“Baghdad’s Middle-Class Sunnis Say They Prefer Militants to Maliki”
The Washington Post, July 13, 2014, p.A8
“The Sunni worshipers who visit the main mosque in this relatively affluent neighborhood of west Baghdad are a far cry from Islamist extremists. ‘We are intellectuals,’ the mosque’s imam, Aday Moussa, said of a group that includes doctors, professors — and, especially, former members of Saddam Hussein’s army and security services. The worshipers and other Sunnis interviewed in Baghdad said they have little affinity for the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State that routed Iraqi forces last month and declared a ‘caliphate’ across a vast swath of the country. But as the militants take aim at Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, these educated, professional Sunnis leave no doubt that their sympathies lie with the insurgents. … Iraqi Sunnis span a wide spectrum, including rural tribal sheiks, violent jihadists, urban intellectuals and whiskey-swilling adherents to the old ruling Baath party. … But the militants’ sweep to power in Sunni-dominated provinces has been fueled to a significant degree by support from these other Sunnis. … Some Sunnis interviewed made clear that they despise the Islamic State militants but that their feelings about the group’s territorial gains are more complicated. ‘They are not Muslims,’’ said a Sunni heart surgeon in Yarmouk who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said he feared reprisals. ‘Their solution — to cut and to kill people — that’s not Islam.’ But the surgeon said that he agrees with the militants that Maliki’s government should be defeated — although he said he would prefer that it be at the hands of the Sunni tribesmen fighting alongside the extremists.”
Quickie Analysis: An estimated 85% of the fighters who have taken Iraqi cities and villages are an assortment of disaffected Iraqi Sunnis, not ISIS fighters. A marriage of convenience, to be sure, but a marriage supported not just by Iraqi Islamists, Baathists, and tribal leaders but by a broad swath of Sunnis who find the Maliki government a greater threat.