The Author

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003. he, along with the former republican guards, vowed to make life impossible for the next government along with the general public in every day life. An insurgency was under way that was to foment sectarianism among Shias and Sunnis, coupled with discrediting George W. Bush’s war in Iraq as one of the biggest blunders in modern history. Shia death squads sort revenge against Sunnis under the guise of ‘Hunting the Baathists’ in a form of collective punishment. With scores to settle, memories of their revolts crushed by Saddam in 1991 and 1999, not to mention the murder of their revered Ayatollahs such as Mohammed Baqr Al Sadr and later on his cousin Mohammed Sadiq al Sadr.

The Sunnis were frightened and bewildered as to how their status had plunged. They were shocked to find that they had only made up one fifth of the total population in Iraq. While the Shias (Who made up almost three fifth of the total population) reveled in the fact that they were able to manipulate the quotas for parliamentary seats to consolidate power, the Sunnis were having none of it, prompting a boycott of the first national elections and an all out insurgency, up and down the country.

In February 2006, Sunni insurgents blew up Al-Askaria Shrine, a holy site in Shia Islam. This sparked a full scale civil war. What started off as ad-hoc attacks between Sunni insurgents and Shia militias, had turned into wholesale ethnic cleansing and daily massacres. When Saddam was tried and executed, his execution took place on the Sunni day of Eid (a Muslim festival, one day before the Shia festival of Eid). Although most Sunnis didn’t sympathize with Saddam, they felt that this was a symbol of Sunni defeat. But after 18 months, the civil war had tailed off, mainly due to exhaustion. By the 2010parliamentary elections, the Sunnis finally realized that they would have to adjust to life and compromise. They voted for a secular Shia candidate by the name of Ayad Allawi, a man popular in the Sunni provinces because of his hardened views against Iran. He won the elections by a small margin, but the incumbent, Nouri Al-Maliki, a conservative Shia Muslim, favored by Iran, managed to stay in power, after ten months of negotiations to form a coalition. Once again the Sunnis found themselves marginalised.

By the year 2014, the Syrian Civil war was in full swing. Bashar Al-Assad’s Allawite Shia minority, ruling government against the Sunni rebels (Sunnis accounted for over 63% the majority of the population). The rebel group had mutated over four years, from a secular SFA (Syrian Free Army), to ISIS (Islamic state of Iraq and Syria). by this time, they were at the back foot, sustaining losses in Syria, they had then turned their attention to the disgruntled Sunni population of Iraq.  As ISIS swept through one Sunni province after another, they were homing in on Baghdad and Irbil in the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government). Then came foreign intervention, through air strikes, led by the United States, in helping the Shia militias to take back provinces they had lost. It was later revealed, that the top ISIS commanders and Brigadiers were former Baathist members in Saddam’s army. Although  Baathism was a nationalist socialist ideology, that didn’t appeal to the masses as it once did. Pan Islamism was the new flavour that was the driving force behind the spectacular successes in Iraq and Syria.

But what now for the Sunnis of Iraq? ISIS is still fighting, they have made little success in Iraq, which Iran is determined to keep as a satellite state, while making major gains in Syria, which has drawn in Russian ‘boots on the ground’. It doesn’t look like the world is willing to let either Baghdad or Damascus to fall in the hands of ISIS. It’s safe to say that this is a proxy war between the powers that be. But ISIS is a thorn in the eyes of the United States, Western allies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other gulf states. Since their goal is to break the Shia crescent (of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran). ISIS may be around for the foreseeable future, but with no support for a ‘Sunnified’ Iraq, the Sunnis may have to wait a long while before they can retake Baghdad and reverse their fortunes. After all, the Shias waited 400years before they did the same, when the Sunni Ottoman was invaded by Persian soldiers serving the Shia Safavid empire in Iran in 1501 AD. That war resurfaced during the mid 1600s. Unfortunately for the Sunnis of Iraq times have changed, Turkey of today is not interested in helping the Sunnis, they are only interested in fending off  Kurdish terrorist groups such as the PKK (Kurdish workers party) and it’s sister group, the YPG. Furthermore they have good ties with the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party), the ruling party of the Kurdish regional autonomous government, in northern Iraq. Even if that was to change, at worst, Turkish troops may roll in their tanks to their capital Irbil, maybe even the disputed and volatile, oil rich city of Kirkuk, but to Baghdad or even the southern port city of Basra?  Only in a Sunni pipe dream.

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Article by Orim Shimshon

Orim Shimshon is an Iraqi non-Jew who covers stories in Israel and the UK. He has witnessed the true nature of Israel first-hand and his mission is to share his experiences with the world.