Involving Iranian-affiliated Shia militias in the fight for Ramadi is a Recipe for Disaster

Iran is exploiting the crisis in Iraq to expand its power

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) is deeply concerned at the fall of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, to the terrorist ISIS jihadis and we reiterate that the only way this tragedy could have been averted was by involving the genuine participation of the Sunni tribes in Iraq’s political process. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must listen to reason. The Sunni tribes rose up to expel al-Qaeda from Iraq during the insurgency and they can be motivated and mobilized once more to fight against the brutal ISIS terrorists, but only if they are trusted and armed by the Iraqi government, rather than sidelined and left to suffer at the hands of the murdering Iranian-led Shiia militias.

As victims of ISIS, the Sunni tribes are the only viable force able to confront the terrorists politically, socially and militarily. However the Iranian regime and its proxies in Iraq have not allowed them either to be armed or to participate in the political process. The presence of the Iranian Defence Minister in Iraq following the fall of Ramadi and the USA’s consent for the involvement of the Iranian-led Shiia militias in the battle to recapture the predominantly Sunni Anbar Province, have once again pushed Iraq to the brink of a sectarian catastrophe. Sunnis are being offered the deadly choice between the barbaric Islamic State (ISIS) or the ruthless Shiia militias, both of whom have murdered, raped and brutalized their communities. 

To overcome the current crisis and to defeat ISIS, Prime Minister al-Abadi must cut himself free from the influence of Tehran. By doing so he will gain the support of both the Iraqi people and the international community. He must immediately restore real Sunni participation in the Iraqi political process, including those Sunni tribes who fought against his discredited and corrupt predecessor Nouri al-Maliki. Abadi must also welcome back those Sunni leaders such as former vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, who was forced to flee from Iraq by Maliki.

Abadi must also arm the Sunni tribes with heavy and semi-heavy weapons to enable them to fight ISIS effectively under the command of coalition forces and he must cleanse the Iraqi government and the military and security agencies of all agents of the Iranian regime, as well as expelling all Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their associated militias from Iraq. Only in this way can Iraqi sovereignty be restored and ISIS driven from the country.

Struan Stevenson

Struan Stevenson is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009-2014.