Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi oppositions forces met Wednesday in the Jordanian capital to debate solutions to Iraq’s growing political and security crises, according to sources who attended the conference.
Delegates at the meeting in Amman called for “the unification of efforts and positions towards the events in Iraq” and demanded support for “the revolution of the Iraqi people against injustice” committed by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s government.
The head of the tribal coordination committee, Ra’ad Abdul Sattar Al-Suleiman, said: “All sides attending the meeting have emphasized the unity of Iraq and their rejection of partition.”
He said over 250 Iraqi opposition figures were in attendance at the conference, representing at least 11 opposition factions including anti-government military councils, tribes, and former military and Ba’ath party leaders of the Saddam era.
These groups have been protesting Maliki’s government, which has been widely criticized at home and abroad for policies seen to favor Maliki’s own Shi’ite sect over other sects and ethnic groups.
That political crisis has taken on an extra dimension with the sudden and rapid advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in May. That group has taken control of large swathes of northern Iraq and declared its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the head of an “Islamic state” in the territories it holds in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Some Sunni rebels have fought alongside ISIS, a Sunni militant group, although most have been quick to emphasize they have no formal ties or allegiances with the terrorist organization.
A senior figure in the powerful Shammar tribe, Waddah Malik Al-Sadid, indicated that the conference itself “has no ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
He said the delegates were comprised of those opposed to Maliki his Iranian backers, and that only Sunni tribes that had not been involved in the post-Saddam political process had been invited to attend.
According to Suleiman, delegates considered establishing a semi-autonomous Sunni region in Iraq to help address the political aspect of the crisis, but the idea was quickly rejected.
Some observers in Iraq and abroad have suggested that creating a number of semi-autonomous regions modelled on the northern Kurdistan Region, which gained autonomy after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Having protected cities and towns including Kirkuk, as well as vital oil installations, from ISIS’s advance, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil has now announced plans to hold a public referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.
Speaking about the issue of Kurdish independence and its effects on the Sunni uprising, Suleiman described the Sunnis’ relationship with the Kurds as “strategic,” because the Kurds have “also suffered from Maliki’s unjust policies.”
Sadid also stressed that the conference did not intend to “consolidate sectarianism” or promote the “partition of Iraq.”
The anonymous opposition source said Wednesday’s conference in Amman had laid ground for a more comprehensive meeting after the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset.
Organizers are anticipating that representatives of a greater number of political and military opposition groups will be present at that conference.