In the Collective Opposition to Islamic State, Iraq's Shiite Military and Militias Consider Themselves the Alphas, Degrade the Equality of Iraqi Sunnis
"The killings and abuses committed by ISIL fighters when they captured Mosul in 2014, and the horrors they have subjected its inhabitants to ever since, should leave us in no doubt as to the risk civilians face."
"[There remains] a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated."
Zeid Raad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
This interpretation of events relating to the Iraqi civilians in the area, caught between their oppressors loyal to ISIL, and the onslaught of the Iraqi, mostly Shiite military, may be illusory in nature. There is no trust whatever between Iraq's Sunni civilian population and the Shiite-led government of Iraq. And that situation prevails precisely because the Shiite-led government has chosen to give equal recognition to its Iraqi Sunnis short shrift. The civilians living in the now-largely-evacuated villages have turned instead to protection from Iraqi Kurds.
Islamic State is fighting back as only they appear to be capable of; or, at the very least reflective of the ideological passion of hatred that demands live sacrifices to appease the rage of militant Islam. They have been reported by witnesses to have executed by deadly fire, 284 men and boys in a paroxysm of vengeance as Iraqi troops begin to enter Mosul. The bodies were scooped by a bulldozer into a vacant building in the north of the city, once the need to use that group of men and boys as human shields was trumped by the more urgent need to massacre them, symbolically.
And with the escaping Mosul residents streaming out of the city and into Kurdistan, have inevitably been some ISIL fighters. They mounted an attack in Kirkuk, yesterday, attacking government buildings and a power station under construction, killing thirteen employees and at least six police officers. This was meant to be a counter-attack to demonstrate that the jihadis have not been defanged, the attack "clearly aimed at diverting the Iraqi army" from Mosul, according to the BBC's Richard Galpin, in northern Iraq.
However, in the aftermath of the attack, the governor of Kirkuk, Najm al-Din Karim, claimed that Peshmerga fighters and counter-terrorism forces were completely in control of the situation, blaming the attack on Islamic State sleeper cells.
|Iraqi soldiers stoking tensions with Sunni Iraqis by flying Shiite flags -- wsj.com|
In this most unconventional of conflicts, complications and distractions are everywhere in a region beset with tribal, ethnic and sectarian grudges. The very Iraqi soldiers engaged in the conflict to retake the largely Sunni city of Mosul from Islamic State have taken to mounting Shiite flags on their vehicles and raising them atop buildings. It takes no genius to realize that by doing this, they are stoking the often-violent sectarian divisions that Iraq’s government has sworn it intended to repair.
Affixed onto tanks or hoisted over government checkpoints and homes in reclaimed Sunni villages, these flags reflecting Shiite Muslim symbols often dwarf the Iraqi flags next to them. The flags' flagrant presence not only rankles Iraqi Sunnis but the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters taking part in the assault, as well. Sunnis regard the flag display as having the practical effect of undermining the Iraqi government's message of national unity against Islamic State, serving instead to reinforces their long-held impression that they are not accepted in Iraq’s state and security structure.
|Photo: Andrea DiCenzo for The Wall Street Journal|
The Peshmerga as usual have borne the brunt of the confrontations with Islamic State, leading operations north and east of Mosul since Monday, while U.S. helicopter strikes give coverage to the Iraqi military, giving short shrift to the need of the Peshmerga for that same type of air cover. The Peshmerga fly the flag of their semiautonomous regional government on their vehicles. They consider that the use of the Shiite flag in lieu of flying only the Iraqi flag confrontational and divisive.
The brother of the Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani, Peshmerga Gen. Sihad Barzani, noted that in his opinion the Shiite Hussein flags represented a questionable omen for Iraq’s future. "That flag doesn’t represent the whole Iraqi people. The Iraqi flag is important because it represents everyone", whereas the flag being flown essentially indicates that the Iraqi army and the Shiite militias rule the enterprise, represent the totality of the opposition to Islamic State, and equate with the domination and conquest by Shia forces of Sunni interests.