A Sunni Revolution In Iraq

That’s how Osama al-Nujaifi, the most recent speaker of Iraq’s parliament and one of the country’s leading Sunni lawmakers, understands the insurgency from which ISIS emerged as the lead actor:

Yes, it is a revolution. But at the same time, the terrorists are taking advantage of it. It’s a revolution that started a year and a half ago, as peaceful demonstrations. [The government] didn’t deal with it according to the constitution. Instead, they faced it with force. So it turned into a military movement. But it wasn’t as broad as we see now. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) [which now calls itself the Islamic State] took advantage of the gap between the government and the people, and they invaded and occupied Iraqi cities.

ISIS controls important military areas, but the wider geographical area is in the hands of tribes and armed groups who are rebelling against the government, and who before that were fighting the Americans. We need to differentiate between these groups and the terrorists. We need to face ISIS militarily. But these other groups should be dealt with politically.

For this reason, Owen Bennett-Jones suggests that the Islamic State will eventually fall apart, but he argues it’s likely to take Iraq, and maybe even Syria, along with it:

The disintegration of Iraq fits into larger trends challenging the established order in the Middle East and it isn’t only jihadis who are driving the changes. In a development that would have been unimaginable a few years ago, Western companies are now buying oil from the Kurds despite the opposition of the central government in Baghdad. In Syria, Isis controls some oilfields but the output still gets to market. As for borders, it is no longer outlandish to consider the possibility of an Alawite redoubt in western Syria and of Kurdish self-rule: a de facto independence that would change not only Iraq but also Turkey, Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, Patrick Cockburn considers the prospects for an ISIS assault on Baghdad:

Iraq’s acting national security adviser, Safa Hussein, told me that ‘many people think’ Isis will ‘synchronise attacks from inside and outside Baghdad’. He believed such an assault was possible though he thought it would lead to defeat for Isis and the Sunni rebels who joined them. The Sunni are in a minority but it wouldn’t take much for an attacking force coming from the Sunni heartlands in Anbar province to link up with districts in the city such as Amariya, Khadra and Dora. Much depends on how far Isis is overextended, surprised by its own victories and lacking the resources to strike at the capital. …

A rational calculation of the balance of forces in any prospective battle for Baghdad shows that Isis has shot its bolt for the moment and can’t advance out of Sunni-dominated provinces. But Baghdadis are wary of assuming that they’re safe because they know they have to take into account the gross incompetence of the ruling elite around Maliki, which clings to power as if it had not just lost half the country. Even the generals who openly abandoned their troops in Mosul, Ali Ghaidan Majid and Abboud Qanbar, still hold their old jobs, two of the three most important in the army. ‘I still see them turning up to military meetings in Baghdad and they often sit in the front row as if nothing had happened,’ a senior official said despairingly. ‘It is beyond a joke.’