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A Call to the Sunnis of Iraq - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is a fact that one must admit—the Sunnis do not rule Iraq; they are not the whole of Iraq but are a part of it; they are not the entire equation but only one of its factors. There is another fact that one has to admit, that is, the Sunni leadership in Iraq has been sidelined, has vanished and ceases to exist. The Sunni names and faces that we see and hear today are not leaders but an attempt to fill the Sunni leadership vacuum.

Unless Iraq’s Sunnis realize this reality, it will be difficult for them to influence the Iraqi political scene. The facts show that Saddam Hussein oppressed the Sunnis just as he did all sects in Iraq. He wronged them whilst in power and after his removal. History shows that before him, the Sunnis were the builders of modern Iraq under the monarchy, and the Shia were their partners.

After Saddam, the Sunnis were hijacked by Al Zarqawi, not of their own accord but through their failure to present an alternative. Today, and since one man’s loss is another man’s gain, the egotism of the incumbent Iraqi government has offered Iraqi Sunnis a chance to return to the political scene. But how?

Today, the Sunnis must search for moderate political leaders who believe in the right of all to peaceful coexistence in Iraq and who recognize that political action is a game that is governed by law and subject to alert and rational people rather than those who cry over spilt milk.

The truth of which Iraq’s Sunnis must be aware is that they have to seek new political alliances that build bridges with the Kurds and moderate Shia who believe in the Arabism of Iraq and the right to peaceful coexistence, as well as other Iraqi denominations. A new map of alliances must be drawn.

If the rational amongst the Sunnis do not act, the consequences would be even worse. The Sunnis who were Baathists for the sake of earning a living under the regime of Saddam Hussein will today become Baathists in pursuit of a protective identity. Though convinced by the American project, many Iraqis, particularly tribal leaders despise being dubbed as collaborators with the occupier and will seek an umbrella that gives them legitimacy and confutes their accusation of treason.

Consequently, if convinced of the Sunni danger and vehement desire to spoil their right to rule and unable to find a reasonable Sunni partner, those from the Shia who believe in the Arabism of Iraq will remain silent and patiently wait for the clouds to clear and this will not happen any time soon since sectarianism is now in the air that the Iraqis breathe, regardless of what is al Rubaie or al Maliki, who have both lost much, say.

Therefore, I say to the Sunnis of Iraq: You must be rational, pursue political action and seek partnership with the Kurds, Shia and others. You must acknowledge that there are nationalist Iraqi Shia who believe in the Arabism, unity and independence of Iraq. If there are those who incorrectly associate the Sunnis with Saddam, then others must not make the same mistake and associate Iraq’s Shia to Muqtada al Sadr.

For the Sunnis, the solution does not lie in the hands of Harith al Dari or al Mutlaq. It rather lies in the hands of the people who believe in political action and rising above differences. A call to the Sunnis of Iraq: Politics is alliances and interests. Everything else is empty slogans.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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