Salafist Forces Square Off In Iraq

The sidelining of the more moderate Sunni tribes, who are not Salafist, by the Iraqi government has taken sinister form as Sunni leaders now accuse Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of deliberately letting Ramadi fall to the Sunni Salafist “Islamic State” in order to justify sending in the Iranian backed Shia Salafist militia groups under the Shia Salafist bannder of the Hashid Shaabi, or “Popular Mobilization Forces.”

Sheikh Ali Hammad, of Falluja in the Anbar province of told the Indian times, “They wanted to us reach this point. The people and the provincial council were forced to accept the entrance of the Hashid because they didn’t give weapons to the Sunnis,” he said.

“What has he done for us? Yes, he is different in style, and doesn’t talk in a sectarian way, but we haven’t seen anything concrete to conclude he is different from Maliki. Abadi doesn’t rule Baghdad; the militias rule.”

Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s current Prime Minister, replaced Nuri al-Maliki, who was overtly anti-Sunni and rather cozy with Iran’s Salafist Shia aims.

Abadi’s rhetoric is more conciliatory, but his actions seem calculated to play into the hands of Tehran’s Shia Salafist aims and worry the Sunnis, who oppose both the Salafism of the “Islamic State” (which is a Sunni brand of Salafism) and the Salafism of the Iran-backed Shia militias. (Salafism is the Jihadist and imperialistic version of Islam as a political movement.)

The new government had promised to arm the Sunni tribes, so that they could defend their own homes against the Salafist “Islamic State” fights, but this aid failed to materialize and the Sunni tribes remain under-armed or even unarmed in the face of this threat to their homes. The fact this is happening is enraging regional powers, such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Jordan, who see the fight for Iraq becoming a devil’s war between Shia versus Sunni Salafist forces.

While many in the West are talking about a Sunni-Shia “civil war” in the Middle East, this battle line exists mostly among different Salafist groups, which fight each other. The non-Salafist Shia and Sunni are not, in point of fact, “at war.” Increasingly, Iraq’s government is proving that it shares the Salafist agenda of Tehran and its opposition to the Islamic state is more sectarian than ideological, while among the moderate and non-Salafist elements, Shia and Sunni in Iraq, such a sectarian hostility is not a driving force.

In short, not only is the Iraqi government failing the Sunnis in general, but its support is going toward the more Salafist Shia and not the moderate Shia elements in their society.

For instance, most of the Kurds are Sunni with a minority being Shia, and yet the Iraqi government has withheld aid from both Shia and Sunni groups among the Kurds, primarily, it is alleged, because those groups are not Salafist in nature. Among the Kurds themselves there are not strong Sunni-Shia divisions and many Kurdish units include Sunni and Shia Muslims and even some Christians.

It should be clear that the fault lines in the Middle East is between Salafism, which is shared by both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and moderate Islam, which most Middle Eastern states promote. It is only among the Salafist that a Sectarian battle line is draw, although both the Shia and Sunni Salafist do wish to promote a general sectarian “civil war” in the Middle East and around the world.