Major armed resistance groups still fighting in Iraq today are mostly operating against the Iraqi government and their sectarian security and militia’s systems. Most of them generally do not execute their operations or target Iraqi civilians. The only current exception to this is ISIL and other al Qaeda affiliated minor groups.
After eleven years occupation in Iraq, most people around the world know by now that the major goal behind the occupation of Iraq in 2003 was controlling the country’s oil resources .
Iraqis Right to Resist Occupation Forces is Protected by International Law
On May 22 2003, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1483, abolishing sanctions against Iraq and recognizing the United States and United Kingdom as the country's occupying powers. The resolution called upon the US-UK authority to "comply fully with their obligations under international law, including in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907." .
The occupation of Iraq is illegal and immoral. Civilians in an occupied country have no obligation of loyalty towards the Occupying Power regardless of the motives of the invading forces .
Article 1.4 of Protocol Additional I establishes a treaty basis for the customary right to resist foreign occupation. This article provides that Geneva Convention protections for people fighting “alien occupation…in the exercise of their right to self-determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations….” The right to self- determination is one of the most fundamental in the UN Charter and human rights treaties, being prominent in Article 1 of the Charter and Article 1 of the two major international human rights treaties .
The Iraqi resistance to occupation began immediately a few days after the US/UK invasion military operations of Iraq. Tens of resistance groups and factions were formed and thousands of operations against occupation armed forces and their mercenaries and collaborators were executed. The Brooking Institution of Iraq Index showed that only in December 2004, the insurgents executed 3000 attack on coalition forces , and that November estimate based on a peak of 130 attacks per day reported by Bradley Graham, “Generals See Gains from Iraq Offensives,” Washington Post, December 6, 2004 . By 2006 and 2007 the number of resistance groups in Iraq reached to an estimated 66 groups and factions . Most of the resistance groups and organizations announced their ideologies and fighting techniques and conditions, which ranged from :
Liberating Iraq from occupation forces by Iraqi fighters only to regain its independence;
Liberating Iraq from occupation forces and putting an end to any political processes, amended laws, constitutions, and protocols put in place by the occupation government to insure total independence of the country. These are also Iraqi forces;
Resisting all American and/or imperial western coalition forces in Iraq and on the land of other Muslim countries under the belief that Islamic Jihad is a global duty to ensure the occupiers leave. Furthermore, to establish the Greater Islamic Khilafa (Caliphate). Fighters are Muslim Iraqis, Arabs, and foreigners. Such factions and groups are the Al Qaeda affiliated groups such as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant). Historically, such Islamic extremist groups were the creation of the USA to fight the formerly communist USSR in Afghanistan , and it achieved its purpose at the time. However, as history has shown, creating an extremist beast is one thing, and controlling this beast to serve your interests in a completely different story.
Away from ISIL and their mysterious suspicious stories, many Iraqi resistance groups laid down their arms after the withdrawal of American and other occupation forces by the end of 2011. Other groups kept fighting to end what they claimed were other characteristics of the occupation remaining in Iraq. Among these were    : The Military Council of the Iraqi Revolutionaries; The Islamic Army of Iraq; Men of the Naqshbandi Order; Jaysh al Mujahedeen; Thawart al Ishreen Battalion; Ansar al Islam.
Other smaller not so effective groups are not mentioned in this article. Further information about each of these groups are stated at the end of this article.
The next section will show that in spite of what mainstream media would have the world believe, much of the resistance was not, and still is not, ISIL. The Iraqi national grassroots resistance which resisted the occupation forces for eight years, are still fighting today in defense of their lives and the lives of their families against sectarian and ethnic cleansing crimes that were initiated and organized by American occupation engineers, and implemented by Iranian backed militias.
The Iraqi national resistance is still under way to regain Iraq’s sovereignty and independence. They are still fighting to change a sectarian constitution that was written by the occupation to keep the collaborators of the occupation (who are mostly holding currently American, British, and Iranian nationalities) in the political process, and keep the country consumed in its sectarian and ethnic violence and blood bath.
The Illegality of the Changes the Occupation Imposed on Iraq
Sabah Al-Mukhtar and Karen Parker, international lawyers and human rights activists outlined the effects that the US’ illegal occupation of Iraq had on the state of Iraq . The first American Governor of Iraq after foreign occupation, Paul Bremer, transferred absolute power to himself, changed the Iraqi constitution and the country’s legal system and its laws. He amended over a hundred laws that were not democratically legitimized to any extent. The same goes for more than one hundred further laws instituted by the puppet regime he put into place. The US has systematically destroyed every founding pillar of the Iraqi state, thereby forcing the country into a state of chaos. The effects of this have been disastrous .
