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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Iraq and U.S. Find Some Potential Sunni Allies Have Already Been Lost.......

BAGHDAD — When the militants of the Islamic State entered the Sunni Arab area of Al Alam, they gave its tribal leaders a message of reconciliation: We are here to defend you and all the Sunnis, they said, so join us.
But after a group of angry residents sneaked out one night, burned the jihadists’ black banners and raised Iraqi flags, the response was swift.
“They started blowing up the houses of tribal leaders and those who were in the security forces,” Laith al-Jubouri, a local official, said. Since then, the jihadists have demolished dozens of homes and kidnapped more than 100 residents, he said. The captives’ fates remain unknown.
In the Islamic State’s rapid consolidation of the Sunni parts of Iraq and Syria, the jihadists have used a double-pronged strategy to gain the obedience of Sunni tribes. While using their abundant cash and arms to entice tribal leaders to join their self-declared caliphate, the jihadists have also eliminated potential foes, hunting down soldiers, police officers, government officials and anyone who once cooperated with the United States as it battled Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Now, as the United States and the Iraqi government urgently seek to enlist the Sunni tribes to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, they are struggling to undo the militants’ success in co-opting or conquering the majority of them.
Officials admit little success in wooing new Sunni allies, beyond their fitful efforts to arm and supply the tribes who were already fighting the Islamic State — and mostly losing. So far, distrust of the Baghdad government’s intentions and its ability to protect the tribes has won out.
“There is an opportunity for the government to work with the tribes, but the facts on the ground are that ISIS has infiltrated these communities and depleted their ability to go against it,” said Ahmed Ali, an Iraq analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. “Time is not on the Iraqi government’s side.”
Much of the Islamic State’s success at holding Sunni areas comes from its deft manipulation of tribal dynamics. Portraying itself as a defender of Sunnis who for years have been abused by Iraq’s Shiite-majority government, the Islamic State has offered cash and arms to tribal leaders and fighters, often allowing them local autonomy as long as they remain loyal.
At the same time, as it has expanded into new towns, the Islamic State has immediately identified potential government supporters for death. Residents of areas overrun by the Islamic State say its fighters often carry names of soldiers and police officers. If those people have already fled, the jihadists blow up their homes to make sure they do not return. At checkpoints, its men sometimes run names through computerized databases, dragging off those who have worked for the government.
“They come in with a list of names and are more organized than state intelligence,” said Sheikh Naim al-Gaood, a leader of the Albu Nimr tribe.

The most brutal treatment is often of tribes who cooperated with the United States against Al Qaeda in Iraq in past years, mostly through the so-calledSunni Awakening movement supported by the Americans.
The Albu Nimr tribe, an important part of the Awakening effort, has been among the hardest hit. The Islamic State, since seizing the area of Hit in Anbar Province last month, has slaughtered hundreds from the tribe.
The Islamic State’s propaganda operation has emphasized those tactics, warning Sunnis that they are either with the group or against it. Its videos show fighters sharing meals with “loyal” tribal sheikhs and gunning down former soldiers.
“What did the Sunnis get from joining that army other than apostasy from God’s religion, the destruction of their homes and the cutting off of their heads?” asked Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s spokesman, in a recent audio message. “Rally around the mujahedeen, O Sunnis of the Levant, and stop your sons from joining the army and the Awakening councils.”
Elements of the Awakening councils remain, and pro-government tribes are fighting alongside the army on a few fronts, though all say they lack support.