Thursday, June 9, 2016

The battle for Fallujah and the future of Iraq - Dr. Mordechai Kedar

by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Fallujah is the picture of all that is wrong in the West's thinking on the Middle East.

At this very moment, the Iraqi government is in the midst of a fierce offensive aimed at retaking the city of Fallujah and wresting it from the hands of ISIS. This military campaign was meticulously planned for several months with the help of American and Iranian advisors and representatives of the "Popular Forces" – a group of Shiite militias whose activities are indistinguishable from those of ISIS because they, too, mercilessly butcher, burn and eliminate their enemies, the only difference being that their enemies are Sunni rather than Shiite.

Several groups with varying goals and diametrically opposed views are participating in the battle for Fallujah, but it is clear that the enmity between Sunni and Shiite Muslims is at the core of what is happening. The city's residents and the ISIS fighters holed up in the city are Sunni, while the government, militias, "Popular Forces" and Iranians targeting them are Shiite.

It is strange to see Shiite forces fighting the Sunni ISIS, in effect sacrificing their lives in order to save the city's Sunni residents, whom they view as infidels, from ISIS' clutches. That explains their excessive use of explosives, including rockets, on the city and its residents. The Shiites couldn't care less what happens to civilians whom they consider to be just as bad as ISIS.

Government forces and Shiite militias are being helped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, fighting under the direct command of Kassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Force, aided by US-led coalition air power. Iran's goal is clearly the elimination of any Sunni presence in Fallujah, including both ISIS and the city's residents. Worst of all is the cooperation between the Western coalition members and Iran in order to destroy a city that, as of last week, was home to an estimated 45,000 Iraqi civilians.

The residents of Fallujah know exactly what awaits them and are therefore fleeing the city en masse. Many have drowned while trying to cross the Euphrates River. Those who made it live in fear of government forces as well as the Shiite militias whose major and unbridled activity is hunting down any and all Sunnis in order to do to them what the ISIS Jihadists have been doing to the Shiites.

The Iraqi regime told residents to leave the city, since it was about to be razed to the ground, that being the only way the government feels it can get rid of the ISIS Jihadists hiding in underground tunnels and basements.  Unfortunately, the government and the militias suspect that Jihadists will take advantage of the fleeing citizens and join them, and this suspicion has succeeded in turning all the desperately fleeing residents into suspected ISIS terrorists.  

Regime forces and militias have so far arrested over 1000 citizens in towns near Fallujah, tortured and mistreated them, beheading – at least according to those who claim to have been there –  youngsters whom they suspected of being ISIS fighters.

Fallujah's residents are convinced that the war is not being fought just to root out ISIS, but is meant to make sure there is no Sunni presence whatsoever left in the city.   Their gut feeling is that the proclamations that the war is against ISIS serve as a fig leaf that hides the real intentions of the Iranians, the militias and the regime.

Fallujah is in the eastern part of the Al Anbar region populated by a few Bedouin tribes, themselves Sunnis who have become foes of the Shiite militias fighting for Fallujah because of the way they treat the Sunni residents in the area.

The Iraqi regime is not treating the city's residents very well either. Several months ago it closed the entrances to the city and refused to allow Saudi aid to reach the beleaguered residents, claiming it might fall into the hands of ISIS.

The Sunni tribes are willing to battle ISIS, but are vehemently opposed to the Shiite militia involvement, because of their indiscriminate attacks on Sunni Iraqi civilians in the region when they are supposed to be concentrating their fire on Sunni ISIS Jihadists who hail from other places on the globe. 

The tribes demand international guarantees that the state – run by Shiites – will not persecute them for being Sunni after ISIS is destroyed. After all, fearsome as they are, ISIS protects them from Shiite terror now.

They are faced with the problem of international coalition forces headed by the US who support the regime and therefore the militias as well, providing them with air cover and bombing ISIS targets. It is obvious that the international coalition forces are willfully ignoring the ethnic cleansing government forces are carrying out against Iraq's Sunni citizens.

Qassam Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guards personally supervises the battles in which his men take part, ignoring the UN Security Council decision that forbids Iran from sending arms and fighters to anywhere outside its borders.  It is interesting that the West, so insistent on adherence to international law, has no trouble ignoring Iran's defiance of international decisions and is actually helping Iran battle the Iraqi Sunnis. 

Iraq declared a "secure passage" for the city's population to allow it to flee safely, but the ordinary people do not trust the army and are afraid that the passages will simply make them easy prey for the militias and other soldiers. Tens of thousands of men, women and children have elected to stay in Fallujah hoping that the constant rocket barrages will put an end to the miilitants – unless the Shiite militia's swords or the international coalition's bombers manage to do so first. Some even flew white flags in front of their homes to keep the militias from harming them, but that was a short lived effort as the ISIS fighters, who still refuse to surrender to the regime and the Shiite militias, attacked them instead.

Sadly, the ISIS fighters are also preventing those citizens who wish to from fleeing so that they can use them as human shields if that becomes necessary, just as Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon did in the Second Lebanon War (2006) and just as Hamas does whenever armed conflict erupts between Gaza and Israel.

The general atmosphere of an ethnic war surrounds the battle at Fallujah. In fact, the Syrian political analyst Bassem J'ara has announced that Iran is more dangerous for Sunni Muslims than Israel. He contends that the Iranians plan to drown the Islamic world in rivers of blood in order to gain control of it in its entirety.

Other analysts accuse the Sunni Islamic world of maintaining a thunderous silence in the face of the butchery and ethnic cleansing that Iran and its henchmen are carrying out in Fallujah, all this with the West's blessing. Fallujah and the fate of its citizens will forever be a mark of Cain on the forehead of Iraq. What is happening in the besieged city is further proof of the uselessness of preserving Iraq's national territory intact, as it results in continued fighting and massacres between the ethnic and other groups that make up the country's population. 

It really is about time that the self-titled "enlightened" world grasps that in the Middle East people remain loyal to their traditional tribal framework, their ethnic group, religious or sectarian one – and do not exchange that loyalty for an artificial, newly acquired loyalty to a modern state. It is about time that the world realizes that there is no Iraqi nation, Syrian nation, Libyan nation, Sudanese nation, Yemenite nation – nor is there a Palestinian nation – there are only tribes, ethnic, religious and sectarian groups. When they are forced to live together, they battle one another.

The only solution for Iraq is the one that suits all the failed Middle East nationalist entities, the establishment of homogeneous emirates that will live in internal, stable harmony and peace, cooperating with others for the collective good.

It has been 100 years since the Sykes-Picot agreements were signed and the time has come to admit that they have failed. In their stead, let us try the only solution that works in the Middle East: giving each group it own Emirate.             
Translation by Rochel Sylvetsky, Arutz Sheva op-ed and Judaism editor.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar


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