The overly simplistic narrative the media has decided upon to describe the recent instability in Iraq is that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists took over Fallujah, and the question now is how does the U.S. and Iraqi government remedy the situation and stave of a potential outbreak of civil war.
That is about as deep as I’ve seen any news source go into what has happened. While it’s not untrue, it is just too superficial and dangerously excludes crucial details that are indispensable to an accurate understanding of what is going on.
One of the things it ignores is something I’ve repeatedly referenced on this blog, which is that thousands of Sunni Iraqis (not armed al-Qaeda militias) have been peacefully protesting and demonstrating against the Maliki government since the U.S. withdrawal only to be met with utter repression by Baghdad.
Juan Cole fills us in:
The recent issue with Anbar province (and the other 5 provinces) is a result of ignoring the year-long demonstrations/protests and sit-ins in Anbar, Salahadeen, Diyala, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Samarra. Tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating in these provinces for over a year to free thousands of political prisoners, stop the mass expulsions of families from their homes, and other similar demands.
Thousands of Sunni families have been expelled from their homes in Diyala province by government-sanctioned militias this past year (in Miqdadiya, Baquba, other towns) with complete silence from most of the media outlets.
Additionally tens of thousands of Sunni young men have been rotting in jail for years or are being tortured and executed under provision 4 of the Terror Law. Army units like the infamous Muthana brigade march into predominantly Sunni towns and neighborhoods swearing and cursing anti-Sunni insults (using expletives against Sunni religious symbols like Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Mohammed, or Omar, the Prophet’s brother-in-law).
About two weeks ago, the Iraqi government decided to move against the peaceful protestors using military force, claiming there were “terrorists” protesting with the demonstrators.
In fact, the people of Anbar and other provinces have had enough of the sectarian repression, mass expulsion of families, mass arrests, hit squads, torture, and executions. The people of Anbar and the other provinces reacted to the attempt of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to take over cities like Ramadi and Fallujah by rebelling and establishing the Tribal forces.
Theses tribal forces are the same groups (Awakening councils) which fought the extremists back in 2007 and expelled them from the cities. But they don’t want the sectarian government forces either.
The problem is not just Iraq’s “al-Qaeda problem.” Rather, Maliki’s authoritarian proclivities and his vicious treatment of Sunnis has exacerbated the country’s sectarian tensions. The Sunni-Shia violence in Iraq, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) explained months ago, is “as acute and explosive as ever” primarily because “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has implemented a divide-and-conquer strategy that has neutered any credible Sunni Arab leadership.”
Maliki’s security forces have detained and brutally tortured thousands of political opponents in secret prisons and denied them access to legal counsel. Amnesty International reported in September that Iraq executed 13 men following unfair trials plagued by allegations of torture. “Iraq is one of the world’s most prolific executioners,” the report stated.
Given these critical, revealing details that are being completely ignored by the media, the argument that Washington should be increasing its military support to Baghdad in order to crush the revolt in Fallujah becomes even more absurd.