IRAQ

Sunni Arabs Bemoan Rising Shiite Power Once ISIS Loses Mosul

Iran is expected to be the biggest winner once ISIS is defeated and Mosul returned to Iraqi control

IRAQ
Selfie time in front of a defaced ISIS flag — REUTERS
Jan 11, 2017 at 9:09 AM ET

The Iraqi city of Mosul is nearly vanquished and Sunni Arabs in the region see only a greater expansion of Shiite influence as the last remaining stronghold the Islamic State has in Iraq is obliterated. Since the U.S.-led war in Iraq ousted Saddam Hussein from power, the country has disintegrated into deadly conflict along sectarian lines. While Shiites, the majority that was oppressed and disenfranchised under Saddam command the political reins, Sunni Arabs have struggled to accept the reality that their privileged lives under Saddam are gone, and likely for good.

Much of the Sunni insurgency has been buoyed by Sunni Arab states in the region, who have funded and trained and equipped ISIS militants. The battle for Mosul has played out in social media as Sunnis online have issued calls to save Iraq from “the Iranian occupation.” Some have even expressed nostalgia for Saddam, one of Tehran’s foremost regional rivals for the decades he ruled Iraq.

The hashtag “Save the occupied Arab Iraq” () is trending across Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states in the Middle East, where people are voicing their fears over the growth of Iranian influence and Shiite hegemony in the region, warning that Iraq is losing its “Arab” identity.

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Iraqi forces are making significant advances in the battle for Mosul, purportedly having now reached the eastern bank of the Tigris river for the first time since the campaign to retake the city got underway last October.

Online, people worried that “Iraq will turn into an Iranian state that takes its orders from the ruling clerics in Tehran.” Another commented that the Iraqi national army had become an Iranian militia, since its ranks are filled with former Shiite militiamen, and Sunnis have largely been kept out of the security forces which are run by Shiite politicians.

Saddam is remembered by many as a bitter enemy of Iran and is still considered a hero. Online, one person wrote that the “noble Saddam” would have protected Iraq from its Shiite neighbors. “He died, and Iran raised its voice, wrote another.  “Iraq needs someone like Saddam, may God curse the Shiites,” said one.

Former officers in Saddam’s military and members of his political Baath Party were a powerful factor in the rise and success of the Islamic State. Many still retain leadership roles in the terror organization, which has sought to destabilize the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad for years.

Translation: We must finish what he started #SaveTheOccupiedArabIraq