Sunni tribes urged to fight ISIS

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By Mohammed al-Salehi

Azzaman, August 3, 2014

As militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) consolidate and expand areas under their control, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is trying to recruit Sunni Arab tribes to their advance.

ISIS has penetrated towns, villages as well as the country’s largest dam in northern Iraq in the past two days, routing heavily armed Kurdish militia forces entrusted with their protection.

The militants are currently in control of the Kurdish district of Sinjar, whose nearly 200,000 inhabitants have fled to nearby mountains prompting the United Nations to warn of yet another human catastrophe unfolding in Iraq.

The militants have occupied other districts including Zummar and the oil center of Ain Zalah with its 20,000-barrel a day oil refinery. The fall of Ain Zalah adds two small oil fields to ISIS’s Caliphate.

But despite their victories the militants are reported to have alienated Muslim Sunni inhabitants in their areas with their draconic punishments and strict interpretations of Islamic jurisdiction.

Major tribes in the Province of Nineveh of which Mosul is the capital are said to have approached the government to help them establish their own forces to oust ISIS from their areas.

Mohammed Ibrahim, the head of the security commission in Nineveh Province, said tribal elders have held recently a meeting with Maliki asking assistance to raise their own forces and join in battle “to liberate Mosul.”

Ibrahim said representatives from four major tribes in the province were present in the meeting with Maliki.

“These tribes will form their own battalions which will be armed and financed by the government and once they finish their training they will be integrated into the armed forces,” Ibrahim said.

U.S. troops before withdrawing from Iraqi in 2010 had mobilized Sunni tribes in central Iraq against al-Qaeda of which ISIS is an offshoot.

The U.S. raised a force of nearly 200,000 tribesmen who were financed and armed in return for help to fight al-Qaeda.

U.S. strategy bore fruit with al-Qaeda forced to retreat from most of central Iraq.

But the force was disbanded and in cases its members and leaders suppressed by the government, which refused to pay them and integrate them into the country’s security establishment.