This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, October 21, 2016

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
Newly displaced people wait to receive food supplies at a processing center for displaced people In Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq October 21, 2016
So far, only 'modest' numbers of people have fled Mosul, the UN says -- Reuters
Islamic State fighters have prodded, threatened and herded hundreds of Iraqi Sunni families out of their towns and villages on the Nineveh plain, on the eastern edge of Mosul, to walk the considerable lengths from their villages into the city of Mosul. This move transcends mere threats -- when civilians are seen to be on the verge of altering their allegiance to the Sunni caliphate they likely welcomed when two years earlier the Islamic State jihadis overran the area -- the threats turn to violence and killings. The United Nations is citing this forced march of civilians into Mosul as proof that ISIL refuses to permit families to flee the area to seek haven in territory now held by the Iraqi army.

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.

Iraq’s troops fly Shiite flags in Mosul fight against ISIS, stoking tensions
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.

A Shiite religious flag hangs on the front of an Iraqi army vehicle in Khazer, Iraq, on Monday.
A Shiite religious flag hangs on the front of an Iraqi army vehicle in Khazer, Iraq, on Monday. Photo: Andrea DiCenzo for The Wall Street Journal
Under the agreement conceded by the coalition and approved by the U.S., only Iraq’s military, Federal Police and Sunni tribal fighters were to enter the city of Mosul, while the Iranian-linked Shiite militias and allied armed groups such as Kurdish Peshmerga forces would remain on the outskirts to hold regained ground. Allowing the fiction that Mosul should remain in Iraq's possession, even while the Peshmerga see it as part of their autonomous region, and Turkey insists that the city must remain a majority Sunni enclave.

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.

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