These changes imposed by occupation powers were and remain illegal and contradict the International laws and regulations like the Hague Regulations. Article 43 states that: the authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country .
The GENEVA CONVENTIONS (IV) OF 1949, PROHIBIT THE MODIFICATION OF THE DOMESTIC LAWS OR LEGAL INSTITUTIONS OF THE OCCUPIED POWER .
Thus the Occupation written constitution for Iraq is an Illegal document . This illegal constitution and other related laws are the main reason behind the sectarian violence that erupted in the country, and the corrupted political process that divided Iraqi society to different entities fighting with each other instead of creating a unified democratic Iraq.
Ethnic and Sectarian Cleansing Amongst the Iraqi Population:
Some of the other major grievances of secular Iraqis, Sunnis and Shi’a alike, include the integration of Shi’a militias into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), attacks by the ISF in Sunni dominated civilian areas, and the political exclusion of Sunnis in Baghdad .
In reality, the damage has gone beyond this. Successive events throughout the period of occupation, and to date, indicate the existence of an ethnic cleansing agenda being implemented through a sectarian cleansing process. This sectarian cleansing is being achieved in collaboration with the government in Iran, whereby the ‘Sunni Arab’ component of the Iraqi population is targeted continuously, and systematically.
Since 1979, Iran has been trying to turn Iraq into a Shi’a majority country loyal to the Iranian ayatollahs of Tehran using methodologies similar to those used in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah through the use of everything from bribes and rewards, to intimidation and terrorism.
In Iraq specifically, they have played a direct, almost public role, in fueling Shi’a – Sunni sectarianism. This involvement of Iranian powers came at a tradeoff with American occupation forces who, not expecting such strong resistance to the occupation, agreed to rely on Iranian sectarian militias and back a pro-Iranian government to contain any group of Iraqis opposing the occupation of Iraq and to squash any resistance.
All the while, under cover of the role they are playing in the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, Iran continues to act on its ambitions for regional expansion, continues with nuclear program negotiations underway.
Force Demographic Changes in Iraq Through Ethnic Sectarian Cleansing and Massive Displacements
Since the occupation of Iraq in 2003, drastic demographic changes have been forced on Iraqi population. One objective of these forced changes has been to end any kind of opposition and resistance to occupation’s current and future plans. Others include preparing Iraq and the ME region for further divisions built on sectarian and ethnic lines to implement the Greater Middle East project .
The first three years of the occupation about four million of the majorly Arab component of the Iraqi society have been subject to forced migration inside and outside Iraq . The occupation forces and Iran have been working together to change the composition and structure of the Iraqi population, each for its own political agenda. This crime has been accomplished through continuous raids and attacks on mostly Arab Sunni cities like Mosul, Shergat, Balad, Rawa, Fallujah and Haditha, arrests and illegal detention, kidnaping and torture, and sectarian killing . Hundreds of thousands of residents of these cities were forced to leave the country.
The other massive displacement surge of around two million people among mostly Sunni Arab areas this time have started from 2013 and still going on . The second surge started when the Occupation assigned government and Iranian backed sectarian militias started shelling and bombing residential areas in Anbar, Mosul, Salahudin, Kirkuk, and Baghdad suburbs. This problem was initiated when Maliki’s army attacked the peaceful protest sites in Anbar, Mosul, Hawijah, and other areas .
These sectarian armed forces committed massacres among the protesters in some of the cities like in Hawijah . When the protest’s site tribal men decided to raise their arms and fight as they traditionally do to avenge the men who were savagely killed by army and security forces, the official army instead of fighting pulled out of these cities accusing the tribes of being involved with ISIL. This whole problem could have been resolved through negotiations and satisfying some of the protestor’s demands.
To cover their failure, Maliki’s army started shelling the civilians with explosive barrels and other weapons from the time of the protests, to date . This criminal shelling and bombing of civilian’s residential areas caused deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians including women and children, in addition to massive displacement from these cities. With time, much of the residents of these attacked areas could not go back to their houses. During this time, sectarian militias take over or buy the properties forcefully to change the demographic composition of the area. This systematic sectarian cleansing has been the agenda in Baghdad, Diyalah and other areas where Sunni Arabs have been forced to migrate from their homes to keep their families alive . The whole system is similar to the techniques employed by Israelis within Palestine.
