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Revenge killings turn ugly...

The world community wants to eliminate Islamic State (IS) militants due to its extraordinary terror activities, indiscriminate killing of civilians, sectarian ideology and threat to regional and international geopolitics.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi government troops are committing such crimes. Dealing solely with the IS is unlikely to end the sectarian blood-letting. The government should be held responsible for crimes committed by its militia.

Several reports are available citing revenge killings carried out by the militia associated with government troops on several occasions in towns and villages recaptured from the IS.

Recently, Reuters (June 29, 2015) reported that Shi'ite militiamen executed 72 Sunnis in the Easter village of Barwanah, after it was captured from the IS. The massacre took place while the Iraqi troops watched.

Reuters has interviewed several survivors and gave similar accounts of the massacre.

What is going on in Iraq is sectarian score settling. The Iraqi government is receiving international support to help it establish a stable and democratic country. But what its troops are doing is counterproductive and against expected reconciliation and peaceful transfer to democratic process.

If the Iraqi government continues committing crimes against its people, it should be denied international support. Otherwise the international community will be complicit in the crimes committed by the government.

At first the government denied that any such crime was committed. Later it said that the IS elements might have perpetrated the crime and finally it has accepted that its troops carried out the crime and has opened a probe into the killings.

The result of the investigation may take time. It could even be forgotten in due course of time as previous experiences show.

Even if it came up with some findings, the government may punish the perpetrators by firing them from the military ranks or by detaining them for a few weeks.

Justice will remain buried.

The actions of the Iraqi government will further push Sunni tribes into the hands of the IS, which is one of the reasons for the creation of the terrorist group.

The Iraqi government has, time and again, failed to address and take action to halt further conflicts.

Inclusion of Sunni tribes holds the key to containing and ultimately eliminating IS. Inviting sectarian militias from across the country, including Iranian and Hizbollah operatives, to destroy IS can only result in a temporary military victory. They cannot win the hearts and minds of Sunni tribes who are now associated with the IS.

There is a lesson to be learnt from past experiences.

Those very tribes along with the US troops had nearly eliminated IS - the then Al Qaeda in Iraq - from Iraqi soil, during the early years of US and allies' invasion of Iraq.

It is only when the government stopped the tribes from taking part in power-sharing that the IS got an opportunity to revive itself. It then rose to be a powerful terrorist organisation.

The same mistake is being repeated a decade later.

It appears that successive Iraqi administrations are promoting sectarian ideology, which will divert the nation from the path of peaceful settlement to further sectarian blood-letting.

It is time to remind the Iraqi regime to assume its responsibilities and protect its citizens from rogue militias. The regime must use international support for nation-building and reconciliation.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Feb 18, 2015
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