Who represents Iraq’s Sunnis? Iraqis have not answered this incredibly sensitive question. The danger of being unable to clearly answer this question is directly related to the war on the Islamic State (IS), as well as the efforts of the Iraqi government, US troops and the international community to support the fighters tasked with liberating Sunni areas from IS control.
In late October 2014, US Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his country seeks to expand its training mission in Iraq to include Arab tribes in Anbar province. On Nov. 11, 2014, Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri affirmed that the armament of the tribes is imminent.
Arming the tribes is equivalent to the formation of a national guard consisting of local fighters. The Iraqi parliament has not yet passed this project, despite its being part of a declared government program. Sunni politicians back the idea, even demanding that its implementation be rushed.
Yet, some Shiite politicians, including Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, question the armament of tribes. Paradoxically, when Maliki was prime minister, he announced on Jan. 15, 2014, a few days after the occupation of Fallujah by IS, his intention to arm the tribes of Mosul. Mosul had not yet been overrun by IS.
Ideas like arming tribes, forming a national guard and establishing a Sunni region vary in how they are defined, even within Sunni circles. Officials at the regional and international levels also differ in their positions regarding these ideas.