ISIS Collects Tributes From Sunni Tribes Now Under Its Control

Prominent tribes have been declaring allegiance to ISIS as the group's dominance spreads

Jun 10, 2015 at 1:06 PM ET

One of the key ways that both the White House and the Iraqi government hopes will lead to the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria involves bringing the Sunni community on board to join the fight. But the images released this week by ISIS of Sunni tribes in various provinces pledging allegiance to the group will send a blow to that strategy. 

On Monday, ISIS released images of tribes from Salah e-Din province, north of Baghdad, paying tribute to the group, followed Tuesday by images out of Syria, and a similar ceremony occurring in Furat province, the land that straddles both Syria and Iraq. There, more Sunni leaders also showed their support. Together the tributes join others from recent weeks in both Dijle province in northern Iraq, and sheikhs from Anbar province, after ISIS captured the capital city of Ramadi.

The pledges, whether performed under duress or not, are a significant reflection of the divisions within the Sunni community and its concerns over which governing authority – be it the central government in Baghdad, or a radical Islamist group – is a better ally for them.

One of the biggest obstacles to routing groups like ISIS from Iraq has been the isolation and disenfranchisement of the Sunni population, which began once the majority Shiite population took control of the central government after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Sunnis, once the ruling class in Iraq, were ousted from influential positions in the military and in government. The community has struggled to accept its minority stake in the new Iraq. Sunni insurgents have launched attacks in a bid to destabilize and disrupt progress. Past Iraqi leaders including Nouri al-Maliki who was heavily sectarian, did little to stem the displacement of Sunnis from their homes in Baghdad to provinces such as Anbar, and prevented Sunnis from joining the security forces, despite the appeals of the U.S. military.

Currently Shiite militias line the border of Anbar, fighting alongside Iraqi security forces to take back Ramadi. But along with whatever reprisals exist for Sunnis under ISIS control, there is significant fear of retaliation by those militias, with recent images circulated on social media.

Translation: Tribal leaders pledgeallegiance to ISIS in Fallujah (at the front is an Iraqi military officer awaiting execution).

Translation: All the Sunni tribes in Iraq pledged allegiance to ISIS. After 12 years they understood they don’t have nobody but the Islamic State.

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