This is a great report from NIQASH on the attitude among non-Daesh Sunni factions in Iraq, who seem to have mostly had enough of the “Islamic State” but haven’t seen nearly enough out of the Abadi government for them to start working with Baghdad:
“We are against the acts of the hardline Islamic State. And we are also against bombed cars exploding randomly in Baghdad,” Abu Samir al-Jumaili, one of the Mujahideen Army’s leaders in the Anbar province, told NIQASH. “However we are also opposed to the government’s sectarian policies against Sunnis.”
Al-Jumaili explained that groups like his are trapped between two difficult choices: support the IS group, or support the Shiite-led government. Which is why groups like his are remaining relatively quiet and staying as neutral as they can.
“Our Sunni cities have been destroyed because of the IS group and because of the government,” al-Jumaili said. “We want to rebuild them and our lives but this is complicated. In 2006 we cooperated with the government to expel Al Qaeda from Sunni cities but the government did not keep its end of the bargain. They chased our leaders and arrested us. However the issue of allying ourselves with the IS group is out of the question too, as we are all opposed to them.”
These Sunni groups are the key to dislodging and removing Daesh from Iraq, but they don’t have the muscle to get rid of Daesh on their own. The only way the operation will work is if Baghdad can demonstrate to Sunnis that the Maliki days are over and a representative national government, working on behalf of all Iraqis, has been put in place. That means not bombing civilian areas inside the Daesh-controlled parts of the country, even if in the short term that gives Daesh a boost. It means calling off Shiʿa militias whose presence alongside the army only exacerbates Sunni concerns, even though those militias aren’t beholden to Baghdad and it might take some convincing to get them to back off. It may mean promising Iraq’s Sunni Arabs some measure of autonomy from Baghdad, though that’s an empty promise right now and there would be no reason for the Sunnis to believe it yet.