In Baghdad, thousands of Sunni Arabs have been abducted, tortured and killed by government-backed, Iranian trained sectarian militias . Their families are forced to leave the city after burning or bombing their houses, or they are forced into selling them to the militia leaders of Iranian origin to pay for their abducted loved-ones ransoms. The same thing has happened to the Sunni Arab residents in Diyalah east of Baghdad, close to Iranian borders . In other words, with the daily sectarian killing, the kidnaping, tens of thousands of still missing people mostly Sunni Arabs, more than four millions of the Iraqi population was decimated by the occupation forces, the occupation assigned government, and Iranian militias in one decade.
Through the chaos, evidence of these crimes against civilians was manipulated. No official state census was conducted in Iraq since 1997  to reveal the catastrophe the occupation created in Iraq. All the population related data released by the occupation forces and the Iraqi government are statistical projections and predictions from previous records since 1997. Projections that never take into account the occupation and the cleansing casualties.
Knowing that there has never been in the history of modern Iraqi state population censuses built on sectarian considerations. And that all the official censuses conducted in Iraq with the help of UN were submitted and preserved in UN organization. Previous to occupation censuses questionnaires were all built on ethnicity (Arabic, Kurdish, Turkmen, etc.) and religion (Muslim, Christian, Jew, etc.), not on sectarian basis as we notice from the attached Iraqi government census questionnaire of 1997 .
All the occupation published population data on websites, media, research centers, related to the sectarian composition of the Iraqi society ( Shia or Sunni) have no real population surveys or censuses to back them up. They are all estimates and predictions built on political assumptions. The occupation tried to convert these assumptions to reality through the occupation written constitution. This constitution satisfies the occupation colonial interests through destroying the foundations the fabric the Iraqi society are built on. Also to satisfy the condition of the Iraqi oppositions conference in London of 2001 to consider the Shia as the majority component of the Iraqi society .
With this condition, the Iranian backed opposition out of Iraq gave their approval to get involved in the occupation of Iraq .
The problem after the occupation became how to force these changes among the Iraqi population to fit the false data?
From this point and other previously mentioned consequences, the ethnic-sectarian cleansing began and continues today.
As we can see, pulling the occupation armed forces from Iraq was only one step. To the American Administration, the real problem is how to implement these occupation created economic, political, cultural, and social changes through their puppet government. The government that has been facing all this resistance and complicated political environment, not only from the Sunni Arabs, but also from the Kurds who strongly supported the occupation of Iraq to extend their control on neighboring territories of Mosul, Kirkuk, and Diyalah to Baghdad. The British colonial empire forced the creation of Israel through genocides among the Arabic Palestinian people, and it’s time for the American colonial empire to create a similar entity of Kurdistan.
All these and other factors pushed the administration to bring their air forces back to Iraq. These forces are not in Iraq to fight ISIL as the mainstream media keep repeating, but to finish what the occupation started back in 2003.
Resistance groups and factions still fighting in Iraq:
Major armed resistance groups still fighting in Iraq today are mostly operating against the Iraqi government and their sectarian security and militia’s systems. Most of them generally do not execute their operations or target Iraqi civilians. The only current exception to this is ISIL and other al Qaeda affiliated minor groups .
Today, the media headlines and political statements insinuate that ISIL (only about 15000-20000 fighters)  are the only force behind the takeover of Mosul, Salahudin, Fallujah, and other cities.
They never mention as we will see in the following section that there is a popular revolution lead by the national Iraqi resistance forces that exceed 150000 fighters. Such allegations all come as a media campaign in preparations for further assaults and bombing of the Sunni Arab areas, who fought the occupation since 2003.
