2021-09-29 23:53:01 Talk of Iraq Recognizing Israel Prompts Threats of Arrest or Death
Talk of Iraq Recognizing Israel Prompts Threats of Arrest or Death
As word of the conference spread, the Iraqi government and authorities in Anbar Province, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, issued arrest warrants for at least six Iraqis they claimed were involved in the conference, though one warrant was later withdrawn. Other attendees had their government jobs terminated.
Militia fighters erected huge banners with the faces of those on the arrest warrants, declaring them guilty of treason at several checkpoints between Baghdad and Anbar province.
Sheikh Wissam al-Hardan of Anbar, the conference’s main speaker, is now under Kurdish protection, as are other conference attendees who face threats. However, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, which is semi-autonomous from Baghdad, is also under threat.
Because of a US military base in Erbil, the region, which broke away from Iraqi government control three decades ago with US assistance, has faced an increase in attacks, including drone strikes, linked to Iranian-backed militias.
“We will not delay in burning all the traitors’ locations with smart missiles and drones,” the Guardians of the Blood Brigade, a group that has claimed responsibility for previous attacks in Erbil, warned after the conference.
Sheikh Wissam described the expulsion of Iraqi Jews following the establishment of Israel in 1948 as a major tragedy in his keynote address to the conference, and said Iraq should recognize Israel, as the United Arab Emirates and several other Arab countries did last year. He warned against Iraq becoming like Lebanon, which he said had been devoured by a militia — a reference to Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.
Sheikh Wissam, who was wounded fighting ISIS, was removed from the leadership of the Sunni Awakening movement, a coalition of tribal forces that fought alongside the US against Al Qaeda and then took on ISIS. The sheikh claimed that the conference organizers duped him and that he did not write the speech he delivered.