Brussels- 7 January 2016
Victory of Iraqi army and Sunni tribes in Ramadi
The need for extensive training and arming of Sunnis by U.S.
Although the battle for Ramadi and the Anbar Province has not been conclusively decided and heavy clashes continue, there is little doubt that the terrorist Daesh (ISIS) group has been dealt a crushing defeat in this region and the Iraqi army and the armed Sunni tribes have scored a great victory, especially in the city of Ramadi, capital of Anbar, liberating many districts of the city from the clutches of Daesh.
These battles proved the capability and potency of Sunni tribes that have been receiving U.S. training in the past year. Regrettably, however, these forces just number around 5,000 according to a spokesman for the U.S. forces, which falls far short of the number required. Political impediments, especially the influence of the Iranian regime, bar the growth of this potent force and prevent it from embracing all the Sunni factions in Iraq. This is despite the fact that recent assessments have concluded that the number of Sunni volunteers in Anbar available to fight Daesh could be greater than 100,000, but only if Sunnis are allowed to participate in central government and decision-making agencies in a meaningful way.
Drawing on the experience of the past year and a half -- especially in Salah ad-Din and Diyala provinces where the militias affiliated with the Iranian regime have replaced Daesh and invoked a fresh round of violence and slaughter against Sunnis – the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) highlights the following:
1. U.S. needs to train Iraqi Sunni tribes on a large scale in all regions of conflict; namely Ninawa, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, Diyala, Baghdad suburbs, and particularly in Anbar. Experience goes to show that the forces needed to liberate all these regions may be easily and quickly drawn from Sunni tribes.
2. There must be comprehensive national reconciliation and the inclusion of true representatives of the Sunnis in a meaningful and effective way in the Iraqi government and its agencies.
3. The administrative, security and political affairs of the liberated regions should be trusted to the Sunnis and the relevant tribes. The militias affiliated with the Iranian regime need to be barred from entering these regions; otherwise, the slaughter of people in liberated regions and the destruction of their property by the militias as has unfolded in Salah ad-Din, Diyala and Jurf al-Sakhar will simply repeat itself, fueling the Daesh recruiting machine.
4. International assistance to rebuild the liberated regions, the swift return of internally and externally displaced refugees and putting in place mechanisms by the United Nations and the international coalition to ensure the proper use of development aid.
5. EIFA calls on the European Union and Member States to increase their assistance for rebuilding these regions in the above framework with the necessary guarantees.
Struan Stevenson is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) He was a UK Conservative Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009-2014