Armed resistance groups in Iraq still fighting after the pull out of the occupation armed forces in 2011 are  :
The General Military Council for Iraqi revolutionaries (GMCIR): Considered the strongest amongst the anti-government groups for the time being in Iraq . Following the Iraqi armed resistance control of Mosul on June 10, 2014, and the subsequent capture of large areas of Ninewah, Salah al-Din and Ta’mim governorates from Nuri al-Maliki government armed forces, several Iraqi resistance groups have proclaimed their role in the fighting. Emerging as one of the most powerful Iraqi armed opposition organizations in this rebel offensive is the (GMCIR – General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries), which is mainly tribal fighters. Its existence were announced in January 2014 in order to respond militarily against Iraqi security forces for firing on demonstrators in Anbar governorate . The council declared that the organization is an Iraqi nationalists, non-sectarian movement that seek to end up the influence of Iran and their militias in Iraq. In the weeks leading up to this announcement, local military councils had been announced in Anbar, Fallujah, Mosul, Salahdin, Kirkuk, Baghdad, Diyala, Abu Ghraib, Dhuluiya, and Sherqat. The GMCIR’s statement united these local councils into one organization. The Organization’s leadership is composed of a network of Sunni former Iraqi Army officers of tribal Arab origin that maintain a hierarchical chain-of-command inside Iraq in order to oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization . They estimate that there are 75,000 fighters affiliated with the GMCIR, mostly concentrated in Anbar, Salahaldin and Ninewah governorates. With GMCIR-affiliated armed groups also located in Ta’mim, Baghdad, Diyala, Karbala, Dhi Qar and Maysan governorates .
A GMCIR spokesman stated that ISIL in Iraq was a small organization and could not have seized Mosul without the support of the Iraqi armed opposition. The spokesman further claimed that the GMCIR was stronger than ISIL, better organized than ISIL, and fought under the laws of war established by the Geneva Convention.
The disagreement between ISIL and the GMCIR came up to the surface when ISIL launched offensives in northern Iraq forcing thousands of Iraqi Yazidis to flee to Mount Sinjar. This prompted the council to issue a statement on august 6, 2014 criticizing ISIL for taking the “revolution to a different path” rather than attacking Baghdad in order to topple the seat of government . On august 23, 2014, the council again criticized ISIL for trying to force Jaysh al Mujahedeen, another resistance group in Garma, close to Fallujah, to pledge allegiance to ISIL Khalifah, Abu Baker al Baghdadi, or leave the city.
The council have pushed back against ISIL where this position is challenged, but not to the extent of direct, open confrontation .
The Islamic Army of Iraq: Established in 2004, and fought fierce clashes with al-Qaida in 2006 and early 2007. "Islamic Army" is composed of national affiliation, Islamist fighters’ mixture, and some Arabic nationalists. The only resistance faction, which has an internal system for military fighters. Refuses to get involved in the occupation arranged political process. Forbid their fighters from attacking or killing innocent civilians or the use of car bombs or suicide bombs in Shia or Kurds areas .
They executed military operations against the US Marine Corps and British troops all over Iraq including the destruction of the US Falcon Base in Dora district, south of Baghdad. The Famous Baghdad Sniper is one of their prominent figures . Baghdad, Salahuddin and Nineveh are considered as their most prominent operations areas, and the North and South of Baghdad axes. With less presence in Anbar. "Islamic Army" members are well known for their Guerrilla war confrontations, and experienced fighters in the maneuver in the agricultural and desert areas. Their qualified intelligence managed the implementation of quality attacks against occupation troops.
The Islamic Army decided to keep its armed resistance because they declared that the occupation of Iraq is still going on and that they have to end up the Iranian influence in Iraq .
The Men of the Naqshbandi Order: Activities of this group can be traced back to the early stages of the Sunni resistance against the U.S. forces in Iraq. It is an Iraqi armed group that was officially announced in a statement on November 30, 2006. The statement claimed that the members who formed the group had independently carried out attacks against occupation forces in Iraq. Their fighters are a mixture of the Iraqi Baath Party military members, led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the first man wanted by Washington, Iran, and the government of Nouri al-Maliki . Other fighters are Islamists from the Sufi teachings of Islam.
The fighters of this group are active in Nineveh and Kirkuk, in particular, and some areas of Baghdad. Lately (after the withdrawal of Maliki’s army from Mosul), they received the management of part of the city of Mosul, because of their weight in the city. They have thousands of fighters, and considered as the first resistance group managed to manufacture missiles with ranges up to 25 and 30 km from local resources . They adopt the occasional missile bombardment of the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport operations. One of their most prominent operations was targeting the Green Zone during the press conference of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, in Baghdad in 2011.
The group follow former military procedures regarding their combat operation with emphases on never attacking civilians or suicide bombing. They fight the Iranian sectarian control of the country and for a united non- sectarian Iraq. Like most other resistance groups, men of the Naqshbandi order’s relation with ISIL have been critical with armed conflicts in some areas. This armed group has backed Iraqi Sunni tribes as they challenge ISIL rule on September 2, 2014. They supported tribes as they fought ISIL in the Iraqi Arab neighborhoods of Wihda and Tajnid of southern Jalula in northeastern Diyala. The clashes reportedly started after the tribes rejected ISIL implementation of sharia law in their area .
