Sharjah today

Sunni tribesmen battling Daesh demand federalism in Iraq

  • Wednesday 30, November 2016 in 9:55 PM
Sharjah 24 - Reuters : As mortar bombs landed ever closer, Sunni tribal fighters preparing to attack Deash seemed more preoccupied by the failures of Iraq's political class than the militants trying to kill them.
 The men - and one woman - from the Lions of the Tigris unit gathered on Wednesday in Shayyalah al-Imam, a village near Mosul, with some of their leaders expressing deep distrust of the politicians and saying Iraq's governance must change once  Daesh  is defeated.
 
"Iraq needs serious reforms," said Sheikh Mohammed al-Jibouri, the top commander of the tribesmen. "Only serious reforms will lead to the unity of Iraq."
 
The unit is part of the Popular Mobilisation Committee, or Hashid Shaabi, which was formed to take on  Daesh  after the hardline Sunni group swept through northern Iraq in 2014, facing little resistance from the army.
 
Hashid Shaabi is mostly comprised of Shi'ites but there are also Sunnis, such as the 655-strong Lions of the Tigris unit.
 
Their efforts along with government soldiers to capture several villages are part of an offensive to oust  Daesh  from its stronghold of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
 
On the surface, their participation lends credibility to the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad, accused by Sunnis of marginalising their minority community. It denies the accusation.
 
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been struggling to persuade Sunni tribesmen who helped U.S. forces defeat Al Qaeda during the 2003-11 occupation to join the battle against  Daesh  He has declared a war on corruption in government and army but faces resistance. 
 
The show of force in Shayyalah al-Imam points to progress, with soldiers and tribesmen standing side-by-side. 
 
But some of the men doubted the politicians have the resolve or desire to unify Iraq, gripped by sectarian bloodshed since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. 
 
Another tribal commander, Abdel Rahman Ali, even saw  Daesh  as part of an elaborate plot to weaken Sunnis, underlining the pervasive mistrust in Iraq.