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Iraq Sunni Minority Feels Marginalized, Provoked By U.S. And Shiites

Iraq Sunni Minority Seethes Under U.S. Occupation
(IPS) BAGHDAD -- Resentment is growing among Iraqi Sunnis over the new U.S.-led order in post-war Iraq, which they say has turned over to the Kurds and the Shiites the design of the country's political landscape.

"The Sunnis have been marginalized by recent events," Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, one of the heads of the Shammar tribe, one of the biggest clans in Iraq, and a member of the Governing Council, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Dec. 22.

"We do not have a political platform, while the Kurds have enjoyed autonomy for 12 years and the Shiites had political parties representing them abroad," he said.

For the first time since modern day Iraq was founded in 1921, the Sunnis are no longer in charge of Iraq.

They have only five seats on the 25-member Interim Governing Council (IGC). They are nervous at the site of the country's Kurds clamoring for a federalist state and Iraq's Shiite majority poised to rule Iraq after years of oppression under captured former President Saddam Hussein.

Ghazi said at the time the Council was being assembled in June and early July, "the Americans listened to their allies" like the Kurds and the Shiites "but excluded the Arab nationalists and the Sunni community at large."

He said that after the downfall of Saddam, a Sunni, the Sunnis have been stigmatized by their association with his regime.

"The Americans had the wrong impression that the Baath party is a Sunni party. Now we hope that they are taking a new approach and want greater participation from the Arab Sunnis," he said.

Ghazi said he wants the Sunnis, who make up a quarter of Iraq's 25 million citizens, just to have a fair chance to participate in all aspects of life in Iraq.

For his part, Sunni leader Sheikh Abdel Salam al-Kubeissi warned of schemes aimed at pitting the Sunnis and Shiites against each other, unleashing a deadly communal war.

"We will not let those who rode in with the American tanks drag us into a communal war," Kubeissi said, alluding to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, the largest Shiite political party in Iraq.

He listed the attacks on his community, including a bombing of a Sunni mosque in Baghdad last September that left three dead, blaming Shiite groups from abroad for "provocations against the Sunnis."

Kubeissi, one of the heads of the Muslim Ulema Committee, which groups 3,000 Sunni scholars around Iraq, also lashed out at the Sunni Muslim members of the U.S.-appointed Council for "being an instrument aimed at promoting the occupation."

The committee was formed in the aftermath of Saddam's fall last April and Kubeissi offers a confrontational stance towards the Americans.

His organization has issued a decree "outlawing all cooperation with the occupation and the Governing Council and has called for peaceful resistance by demonstrating and civil disobedience."

Outside his mosque, banners mourn the death of four Sunnis who died Dec. 15 when street demonstrations over Saddam's capture degenerated into clashes with U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police.

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Albion Monitor December 23, 2003 (

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