Iraqi tribal leader warns of new extremist Islamist groups

RIGA, Latvia: Iraq's Sunnis must be given a greater role in the political process of the war-torn country in order to prevent the possible rise of organizations even more extreme than ISIS, an Iraqi tribal leader told AFP Wednesday.
"There is no doubt we must remove and defeat ISIS. But the absence of any political solution or national reconciliation will pave the way for more radical groups to emerge – some possibly even more radical than IS (ISIS)," Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari, a leader of the mixed Sunni and Shiite al-Zoba tribe, said in an interview.
The 50-year-old has set up Peace Ambassadors For Iraq (PAFI), an organization aimed at overcoming his country's bloody sectarian divide between the Sunni minority and politically-dominant Shiite majority.
Al-Dhari says he launched PAFI last year in the Latvian capital Riga to coincide with Latvia's stint as rotating president of the European Union and so forge contacts with Western diplomats.
"Sunnis are caught between the brutality of ISIS and the violence of Tehran-backed (Shiite) terror groups.
"At the same time, the (Shiite-led) Baghdad government has disenfranchised Sunnis from joining a full political process.
"So, it's not about drawing Sunnis away from ISIS; it's about creating a climate that brings Sunnis back into a reformed political process."
Al-Dhari has proposed a five-point national reconciliation plan.
It would put an end to job quotas for Sunnis and Shiites, boost anti-corruption efforts and investment in a non-sectarian army, fully review the Iraqi constitution and finally, launch a national reconciliation process overseen by the United Nations.
According to PAFI, the al-Zoba tribe comprises both the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam, and with around six million members is among the largest in Iraq, a country of 33.4 million people.
Born in Baghdad's Abu Grahib district, the sheikh says he fought in the elite Republican Guard during the Iran-Iraq war, but was jailed in 1987 after being accused of disloyalty to the Baathist regime of then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, himself a Sunni.



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