Talk of Iraq recognizing Israel prompts arrest or death threats
As news of the conference spread, the Iraqi government and officials in Sunni Anbar province issued arrest warrants for at least six Iraqis they said were involved in the conference, although a warrant was later withdrawn. Other attendees were dismissed from their government jobs.
At several checkpoints between Baghdad and Anbar province, militia fighters put up large banners with the faces of those on arrest warrants, declaring them guilty of treason.
The keynote speaker at the conference, Sheikh Wissam al-Hardan from Anbar, is now under Kurdish protection, along with other conference attendees facing threats. But Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which is semi-autonomous from Baghdad, is also at risk.
The region, which broke away from Iraqi government control with US aid three decades ago, has faced increasing attacks, including drone strikes linked to Iranian-backed militias, because of a US military base in Erbil.
A group called the Guardians of the Blood Brigade, which has claimed responsibility for previous attacks in Erbil, warned after the conference, “We will not delay the burning of all traitors’ bases with smart missiles and drones.”
In his keynote address at the conference, Sheikh Wissam described the expulsion of Iraqi Jews after the creation of Israel in 1948 as a great tragedy and said that Iraq should recognize Israel, as did the United Arab Emirates and many other Arab countries. did last year. He warned against Iraq becoming like Lebanon, which he said was swallowed whole by a militia – a reference to Hezbollah backed by Iran.
Following the speech, Sheikh Wissam, who was wounded while fighting ISIS, was dismissed from the leadership of the Sunni Awakening Movement, a collection of tribal forces that fought alongside the United States against Al Qaeda and was later captured by ISIS. Said he had been deceived by the organizers of the conference and did not write the speech he gave.
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