Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is attempting to persuade Sunni Iraqis that may sympathize with the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to return to peace and trust his Shia government. On Wednesday, Maliki announced a general amnesty to Sunnis that “return to their senses” and abandon ISIS.
“I announce an amnesty for all tribes and all people who have involved in actions against the state, who now return to their senses. They are welcome. We will not exclude anyone except those involved in killings,” Maliki told the audience in a televised speech. Maliki addresses the nation weekly, this time taking the opportunity to extend the olive branch.
While Sunni tribes involved in mass killings, such as those widely publicized by ISIS itself, would not be exempt, individuals who had acted against the Iraqi government would be welcomed back. Maliki has previously taken to the airwaves to call for “national unity,” but had not previously taken such a big step. The move is in line with pressure from the United States to promote government inclusion of Sunnis so as to dissuade them from helping ISIS and preserve the sovereignty of the nation.
Top United States officials have also reached out to Sunni leaders in Iraq, as well as leaders of Kurdish forces. Many of Iraqs Kurds are Sunnis and oppose the government; some leaders have called for a partition of the Iraqi state and creation of a sovereign Kurdistan.
Kurds have not been receptive to the ISIS cause, however, as ISIS has long called for their eradication from the region– nor have they attacked the Iraqi army. At pivotal points in the current invasion when the Iraqi army has either deserted or been defeated by ISIS terrorists, the Kurdish peshmerga forces have been one of the few barriers between ISIS and a takeover of Baghdad, targeting key roads into and out of the capital and ensuring that ISIS does not surround and suffocate the city.
The LA Times reports that there was no indication either way whether Sunni tribes would be receptive to Maliki’s offer of amnesty and ally with the government, particularly as many tribes have said they would never support a government in which Maliki remained in charge of the country. Maliki’s government is seen by many as exclusive to Shia Iraqis at the expense of Sunni tribes– a perception ISIS has taken strides to exploit.