Ansar al-Islam: A Salafi Islamist group, intersect with the organization of the "state of Islam in Iraq and the Levant", even though they are both affiliated with "Al-Qaeda". Founder of the group is an Iraqi Kurdish cleric, Mullah Krekar, in 2001 . They were based in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan border series. Moved to other Iraqi cities after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They suffered sharp divisions in their ranks when some of their leader followed al-Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after 2004.
The group has frozen its military operations after the US withdrawal from the country end of 2011, but went back to armed resistance again through quality operations in Nineveh, Kirkuk and parts of Diyala province. Currently, working in those areas under the name of the group "Ansar al-Islam.".
Today the group is coordinating with other resistance groups in Nineveh, Kirkuk, and Diyalah. But they intersect with ISIL and with al Qaeda before that. They are very cautious of letting new fighters in to reduce the losses among their 5000 fighters.
The Army of the Mujahedeen (Jaysh al Mujahedeen, JM): JM is considered a mix of ex-combatants in the armed Sunni factions who were splintered by the success of the US occupation in Iraq in 2007 in the formation of "Awakening" tribal forces . The group returned to activity after its reformation in the border areas with Syria, west of the country, the end of 2008.
Currently they have about four thousand fighters, and are active in the cities of Garma, Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Zoba’a, Al Yusifia in Baghdad, and the city of Tikrit . "Mujahedeen Army" members are considered as "moderate Muslim Salafi ideology .
The contention between ISIL and JM escalated further in August of 2014 when ISIL demanded that JM pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or depart from the city of Garma. When JM refused, ISIL kidnapped several JM members and shelled and demolished their homes, refusing tribal mediation to solve the dispute. As a result, JM released a statement on august 22, 2014 announcing that the group had decided to withdraw to spare the area the repercussions of clashes between the two groups .
Thawrat al Ishreen Battalion: This group has been named after the 1920 revolution against the British occupation of Iraq. The group includes thousands of combatants and non-combatants collaborators like the Muslims Scholars Association. It is of a national character, and fight for Iraq’s unity. The group refused to punish with death sentence, which was issued by the rest of the groups on the collaborators with the occupation forces of Iraq .
The "Battalion" set a record in 2006 with the number of attacks, which targeted US troops. Consists of a mixture of Islamist Salafists and Sufis and patriots fighter, with good relations with the tribes and personalities from Shiite opposition to the occupation and the current government. Characterized by rapid ambushes and sudden attacks.
The group has significant existence in Baghdad, Anbar, Salahuddin and part of Kirkuk. Finally succeeded in controlling the three cities in the vicinity of the capital with the help of other factions.
In summary, Even though the national Iraqi resistance decided not to get involve in the war between ISIL and the American coalition forces , the American Coalition airstrikes are still targeting the civilians  and the national resistance groups.
American Coalition Airstrikes will not solve the problem of ISIL and are causing more destruction and hardship to Iraqi people and the country’s infrastructure as they have been doing since 1991.
The benefits of having ISIL are double for the American administration. By setting them up as the ‘only’ resistance to American presence and the Iraqi Iranian allied government, they hope to crush any local support for true nationalistic resistance, as well as any international sympathy with the plight of Iraqi national resistance forces by lumping them up with ISIL. The other benefit is that ISIL give them a ‘legitimate’ reason to further bomb Arab Sunni areas that put up a fight against the occupation, as well as legitimize attacks on these areas by the Kurdish Peshmerga and the government’s sectarian forces.
It has been months of airstrikes, Iraqi government ground forces, Kurdish Peshmerga attacks, Iranian militia attacks on the cities of Mosul, Salahidin, Diyalah, Kirkuk, Yousifiya, Tarmia, Taji, Jurf al Sakhr, and more, but ISIL, according to the media, continues to grow and thrive. This is very difficult to believe and the continued aggression is similar to burning down the house to get rid of the termites.
Dr. Souad Al-Azzawi is associate Professor in Environmental Engineering, Geo environmental consultant. Former Vice President of Mamoun University for Scientific Affairs, Former Chairwoman of the Environmental Engineering Dept.of University of Baghdad. Dr.Souad is a member of the Executive Committee of the BRussells Tribunal.
 Nicholas A. Heras. “The Tribal Component of Iraq’s Sunni Rebellion: The General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries”. Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 1. June 26, 2014. http://www.jamestown.org.