Monday, June 16, 2014

The Real Story of Iraq – Liberation from Religious Persecution

June 16, 2014

Once again the violence in Iraq makes the news headlines. Unfortunately the events in Iraq are not being accurately portrayed in most of the media outlets. Here are some major points that need to be highlighted:

1. ISIS is NOT the only one taking over the predominantly Sunni cities in Iraq. Last week a small group of ISIS fighters along with others entered the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, unopposed by Maliki's security forces; an event which many in Mosul believe was allowed to occur by the Maliki security services to justify a "successful" battle Maliki can use to get people to rally behind him. Within a day or so, however, other larger more moderate armed groups entered Mosul forcing the thousands of the Maliki security forces to flee. The Maliki forces fled without even a fight, which is an indication of the nature of the security apparatus in Iraq.

2. The groups that are in control of Mosul and have taken the cities of Tikrit, Tal-Afar, Huwaija, Beiji, Miqdadiya and many other towns between Mosul and Baghdad and in Diyala are a host of various rebel groups that previously fought both the military occupation and ISIS-Qaida mesh. These groups include Nationalist as well as Islamist groups. They include the Tribal Army, Islamic Army, Salahadeen Brigades, Mujahideen Army, Naqshabandi force, and few others. They include former Iraqi Army officers. These rebel groups out number the ISIS fighters by more than 9 to 1.  

3. These rebel groups have the backing of the local population. Mosul has been quiet for the last week, and civil servants have gone back to work. There are no public floggings, executions, or violence like that associated with ISIS.

4. These "revolutionaries" as they are now calling themselves have allowed the Maliki forces to leave (or flee) peacefully. In Mosul, Tikrit, Beiji, and more recently Balad (Spiker base) these groups requested the Maliki forces to leave their weapons and leave peacefully. Thousands of Maliki soldiers have left with their vehicles unarmed and peacefully, unlike the Maliki forces who have been executing jailed prisoners before they flee.

5. These rebels have captured vehicles and weapons and are trying to move onto Baghdad from all four sides.

6. The Iraqi Sunni population has had enough of Maliki's oppression. Thousands of Sunni families have been expelled from their homes in Basra, Nasiriya, Diyala, and Baghdad in the past 11 years. Thousands of Sunni young men languish in jails without trials. Many are tortured and executed. The Army and Security forces are 95% Shitte and drawn from the sectarian militia groups which have the notorious reputation of ransacking homes and screaming sectarian insults through loudspeakers (like the infamous Muthana brigade). The Sunnis have been for the most part excluded from the central government and the Sunni provinces have been either neglected (not given financial resources) or oppressed (hospitals and schools bombed and mass arrests and expulsions). The people have had enough.

7. Even the Sunni politicians who have participated in the political process have been targeted by the Maliki regime. As soon as any Sunni politician criticizes the arbitrary arrests of Sunnis or mass expulsions of Sunni families, they become targets of arrest, torture, and or have death sentences passed on them. They include Members of Parliament like Mohamed Al-Daine who had to flee for his life and MP Ahmed Alwani who was arrested and tortured and whose brother was executed by security forces, and most notably the Vice-President Tariq Al-Hashemi, who had 3 death sentences decreed against him. Maliki uses the Anti-Terrorism law (Provision 4) to persecute Sunnis. In Iraq, this Provision 4 is known as the "Anti-Sunni" Law.

8. In February 2014, Human Rights Watch published a 104-page report of how Maliki's security services torture and rape women in prisons. Human Rights Watch said that the "vast majority of the more than 4,200 women detained in Interior and Defense ministry facilities are Sunni."  Most of the men languishing in Maliki's jail are also Sunnis.

9. The 6 predominantly Sunni provinces have had mass peaceful protests of hundreds of thousands of people for over a year, without much media attention or any response of the Maliki regime. Instead Maliki tried to crush the peaceful protests in Falluja and Ramadi by force and that was what sparked the fighting earlier this year in Anbar province.

10. The Sunni population will not allow the Maliki forces to return to their areas. They feel like they are finally liberating their people from religious persecution, oppression, and genocide, that they have endured and suffered from for past 11 years.

Maliki is now openly using his last card, the fatwa for jihad. He is relying now on the recent fatwa by Ali Sistani for a jihad against the Sunni areas. If Maliki has his way, the country will be heading towards a bloody civil war.

It would be a monumental mistake if the Obama Administration gets the US involved to prop up the corrupt and bloody Maliki regime which has polarized Iraqi society. It would be like adding fuel to the fire.

The best thing the Obama Administration can do is to encourage a formation of a more inclusive government that includes real power sharing and division of resources. They need to reach out to the Sunni leaders (in Parliament, the provincial leaders, religious & tribal leaders). Otherwise the country will be effectively divided.

The story being told in the media is a like fictional story, far from the truth.  But now you have the real story.