Sunnis boycott Iraqi government after Shia militia attack
The latest attack by Shia militias in Baghdad has threatened to expose the sectarian war in Iraq for all to see.
Sunni politicians said they would boycott parliament after the killing of Sheik Qasim al-Janabi, a moderate Sunni tribal leader, his son and the other members of their convoy, blaming the Friday night assault on Shiite militias that they say the government has allowed to act with impunity.
Sunni MP Zaid al-Janabi, a relative of the Sheik, was not killed, but had his arms and legs broken.
The debate on the floor of the Iraqi parliament ended in a brawl after Sunni MP Ahmed Misari accused the Shia militias for the killings. In response Misari was attacked by Shia MP Kazim Siyadi and the whole meeting went into chaos. Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jibburi ran from the building because he feared for his life.
Today the main Sunni political blocks, the National Alliance Force and the Iraqi National Alliance, suspended participation in the government.
“This is it,” Mutlak said. “We can’t stay in this miserable political process any longer. We can’t stay in a government while our sons are being slaughtered.”
Hakim al-Zamili, who heads parliament’s defense and security committee, promised that the incident would be investigated. But many Sunnis are skeptical.
Zamili is a militia leader accused of running death squads during Iraq’s sectarian war. The interior minister is a member of the Badr Brigades, another Shiite militia.
Recently the Iraqi government declared the Karrada region of Baghdad an arms-free zone. The reason for the order was the kidnapping of the secretary general of an Iraqi Hezbollah branch, Abbas Al-Muhammadawi, by another Shia militia. What followed was clashes between the armed Shia groups.
What has happened is that the Iraqi government turned to the Shia militias after their army collapsed against a much smaller ISIS army, but now the Shia militias are out of control.
Iraq’s capital has been torn by fighting among rival Shi’ite militias backed by neighboring Iran.
Officials acknowledged that the government was losing control of Baghdad to Shi’ite militias armed and financed by Iran, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the militias were in control over large areas of the capital city and often fought each other.
By coincidence, Human Rights Watch released a new report about the Shia militias yesterday and accused them of "possible war crimes".
Besides the more well known massacre of 72 Sunni civilians in the town of Barwana, the report goes into detail about the forced expulsion of 3,000 civilians in the vicinity of Muqdadiyya.
“Iraqi civilians are being hammered by ISIS and then by pro-government militias in areas they seize from ISIS,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “With the government responding to those they deem terrorists with arbitrary arrests and executions, residents have nowhere to turn for protection.”
What makes this report especially interesting is that it links to a YouTube video from late December.
On December 29, Hadi al-Ameri, the Badr Brigades commander and transport minister under the previous administration of Nuri al-Maliki, threatened Muqdadiyya residents, saying, “The day of judgment is coming” and “We will attack the area until nothing is left. Is my message clear?”
Hadi al-Amiri is a particularly odious creature who claims to have personally ordered the deaths of 2,000 Sunnis. According to a 2009 State Department cable, his preferred method of execution was "using a power drill to pierce the skulls of his adversaries.”
To make matters worse, Amiri is effectively in control of the most successful and powerful Iraqi army.
On a tour of areas recently liberated from Islamic State control, General Ali Wazir Shamary told me that ultimately his orders came through a chain of command that originated with Amiri. In other words, the Iraqi army is integrating into Amiri’s Badr Organization in Diyala as opposed to integrating the militias into the army.
Instead of voicing alarm at the rise of Amiri, the United States is pretending that it doesn't matter. The U.S. Ambassador has offered air strikes in support of Amiri's army, and is knowingly sending weapons to the Shia militias.
To focus only on the atrocities of ISIS and ignore the atrocities of the Shia militias is a potentially catastrophic decision that will lead, not just to the failure to eliminate ISIS, but to a much bloodier sectarian war.
Pretending this isn't a problem will not make it go away.
You can see how the single-minded focus on only one belligerent can undermine everything by looking at the example of Yemen. Our exclusive focus on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula blinded us from the dangers of the Houthi rebels who brought down the Yemen government and created a failed state. When the United States fled its embassy, and the rebels seized the vehicles we left behind while chanting "death to America".
From the news today, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council announced that they "will take whatever actions it deems necessary to maintain regional security and stability."
Thus Yemen might just become a regional war, while our foreign policy towards Yemen is stuck in 2009.
The same sort of events could easily play out in Iraq unless we take a more comprehensive view of the situation.
If you think that Armiri's violence will stop with the Sunnis, think again.
Commander of the Badr Brigade Hadi Amri has announced that Shiite militants will deploy to Kirkuk to follow up the aftermath of the Islamic State (IS) offensives two weeks ago.
It comes after Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani ordered Kirkuk authorities to prevent Shiite militants from entering Kirkuk.
Kirkuk has been a flashpoint between the peshmerga and Baghdad for generations, and the Kurds will simply not allow the Shia forces to enter the city. Some Kurdish commanders refer to the Shia militias as "Shia IS".
If Amiri tries to force the issue, we could see the final event that leads to the breakup of Iraq.