Sunnis versus Shiites


At a time when one of the Iranian Imams in Tehran called upon his people to consume less food so that the Iraqis would, with Iran’s support, free their land and get rid of the so called Islamic State (IS), Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command, admitted that a US official revealed the Iraqis plans to retake Mosul.

The US military official who declined to be named told Centcom that the initial attack on Mosul would involve five Iraqi army brigades, each of which would include roughly 2,000 troops. Three smaller Iraqi Army brigades would be used as a reserve force, and three Kurdish Peshmerga brigades would “help contain from the north and isolate from the west.” To make it worse, the US military official said, the plans called for creating a “Mosul fighting force”, comprised mostly of the city’s former police officers. The Centcom official said that the battle could begin as early as April or May.

The news came as a surprise to officials in Baghdad who found out that their military plans were simply sent through newswires all over the globe. In return, the Iraqi security forces, backed by a combustible mix of Shiite militias, Sunni tribes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and Iranian advisors, launched an operation mid this week (Monday morning, March 2), to retake Tikrit from IS…but this time without briefing the US officials.

Currently, the Iraqi government, on one hand, is fighting IS without briefing or rather cooperating and taking US permission. Egypt is also going through the same process; fighting IS in Libya without US permission.

Does that tell us anything….not exactly .Consider that, Washington managed to split a fairly good number of Arab states with the help of IS or the Shiite militia… there are two governments in Libya (one in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk), and in Yemen there is also a government in Aden and the other in Sanaa, Iraq has an official government in Baghdad and IS leads the second in Anbar, which is also the case in Syria. Moreover, other Arab states, which are not divided as yet, are busy fighting Jihadists which is the case in Egypt, Algeria and Tunis. Meanwhile, the Gulf states are also busy supporting those fighting radical Islamists and at the same time financing the very same radicals.

Furthermore, the US administration which failed to pursue its cooperation with the Muslim Brothers to encourage the Jihadists to relocate and get out of Kabul to the Arab capitals, is now trumping its final card. On one hand, Washington is negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran which is the leader of Shiite Muslims and on the other hand working with the Saudis, the leader of the Sunnis, to establish an anti- Shiite alliance under the Turkish umbrella. Thus, the region will have two major blocs fighting each other for the US to maintain its influence without sending any US boots to the Middle East.

The Democrats’ administration has two more years in office, but it is not willing to waste more time in the Middle East. If Arabs understood anything of the futile 2000 air attacks led by the US against IS, then they should reconsider their cooperation with Washington and start thinking on their own and it is the right time…if there is a will among Arabs to fight IS, then this is the right time… If they are not willing to divide the region on sectarian basis (Sunnis and Shiites), then this is the right time… and if they are willing to build their future then it is their final chance to do so.

Mervat Diab is Assistant Editor-In-Chief of Al-Ahram newspaper.