Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Will Liberated Areas in Iraq Become Incubators for ISIS? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo- Egyptian experts on Islamic movements have warned from a real tragedy in the regions liberated from ISIS especially in Iraq, where people suffer from severe neglect and lack of services. According to experts, extremism shown by Shi’ite militias creates extremism in other parties.

This warning answered a question raised by Asharq Al-Awsat on whether Iraqi liberated areas would become a new incubator for ISIS. In the same context, a research study conducted in Cairo said that some Shi’ite and Kurdish armed factions have controlled the regions liberated from ISIS, redrew their maps, and evacuated them from their majority of Sunni residents, foreshadowing a close sectarian discord among different components of the Iraqi people.

ISIS has witnessed daily losses in Iraq -the land of its so-called Caliphate- caused by the strikes of the international coalition and the Iraqi army. These losses devastated its dream of establishing a state and pushed many of its militants to escape war fires. Yet, experts who observe the Iraqi situation caution from future conflicts in the areas of Sunni majority recaptured recently from ISIS by the joint forces…these conflicts are expected to cause long-term tensions in the region.

*The anvil of ISIS and the hammer of revenge

Dr. Ibrahim Najm, consultant of the Egyptian Mufti told Asharq Al-Awsat that the expected discord among the different components of the Iraqi people could obstruct any real reconciliation among Iraqis.

In a report entitled “Iraqi Sunnis between Anvil of ISIS and Hammer of Vengeful Pursuits” prepared by the Observatory of Dar al-Iftaa, Najm said that some Kurds accuse Sunnis of supporting ISIS in the crimes it committed against Izidies. These accusations have prevented thousands of Sunnis who live in Iraqi villages from returning to their homes, which were devastated by the terrorist organization.

The report continued noting that developments in Iraq suggest the emergence of a future discord because Sunni people were not allowed to return to villages they share with Shi’ites despite their liberation from ISIS, as according to Shi’ite militias, those Sunnis are aligned with ISIS.

Dr. Elham Chahine, professor of ideology and philosophy in Cairo, agreed with Najm and considered that the fragmentation of the Iraqi political community into sectarian components is intended and some parties work continuously on achieving it.

She added that the discriminatory policy adopted over the last decade contributed to creating ISIS. Parties who promoted this discrimination will not allow the regions recaptured from ISIS to live in peace, they will rather constantly work on fragmenting it. Chahine pointed that the real disaster is in the governments in the liberated regions, which doesn’t have a program to contain people and compensate them for the damages they suffered from.

*Destruction of infrastructure

The professor said that areas suffer from severe neglect, lack of services, and wastes of infrastructure destruction along with the control of extremist Shi’ite factions supported by neighboring countries. Therefore, between the anvil of ISIS and the holocaust of Shi’ite militias, Sunnis of Iraq would prefer to join ISIS.

*Old tensions

The Egyptian report asserted that the reappearance of old tensions between Shi’ite extremists and Sunnis in Iraq will lead to the reemergence of ISIS amid news on ISIS cells infiltrating the liberated areas and targeting Shi’ites with car bombings.

Commenting on the return of ISIS to the liberated areas, Ahmad Zaghloul, expert researcher in Islamic movements said that this return can be determined by interior factors like the existence of supporters and the dominance of political factions and by exterior factors including the support of foreign parties benefitting from ISIS’ role. Other observers see that some Iraqis do not believe that their country will be able to get rid of the sectarian discord ever.

*Recruitment of youth

Zaghloul said that ISIS has maintained its recruitment for youth with different rates among different regions based on political circumstances.

According to Chahine, ISIS controlled many rich financial resources like foreign funding and captured oil fields, which allowed it to attract the Iraqi and Syrian youth who suffer from hard financial conditions.

As per the control of Shi’ite militias in the liberated areas of Iraq, Zaghloul said that it will be determined based on the power of these organizations and their capacities in imposing their maps. Therefore, the expert considered that the wise leaders in Iraq should rush to achieve an integral reconciliation aiming at unifying their country to avoid sectarian discord.