AMMAN- As US-led warplanes pound jihadists in Iraq, prominent Sunni exiles say that empowering their marginalised minority will be more important than bombs and missiles in defeating the Islamic State extremist group.
Deadly sectarian tensions have riven Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein more than a decade ago, with Sunni anger at the Shiite-led authorities seen as a key factor behind the rise of IS.
“Dropping bombs from planes will not eliminate the terrorism of the so-called Daesh,” said Iraqi Sunni cleric in exile Sheikh Abdel Malik al-Saadi, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
“What is needed to eliminate this terrorism is to eradicate the motives behind injustice, marginalisation and genocide, and to give people back their rights and freedoms,” he told AFP in the Jordanian capital Amman, home to thousands of Iraqi refugees.
Sunni-led IS has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic “caliphate” and committing widespread atrocities.
Under Saddam, Iraq’s Sunni community — although a minority — kept a tight grip on power.
But since Saddam was ousted in the US-led invasion in 2003 and later executed, the Shiites have emerged as the driving political force.
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki are both Shiites.
About 60-65 percent of Iraq’s Muslims are Shiite, and the remainder Sunni.