Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—A prominent Anbar tribal chief has denied that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is responsible for the recent unrest in Iraq, portraying the situation as a “tribal revolution” against the government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, in comment that contradicted the prevailing narrative about what is happening in the country.
“It is the tribal rebels who are in control of the situation in Mosul. It is not reasonable to say that a group like ISIS, which has a small number of men and vehicles, could be in control of a large city like Mosul. Therefore, it is clear that this is a tribal revolution, but the government is trying to force us all to wear the robe of the terrorists and ISIS,” Ali Hatim Al-Suleiman told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Suleiman is emir of the Dulaim tribe, which with over 3 million members is one of the largest Arab tribes in Iraq. Its members are predominately located in the western province of Anbar, the scene of fighting between ISIS militants supported by some Sunni tribes and government forces since December last year. He affirmed that a number of Arab Sunni tribes, including his own, are fighting against the Baghdad government.
“The time for political solutions has passed. We will not permit a political solution. Maliki has used all his strength against the Iraqi people . . . So how can there be a political solution? The only solution is Maliki’s ouster.
“When we get rid of the government, we will be in charge of the security file in the regions, and then our objective will be to expel terrorism—the terrorism of the government and that of ISIS,” Suleiman said.
But according to media reports, government statements and eyewitness accounts, ISIS took over Mosul on Tuesday of last week, before seizing Tikrit on Wednesday and advancing into the northern towns of Jalula and Saadia on Thursday and Friday. Most recently, they took over the northern Turkmen town of Tal Afar. The Islamist group has pledged to march on the capital Baghdad, with Shi’ite militia forces reinforcing Iraqi army positions today amid fears of a sectarian civil war breaking out in Iraq.
ISIS has claimed to have executed thousands of people, mostly Iraqi soldiers and members of minority groups. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the “recent upsurge of violence in Iraq at the hands of terrorist groups including” ISIS, a spokesman said earlier this week. “Reports of mass summary executions by [ISIS] are deeply disturbing and underscore the urgency of bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to justice,” the statement added.
Division is the best solution to what is happening in Iraq, Suleiman told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters towards the capital Baghdad is part of a popular Sunni uprising against the central government.
“The revolution does not belong to anyone, but the tribal revolutionaries are the masters of the scene. Iraq is heading towards partition. There are two choices; either Iraq becomes a sea of blood, or each community rules itself. Central government is not the solution. We do not want an Iraq that fails to respect our dignity and religion,” he said.
He added that special “military committees” have been formed to “organize” the revolution. “These committees are located in the provinces of Anbar, Baghdad, Nineveh, Salah Al-Din and Diyala. They are under the joint command of tribal leaders and former army leadership.