Why did Sunni Arab tribes pledge allegiance to Islamic State?

A number of Sunni Arab tribal sheikhs and tribes in Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State [IS] militant group. The sheikhs and tribal leaders made the pledge to IS in Fallujah in a statement read out by Ahmed Dara al-Jumaili, an influential and known sheikh, after a meeting with IS representatives.

In his statement they condemned the Iraqi Government because of it’s discrimination against Sunni Arabs and especially the refugees from Ramadi that were discriminated by Iraqi security forces in the outskirts of Baghdad. He claimed that his tribe [Jumailis] command a number of fighters and they have a large amount of influence over other tribes in Anbar.  Inclusion of the al-Jumaili tribe in the pledge was of particular concern for Iraqi Government, given its influence in Anbar that could benefit IS militarily and logistically.

It was not yet clear if the tribes had been forced to pledge allegiance by IS fighters, who control Fallujah and most of Anbar Province. IS may have threatened the Sunni Arabs tribes into backing the group which made them pledge support, otherwise if they refuse or resist they will face the same fate of Albu Nimr and Sheitaat tribes.

When Islamic State captured the rebel held area of Deir Zour from Syrian Jihadists and Revolutionaries they started to discriminate its people and tribes, in July 2014 the Sunni Arab tribe of Sheitaat who are around 70,000 members rebelled against the Islamic State rule in the city and killing dozens of their fighters but their rebellion was crushed and by IS and put their rebellion to an end in less than two weeks. Islamic State  fighters labelled the Sheitaat tribe as apostates and they needed to be punished for their rebellion, so on 18 August IS fighters executed 700 men and imprisoning 1,400 others in IS prisons.

During November 2014, Islamic State has carried out mass killings against the Sunni Arab tribe of Albu Nimr who opposed IS in Anbar province, Iraqi Government refused to send arms to Albu Nimr tribe to fight against IS as they promised to do but they have abandoned them. Albu Nimr is one of the Sunni Arab tribes that are loyal to the Iraqi Government and it has played an important role in fighting against al-Qaeda and its allies in Anbar province since 2007. The death toll among Albu Nimr reached more than 600 and many hundreds were injured.

it could also be symptomatic of a wider break in trust of the Iraqi government and a feeling of a lack of confidence in Government’s ability to recapture territory from IS, leaving them to the mercy of IS and little option but to side with them.

The Anbar sheikhs pledge comes after a number of Sunni Arab leaders in the province publicly criticised the involvement of Shia militia like Popular Mobilization Forces in the fight to retake Sunni areas from IS, including the provincial capital Ramadi, which fell last month. Popular Mobilization forces are publicly known for their sectarianism and brutal acts they committed against the Sunni Arab minority like mass killing, burning homes and looting.

Sunni Arab tribes have asked Iraqi Government not to send Popular Mobilization forces to Sunni areas but to arm them and allow them to form a National Guard but the Iraqi Government refused to arm them and the idea of forming National Guard.

Iraqi President Abadi has failed to reconcile the unity of communities in Iraq especially between Sunni minority and Shiite majority and arm the Sunni Arab tribes against IS, leaving Iraq in another long war and deep sectarian conflict threatening the country into partitioning.

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