A senior Sunni leader in Iraq has claimed that ISIS fighters make up less than one-third of the rebels in the country. Major General Montasir Al-Anbari said that the decision to form the Sunni fighting groups was taken by clerics and tribesmen in the wake of the Hawija Protest Massacre, which was carried out by the Iraqi army in May last year; dozens were killed and wounded in the incident.
Al-Anbari stressed that the formation of the fighting groups was decided in a meeting of all Sunni groups apart from ISIS. He did not disclose the place of the meeting, but said that some groups suggested starting action after the elections, giving a chance for Al-Maliki to respond to their demands for reform.
ISIS, he said, asked to join the groups several months after their formation and asked to be part of the Sunni military action. Many reservations were expressed, claimed Al-Anbari, before it was agreed to accept the ISIS request.
“Without doubt, though, we are worried about unilateral movements of ISIS because they attacked the city of Telafer and kidnapped the Turkish consul,” said Al-Anbari, “and they are threatening to head to Baghdad, Karbala and Al-Najaf.” All of this, he insisted, violates the agreement reached between the Sunni rebel groups. “In any case, ISIS only forms around 30 per cent of the rebel fighters but it is linked to us by certain agreements and recognises that it cannot face other fighting groups.”
According to the rebel general, any political solution on the ground that meets the demands of the Sunnis and saves them from Al-Maliki’s oppression will be accepted.