Sunnis of Iraq, between reason and fanaticism

In Iraq, one can hear all sorts of voices, from extreme views of reason to extreme fanaticism

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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In Iraq, one can hear all sorts of voices, from extreme views of reason to extreme fanaticism. There are also those who call for reconciliation and those who call for dividing the country. This is because Iraq is in a state of war and on the verge of a larger war that we can only hope will not erupt.

We all blame Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki because he’s the one behind this chaos and strife and is pushing the country into an abyss that it may not be able to climb back out of for the next 20 years. Maliki is also pushing his government to fail, like those of Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Most of the countries in the region will not accept that Iraq be governed by extremist or terrorist groups

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Wise politicians and religious and social leaders in the country realize the danger of this terrifying fate. However, some people cannot understand the dimensions of the problem and its impact on the future. These people include some Arab Iraqi Sunnis who have suddenly appeared on television channels laying out their conditions, making threats and rejecting the preliminary ideas of reconciliation. They resemble extremist Shiites in their ignorance of the depth and gravity of the crisis. Also, they don’t represent the large majority of Iraqis who want a country that represents them all and grants them what they’ve been deprived of for 30 years due to wars and bad governance. During Maliki’s eight years in power, most Shiites got nothing but poverty and only a few became very rich.

Raising demands

Meanwhile among the Sunnis, the people of reason raise demands that serve the interests of all Iraqis and form the basis for reconciliation and for establishing a fair state. Most of their demands seek a new beginning that would be marked by releasing detainees, abolishing the law of “Uprooting the Baath,” and respecting the right of all Iraqi political parties to participate in a government. These were most of the demands of the protesters in Anbar six months ago, protesters which Maliki pursued and tried to eliminate under the false accusation of terrorism.

The Sunnis who are making statements outside of this context are like their extremist Shiite counterparts. They aim to sabotage the reconciliation process and spark chaos in a bid to take over the country. One of them has said that all Arab Sunnis who were engaged in the political process such as former ministers, members of parliament and provincial governors do not represent Sunni rebels today! It’s clear he wants to eliminate Sunni representatives to fulfill personal aims. Those who boycotted the political process over the past eight years are to blame for neglecting the rights of their people. The absence of Arab Sunnis’ participation is the reason behind the weakness of the state and the domination of Maliki and his comrades, and not the other way around.

Chaos and destruction

When extremists threaten chaos and destruction, they are harming their people in Sunni provinces who are suffering more than others. Sunni extremists, as well as Shiite extremists, must see beyond the end of their noses and realize the political fact that they will not find one Sunni state - or any other state - that will support them if they decide to sabotage reconciliation, or if they push towards toppling the political regime instead of reforming it, or if they decide to divide the country. Most of the countries in the region reject the division of Iraq despite their disagreements over what is happening and they will not accept that the country be governed by extremist or terrorist groups.

Those defending the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria must be aware that they are confronting the entire world; mainly Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, the United States, Europe and Russia. It’s impossible for extremists to defeat this international consensus.

What Anbar protesters called for last December was mostly fair and deserves to be supported. Their demands have been widely supported by Iraqi Shiites, the Kurds and Sunni leaders and have put Maliki in a difficult position. The people of Anbar drove Iraqi and international public opinion against Maliki’s failed government, which was willing to sabotage Iraq in order to survive. This is why Sunnis must not let extremists hijack their revolution, their demands or their minds, now that they’ve come close to achieving the justice they have long demanded.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 1, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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