Iraq studying U.S. plan to arm Sunni tribes in fight against Islamic State militants


By Abbas al-Baghdadi

Azzaman, February 1, 2015

Sunni tribal leaders say the U.S. has agreed to supply them with weapons to help their tribesmen flush Islamic State militants out of their areas.

A team of major Sunni tribal chieftains has returned from a trip to Washington where they held meetings with senior Pentagon officials.

They say they have presented the government with a report of their deliberation and a request to give the U.S. the permission to supply them with weapons.

Government spokesperson Saad al-Hadithi acknowledge that a group of Sunni tribal leaders fresh from a visit to the U.S. have submitted a report to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“The government has received the report and is mulling the request, assessing related technical issues quantities and type of weapons (the U.S. wants to ship) as well as their transport and distribution,” Hadithi said.

In 2008 U.S. troops armed and financed Sunni tribes and raised an army of more than 180,000 Sunni tribesmen who help it defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But the former government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to integrate them into the Iraqi army and many of them were disbanded, alienating a large section of Sunnis.

Islamic State militants are currently in control of large swathes of territory in Iraq predominantly inhabited by Sunnis. The jihadist group comprises Sunni radicals who see Shiites as infidels.

Hadithi said the government had no objection in principle for the U.S. to arm Sunni tribes in Iraq but any such move should be in line with Iraq laws and regulations.

“The government does not object to U.S. move to supply Sunni tribes with weapons,” said Hadithi. “But at the same time it is keen that any such assistance is done through official channels and in line with standing regulations and laws and via the Defense Ministry.”