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Iraq Rebels Gain Support by Handing Control of Seized Lands to Local Tribes

By Omar Ali 2/7/2014
Jihadi Sunni fighters who are in control of large parts of Iraq. Photo: AFP
Jihadi Sunni fighters who are in control of large parts of Iraq. Photo: AFP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Jihadi-led insurgents who have taken over large parts of Iraq’s disgruntled Sunni lands have handed over administration and security to local tribes and people, returning life to normal in some “liberated” regions.

Tribal leaders in areas seized by the insurgents, which include the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and remnants of late dictator Saddam Hussein’s military, have issued calls for volunteers to join militias that are taking over security in areas where Iraqi government forces have been pushed out.

Meanwhile, local councils have emerged to take over administration, as the rebels call on government employees to return to their jobs and try to restore public services such as water and electricity.

“The rebels have handed over management of the liberated provinces to its people,” confirmed Khodeir Morshedi, secretary-general of the National Islamic Front, which opposes the Iraqi government and includes the Baath party and local Islamic and jihadi forces.

“The local managers in those cities were chosen after lengthy meetings,” he said, adding that the rebels had gained local sympathies by liberating lands and handing control to the people themselves.

Since the axis of Baathist and Islamist forces joined hands three weeks ago and began a military push that has seen the Iraqi army largely collapse, the rebels have gained control over all of Anbar province – Iraq’s largest – as well as areas in Nineveh, Salahaddin, Diyala and Kirkuk.

Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, one of the main tribal leaders in Anbar, said that local councils had taken over in the Nineveh capital of Mosul and captured regions in Salahaddin. Councils also would soon be announced in the rest of the areas under rebel control, said Suleiman, who is from the Dualaimi tribe in Ramadi, Anbar’s capital.

"Leaders of tribes that have joined the rebellion have called on their men to volunteer for security forces in the liberated cities, in order to protect the people, their properties and the gains of the revolution,” he said.

“The various armed groups that are fighting in the rebellion have clear goals for their military operations: they attack the Iraqi army, push them out of cities, then hand over control to local administrations, which deal with the affairs of the people and attend to their needs,” Suleiman explained to Rudaw.

“This was amply demonstrated in Mosul, when they immediately formed a local administration and appointed a governor for Nineveh,” he said.

Fallujah and other cities of Anbar, such as Rutbah, Qaim, and Haditha are reportedly under tribal control. The rebels have also called on government employees to return to their jobs.

“Before returning to work as a traffic police I was worried about the Iraqi prime minister’s statement, in which he said that government employees in cities not under government control would not be paid,” said Huzaifa Ahmed, who lives in Fallujah.

“But frankly, I was also surprised when the rebel tribes told us of their intention to pay salaries to all employees next month, without depending on the Iraqi government,” Ahmed added.

Iraq’s beleaguered Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose alleged one-sided policies in favor of the ruling majority Shiites is blamed for alienating the Sunnis and Kurds and igniting the insurgent juggernaut now threatening to split Iraq into three parts, has claimed time and again that the rebels are incapable of administering cities they have captured.

There have also been accusations, including by international human rights watchdogs, of attacks against minorities such as Christians and mass executions of captured army soldiers. The rebels have also been accused of imposing harsh Islamic laws in seized regions.

But residents have clearly been telling a different story. That is because there are many forces involved in the Iraq turmoil, the most potent of which appears to be the partnership among the Baathists and Islamists. All of the fighting in Iraq is not being done by a single, united force.

“If I was not an employee in a governmental department I would be the first to volunteer and join the tribal rebels,” said Waleed Khaled, a 38-year-old health department employee in Fallujah, who is back at work.

"Tribal rebels in Fallujah announced through mosque loudspeakers that all employees had to return to their jobs. The rebels gave the employees a deadline of three days to comply before getting permanently sacked," he explained.

Sheikh Qasim Karbouli, a tribal leader in Anbar, told Rudaw that in city of Qaim, “The livelihood of the people has been restored and they have begun cooperating with the tribes on security cells to protect the city.”

"Things have moved quickly. We have begun with securing the most important services that immediately impact the lives of people,” he explained. “Employees at health, electricity and water services were called back to work, and now there are discussions to appoint administrative staff.”


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Basam | 2/7/2014
Zenava mere
FAUthman | 2/7/2014
Whwere would the funding for these local councils be coming from? Five governorates whose economies have been almost totally dependent on Baghdad, will no longer be receiving any Federal Budget payments. If you are counting on the tribal leaders turning against the Baathis and the ISIS, as in the Petraeus "Awakening", forget it. Count the number of cities this insugency now controls and ask what does it take to clear them in house to house combat when the insurgents blend with the locals and you cant tell friend from foe. Iraqi troops on the ground cant do it and air power will simply destroy these cities with little beneficial results. Most likely, however, the fighting will not come to Baghdad, not any time soon. The Baathis would not take that chance yet. What to do then?, first replace Maliki, secure the borders, then examine your options towrds greater autonomy for the insurgent territories with incentives such as a guaranteed share of Federal revenues. This is tragic and it can become a lot worse. The UN Security Council needs to meet on Iraq soon.
yek K. | 2/7/2014
I doubt that ISIL is an ordinary terrorist organization. How they work and rule is extremly professional. Here we see the perfect use of divide and conquer. It wont be easy to separate those two.
Gerdi | 2/7/2014
Kurdistan should act as an economic life line to these tribal areas in exchange for a deal that they keep ISIL from attacking Kurdish held areas, Kurdistan would strength the Sunni state, breaking Baghdad's back and even make money in the process, just as Turkey both helping Kurds against Baghdad and making money in the process.
Gerdi | 2/7/2014
Malaki gave a limited amnesty to those tribes that 'don't have blood on their hands', it seems IS is one step ahead of him, not to mention no one trusts Malaki

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