Some Iraqi Sunnis making common cause with ISIS

While some in the Iraqi Sunni community are apparently backing the Shia government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, others have had enough of the persecution, the slights, and the discrimination of Shias and are joining the ISIS terrorists in fighting the regime.

Andrew Slater writing at the Daily Beast:

Though ISIS is known for its brutal rule in Syria, many residents of the Iraqi city it just captured are so hostile to the Shia-led government in Baghdad, they have welcomed the group.

As life returns to an uneasy version of normal in Mosul, the response from local residents to the city’s capture by ISIS, a radical Islamist group, has been surprisingly positive. Multiple Sunni residents inside Mosul who spoke with The Daily Beast by phone reported being glad to be rid of the predominantly Shia government security forces, and so far pleased with life under the ISIS occupation. That may change soon if ISIS begins to rule with the brutality they have displayed in Syria, but by keeping the residents of Mosul happy for now ISIS is buying time to increase its power and local support, which will make things even harder for the Baghdad government if it tries to take the city back.

In response to the recent news from Mosul, an Iraqi citizen recalled the story of a friend from Diyala Province. “He told me, ‘It was the same for us in 2007. We were very happy when ISIS took over the area and drove the Iraq Army out and at first they behaved very well. It was only after a month that they started killing us.’”

One sign of local support for ISIS in Mosul is that many Sunni families who fled the initial fighting are streaming back into the city and, according to sources there, are happy to see the Iraqi Army gone. 

The city is quiet for now and no fighting is heard anywhere, sources inside Mosul tell The Daily Beast. ISIS fighters have dismantled the checkpoints and dividing walls that had become symbols of Baghdad’s oppression to the residents, while ISIS fighters were conspicuously avoiding the abuse of civilians that has become their hallmark inside Syria. This may be due to the fact that most of the rank and file of the ISIS forces inside Mosul, by the reports of numerous sources, are natives—young Sunni Arab residents of the city. Sources inside Mosul believe the ISIS forces are native based on their accents and the fact that the fighters cover their faces to conceal their identities. The local character of so many ISIS units may help account for both their current popularity with residents and the ease with which they navigated Mosul’s neighborhoods to rout Iraqi security forces.

It appears that there is a Sunni coalition with ISIS as a prominent, perhaps dominating member who are now engaged in a civil war with Shias:

It is clear that a coalition of Sunni Arab groups has come together to build this offensive led by ISIS, some of them strange bedfellows. Sunni leaders with contacts in Mosul have been keen to stress the grassroots Iraqi nature of this movement, yet it is clear that all forces in this Sunni rebellion—which includes both nationalist and Islamist elements—have accepted the ISIS banner, its rules, and its leadership.

Mosul is swirling with rumors about the presence in Iraq of Izzat Al-Duri, Saddam Hussein’s former vice president and current head of the exiled Ba’athist party, as the new authorities in Mosul are filled with old Ba’athist faces. How long this opportunistic alliance of former Ba’athist, Islamists, and Sunni nationalists can hold together is uncertain, but the prospects for the return of Mosul to the rest of Iraq without a terrible cost seem grim.

A return of the Ba'athists - if only to rule in a Sunni caliphate encompassing northern Iraq and parts of Syia - would be the crowning ignominy of the Obama administration who did precious little to maintain the relatively stable Iraq that was bequeathed him by George Bush.