraqi forces raided the house of Ahmed al-Alvani in the city of Ramadi. His bodyguards, who had armed resistance, were killed. Police shot and brother of the Deputy who tried to come to his rescue. Just a battle, killing ten people, two dozen were injured. When the shooting stopped, Sheikh, shackled, brought out of a destroyed home and sent to Baghdad. Authorities announced that he was being accused of terrorist activities, and camp Ramadi became the real headquarters of al-Qaida in Anbar province.

As might be expected, followed by the arrest of the leader of the "Maidan" began the dispersal of the camp. December 30, authorities pulled him army units, armored vehicles and bulldozers. In the air hovered a helicopter. Despite an overwhelming advantage in military equipment, to take the camp hurriedly troops failed: the defenders put up fierce resistance. The situation was reversed, when protesters started shooting from helicopters. Pohvatali their belongings, people rushed in Ramadi, where you can find some shelter. The camp ceased to exist, but challenges the government on this has just begun.

From the minarets of mosques, the muezzins began to call upon all residents to engage in Jihad against the government of Nouri al-Maliki. Influential tribe Alvani, one of the leaders was arrested by the Deputy, announced that Iraqi soldiers and police are a legitimate target, as long as the Sheikh is released. Ramadi bristling with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the national authorities seized stocks of weapons looted from police stations political prisoners were released. Almost simultaneously, similar events occurred in several other localities, including in Fallujah, the largest city of Anbar province, famous for unusually fierce resistance to U.S. forces.

The leadership of Iraq, arresting political opponents and defeating the opposition camp, actually lost control over the biggest province of the country inhabited by armed and hostile people. To the dismay of Americans who are seriously interested in this whole situation after the New year, over the checkpoints of the rebels in Ramadi and Fallujah there were black flags "al-Qaeda". From Washington it looked as if eight years of war in Iraq, thousands of casualties and trillions of dollars have been spent in vain. It turned out that the hated terrorists, the victory over which Barack Obama repeatedly declared during the recent presidential campaign, not just alive and well, but and take control of town after town.

Американские военнослужащие во время первого штурма Фаллуджи в 2004 году
American soldiers during the first assault on Fallujah in 2004
Photo: Anja Niedringhaus / AP

In Washington perfectly understand that under the flags of "al-Qaeda" with machine guns and grenade launchers are locals, Sunni tribes acting with the tacit approval of their countrymen. Army operation against them would become the beginning of a real civil war. Moreover, an external observer it would be difficult to find the differences between what makes "the dictator" Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the "legitimate leader" of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. And such comparisons to the Americans completely useless. Probably why the Vice-President of the USA Joe Biden the last few days spent in telephone conversations with al-Maliki, urging the latter not to start a massacre, and to use other ways of resolving the situation. To some it is the solution we came to Biden and al-Maliki, not reported. However, certain conclusions can be drawn from what is happening in Anbar and around it.

Units of the Iraqi army once tried to enter Ramadi, but were immediately knocked out by the militia. According to the official version, which has led to a pause in hostilities. Baghdad announced that grants the right to local tribes to the withdrawal of militants of al-Qaeda from the cities. If the situation is resolved so that military operations will not.

Apparently, the leadership of the United States and Iraq hope to repeat the success of "awakening" — tactics that helped to beat down the wave of violence in al Anbar in 2007 and 2008. Then the Americans simply began to pay the local tribal leaders, ready to draw their weapons against the radical Islamists. Money make miracles: this technique worked, the most extreme militants in the desert.

The idea, of course, good. But the conditions in which it will implement, are very different. Now the main difficulty are completely damaged relations between Baghdad and local elites. Very few Sunni leaders now trust al-Maliki. Immediately after the Americans leave, he "threw" most of them, refusing to pay for "awakening". Dissatisfied by this turn of events sheikhs and their supporters, the Prime Minister rassredotochit local prisons (al-Alvani is the latest example). Some ended up on the gallows. In place of the old leaders, normally worked with Americans, came younger and far less loyal to Baghdad. To agree on cooperation with them is much more difficult, if at all possible.

Several tribes have already announced that they will continue their resistance to the government forces, if the arrested member is released, and the government does not reconsider its attitude towards the Sunnis. What is even more unpleasant for al-Maliki, they announced that all who will cooperate with Baghdad, will be seen to be collaborators with all the ensuing consequences.

For the Iraqi authorities in this situation there is another difficult question: not very clear how to distinguish "bad" Islamists from "good" local militia alleged allies. A characteristic case occurred in the village of Abu al-Obi WA was Bali between Ramadi and Fallujah on January 6. A detachment of soldiers loyal to the Baghdad Sunni militia (apparently by mistake) was attacked by forces of the Iraqi government army. To help the militia came appeared nearby ISIS militants. During the fight, they burned a half dozen armored vehicles and government forces repelled the attack, drawing forces to flight. At their bases the Sunnis from different groups differed already brothers-in-arms.

Боец спецназа иракской армии
The fighter of special troops of the Iraqi army
Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP

Supporters of al-Qaida and the militias are no membership cards, no special uniforms. Nationality and religion have the same. In fact, it's the same people. If necessary, the extremists can pull black flags, announcing themselves to local residents, had driven away "terrorists."

The authorities say to "restore order" in towns in the province should join the government troops. Sounds reasonable enough: their presence would mark the restoration of control over almost a breakaway territory. However, here again the catch: even those tribes who declare their loyalty to the government, strongly oppose the Shia, in fact, the army on the streets of Sunni cities.

