Tuesday, December 2, 2014

ISIS has brought Sunnis and Shiites together in Rare Alliance

Children walked around in unruly clusters here, wearing navy blue-and-white uniforms following the start late last month of a school year delayed by an Iraq once again at war.
Shoppers lingered to buy vegetables and live chickens at stalls at a busy public square, as a dozen uniformed Iraqi soldiers stationed at the entrance of the open-air market looked on.
For a city said to be under mortal threat from the extremists of Islamic State, there was no sign of fear or panic, owing to what residents and officials say is an emerging alliance in Abu Ghraib between Sunni Muslim tribal leaders, Shiite-controlled government forces and Shiite militia.
In a country torn by Sunni-Shiite antagonism, such cooperation is rare. For the Iraqi government, though, the partnership forged in Abu Ghraib provides a glimmer of optimism as its reeling security forces attempt to regroup and retake territory seized by Islamic State.
Shiite fighters are pictured in October during a patrol 
in Abu Ghraib district, west of Baghdad. Reuters
The apocalyptic, puritanical group has flourished with the toleration and support of Sunnis aggrieved over what they view as their loss of power at the hands of the Shiite-dominated administration in Baghdad.
But by taking steps immediately to remove sources of Sunni-Shiite friction on Abu Ghraib’s streets and avoid resorting to force, the Baghdad government and Abu Ghraib’s residents have coalesced — at least for now — into an effective barrier to further advances by Islamic State on Baghdad, 25 miles to the east.
“We have controlled the situation in a political way,” said Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, an official in the capital’s operation command center. “Our first mission is to protect Baghdad and that begins with the outskirts.”
For both sides, control of Abu Ghraib represents a high-stakes game. For the rebels, who have sought since May to establish a foothold in the city, it is a potential staging ground to launch attacks on the nearby capital. For Iraq’s security forces, Abu Ghraib is the linchpin of a buffer zone to protect Baghdad’s western flank from further encroachment by Islamic State forces, which have gained control of most of Anbar Province where it’s located.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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