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Sunni sheik leery of ISIS, al-Maliki

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Sunnis demonstrate against Iraq's president a year ago prior to the present crisis in the embattled nation. (Source: CNN) Sunnis demonstrate against Iraq's president a year ago prior to the present crisis in the embattled nation. (Source: CNN)
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IRBIL, KURDISTAN (CNN) - While ISIS is made up of mostly Sunni fighters, many Sunnis do not support the militants although they share their hatred of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Around a year ago in Iraq's Sunni heartland of the al-Anbar province, the highway into the city of Ramadi transformed into a demonstration ground against al-Maliki.

And the tribes were getting ready for battle should Iraqi forces try to enter.

'We've been ready for a long time, we are certain that al-Maliki is a liar. The political process is just a game. Our weapons are everywhere, light, medium and on up," said Sheik Ali-Hatem Suleiman, a Sunni tribal leader.

But Ali-Hatem had also vowed that the tribes would not again be a nurturing ground for terrorism.

His tribe was among those that eventually allied with the U.S., turning against al-Qaida in some of the darkest days of the American occupation

So what happened?

"ISIS is trying to ride the wave of the Sunni revolution. It's trying to exploit it. And we won't accept this," said Ali-Hatem.

But to a certain degree they have, for now.

"It's not in our interest to fight a variety of groups. We don't have the capability to fight everyone. The problem is with Maliki. ISIS is killing and ISIS has an agenda. But all the Shia militias right now are wearing an official Iraqi uniform and are killing Iraqis. Everyone is focused on ISIS. The tribes will not ally with ISIS," Ali-Hatem said.

Problem is, Sunni insurgent groups and the tribes are not all united.

But Iraq's Sunni population does have genuine grievances.

"America needs to not look at Iraq through a single lens. There is a real revolution, real opposition, Maliki is polishing his image. America needs to listen to us. We don't have an issue with anyone, we just want our rights. We have a right to live here," he says.

And the sheik warns that America needs to remember something very important from its devastating era in Iraq.

"ISIS is going to open a door in Iraq that can't be closed. And we are aware of this. You can't stop ISIS without the tribes. America shouldn't think that the Maliki government can stop ISIS. Maliki is the real danger to us. We can get rid of ISIS whenever we want. And rest assured we will fight them," he said.

That might prove tougher than he boasts.

Already, in many areas like Mosul, ISIS is clearly the one in control and calling the shots.

And now they have already opened the door to this new bloody phase of the country's history.

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