Now government forces, backed by armored vehicles and artillery only surround Fallujah and Ramadi. What exactly is happening in the cities and who controls them, no one really knows. According to a source CNN in Fallujah, the local civilians first began to run from her, but two days later, almost all returned. The block-posts on which the week before the flags of "al-Qaeda", from city streets has not disappeared, but now they control "the tribal fighters of the militia". The difference between the previous and current inhabitants of the checkpoints are not obvious.

Where are the "terrorists" of ISIL, which a few days ago, literally swarmed Fallujah, no one knows and if someone knows, does not speak. According to one, they fled into the wilderness, others hold positions on the southern outskirts of the city, for the third — just changed the sign.

Nouri al-Maliki was in a pretty ridiculous situation. In major cities the largest province of the country is unclear who hosts. Restore the Central government without the support of local tribes can only use carpet bombing and shelling. The Americans, however, oppose such drastic measures. Moreover, these tribes national army and the police under various pretexts not allowed. As a result, the Anbar Baghdad does not obey, and what to do about it is unclear.

Ополченцы из суннитских племен в Ираке
The militia of Sunni tribes in Iraq
Photo: AP

If the Iraqi government is not going to storm the Sunni regions without prior arrangement will soon become the same autonomy as Kurdistan. While true masters in Anbar and adjacent provinces, will apparently be the Saudis. The UK and is now strongly supports the Iraqi coreligionists, opposing the influence of Shiite Iran is the main opponent of Riyadh in the region. Relations between representatives of two branches of the Islamic religion better, of course, will not be, but Sunni autonomy will give hope even for a world.

Far more dangerous may be the decision of Baghdad still to "restore order" and to attack Sunni city. In this case, Iraq will be in a state of civil war, and its main participants will be approximately the same as in Syria. Rebels are Sunnis will be able to count on the help of friendly monarchies of the Persian Gulf and co-religionists from other countries. The Shiite government will receive assistance from Iran and Russia's role, ironically, will get the U.S., which has promised Baghdad high-precision missiles, F-16 fighter jets, and drones and (possibly) attack helicopters.

Here it is worth noting that in Syria, the Americans in some way already were on different sides of the barricades with Saudi Arabia. Sponsored by the West the so-called "moderate" Islamists have declared war on the militants of the ISIS, informally supported by Riyadh and other Gulf monarchies.

The disarray among rebel groups in Syria was caused by two main factors — the ideological and applied. First, the bulk of the Syrian rebels do not like the idea of destroying their country and to create a common with Iraq "Islamic state". Secondly, the Syrian citizens that grew up in a secular regime, categorically do not arrange extremely conservative view of nomads from among the leaders of ISIS on morality, piety, and similar categories. In the cities under the control of radicals who can easily add lashes to a man who didn't appear at Friday prayers, or woman, individuals who had begun Smoking in front of other people. For more serious crimes the ISIL militants without hesitation cut the head. It is not surprising that regulations extremists, did not find any understanding among the majority of Syrians.

Thus relations with other rebels from the ISIL also went wrong: they several times plundered warehouses "allies", without any reason killed not only ordinary soldiers, but leaders. In the case of excitation of the universal hatred ISIS has achieved impressive success. According to some, their opponents were the "official" branch of "al-Qaeda" in Syria is "the Front al-Nusra". In the summer of 2013, this front was considered the most radical and violent insurgent group, however the antics of the performers from Iraq managed to disrupt even inveterate villains from "authorized" branch "al-Qaeda".

Боевики Исламского государства Ирака и Леванта
The militants of the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant
Photo: AFP

The leaders of the ISIL, being in the position of outcasts, has adopted this tactic: on the one hand, they threaten to take away his people from all positions in Aleppo, Idlib and other provinces, when you open them for the passage of the government troops. On the other, they loudly promise to arrange all the other rebels all-out war. So far, however, nothing catastrophic happened. The ISIL militants to the delight of massively Syrians heading to Iraq, where now they are waiting for bigger fish to fry. Leave their positions representatives of other rebel groups, so a big change on the front line with government troops there.

The confrontation between the rebels in Syria and Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq at first glance connected only by the fact that in both cases an important role is played by the "Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant". But if we consider these two stories in the complex, it becomes clear how complicated was the situation in the middle East in recent years.

United States strongly supports the desire of Baghdad to clear Fallujah and Ramadi from terrorists, sending to Iraq missiles, aircraft and UAVs. At the same time, the Americans oppose a military operation, because we are not sure what consequences it will lead. The intention to share Iraq's weapons along with the US and declared Iran, which has been helping Lebanese Hezbollah, threatening the main American ally, Israel. The militants "Hezbollah" in Syria are fighting against their "colleagues" from ISIS — the same group that wants to remove Iraq from both Washington and Tehran.

The money ISIS gets from "US friendly" Saudi Arabia, which in recent years in many positions closer to Israel, whose right to exist Riyadh, actually, does not recognize. And most curious: the Syrian "al-Qaeda" ("the Front al-Nusra") announced disengagement with ISIS and entered into a situational Alliance with the "moderate" rebels supported by the West.

Of course, this description of the current situation in the middle East has been greatly simplified and has not addressed many important factors, players and their interests. But even in this form it can give a rough idea of that the region tightened the knot a variety of contradictions, to unravel which will be very difficult. You may have to cut.

Tags: Iran , assessment , geopolitics , Near East