US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region

Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 | Leave a Comment

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region Sunday to push for a new Iraqi government, as Sunni insurgents expanded their advance to Iraq’s west and captured a key border post with Syria.

Meanwhile, residents in cities under rebel control for more than a week reported life returning to normal, with water and electricity restored in some places and markets reopening.

In their latest battlefield victories insurgents led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the towns of Rawah, Anah and Qaim in Anbar province, after marching on major cities that have included Tikrit and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest, in less than a fortnight.

The town of Qaim, with its border crossing to Syria, is a major prize for the militants, whose aim is to create an Islamic state on territories straddling Iraq and Syria.

In Fallujah, an important city in Anbar which the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been shelling and bombing for months to flush out fighters of the al-Qaeda breakaway, ISIS, residents said the militants had not harmed anyone, following earlier reports of mass atrocities and killings in cities they have captured in lightning advances.

The Iraqi military largely buckled under the rebel onslaught, deserting in large numbers. Maliki, struggling for his political life and teetering as Iraq threatens to split into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions, has appealed for help from the United States, which so far has not committed to much more than sending in military advisors.

But at the same time, Nasir al-Saeedi, a senior cleric loyal to firebrand Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, said the Americans were not welcome, saying “we will be ready for you if you come back.” Sadr’s Mahdi Army fought US forces during the US occupation that ended in 2011.

Kerry arrived in Cairo reportedly to push for a new, non-sectarian Iraqi government, and to urge Arab states to crack down on funding for jihadi groups.

As Maliki and Iraq’s highest Shiite authorities called on militias to rise up and confront the Sunni rebels who have vowed to march on Baghdad and overthrow the government, Um Hassan, a 45-year old elementary schoolteacher in Fallujah, said that the militants had freed the city’s Sunnis from “tyranny.”

“It has been a week since the militants are in Fallujah, among them fighters who seem to call themselves ISIS. They have not harmed anyone. On the contrary, electricity and water has been restored and markets have been reopened,” she said. “It was Maliki who had imposed tyranny.”

Ahmed Adel, a government employee in Fallujah, said that, “Life in Mosul has returned to normal. Gasoline is abundant, all roads are open, and the concrete blast walls have been removed.”

He added that, “We even hear that the insurgents, whether ISIS or others, gave out salaries at the University of Mosul. There were no reports of citizens killed by the militatns, unlike Maliki’s security forces, who killed and arrested along sectarian lines and sowed fear.

“Maliki forced us to accept ISIS due to his failure to lead the country,” he added. “Maliki and his sectarian army forced people to embrace ISIS because, compared to Maliki, it remains the lesser of two evils.”

The insurgents are an axis of several factions, notably ISIS, Naqshbandis, the Islamic Army, as well as rebel Sunni tribes and loyalists of the ousted Iraqi regime.

“People do not like ISIS, but Maliki’s injustices have led people to turn to anyone who can rescue them,” explained Abdul Razzaq al-Shammari, a spokesman for protesters who staged a year-long sit-in at Ramadi, Anbar’s capital. Maliki sent in forces early this year to clear out the protests, angering Sunni residents and tribal leaders, and sowing the seeds of the current turmoil.

Shammari said that the Ramadi protesters had never accepted ISIS, which he described as only a small part of the armed groups and rebels advancing across Iraq. He said that the insurgents were manly comprised of tribal forces and former army loyalists.

Iraq’s large Sunni populations have been chafing under Maliki’s Shiite-led government, which they accuse of only patronizing the Shiites and neglecting the large minority Sunnis over jobs and basic services. The Sunni ire also has been raised over what they say have been random arrests, with thousands of Sunnis – including women – in the government’s prisons.

Sheikh Fihran al-Sadid, leader of a tribe in Mosul and Salahaddin, said: “We do not deny the existence (of ISIS), but most people have rallied behind the rebel tribes because injustice sometimes pushes you to cooperate with any party. What Maliki has done against Sunnis since he came to power is unimaginable. Therefore the people’s revolution came to restore the dignity of people and to free the innocent from prisons. People would never have rallied around the rebels if it wasn’t for Maliki’s injustices.”

 

 

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