Anbar Headed Towards Isolation

By Ali Abdel Sadah for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Reports about the military operations in the Anbar province suggest that the “decisive moment” remains elusive. There are battles involving Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, fighters from the province’s tribes and members of the regular military forces, with no clear winning team on the ground.

These conditions drive many politicians and security experts to believe that what is happening in the volatile province is a kind of a war of attrition that may widen and thus pave the way for a Syrian scenario in Iraq.

Since late December, Anbar has been witnessing large-scale military operations where various weapons are being used. These weapons include US and Russian arms that Iraq has started to import to fight armed groups.

Various Iraqi security and media sources from Anbar told Al-Monitor during the last days of January: “The conflicting parties take turns in gaining control of the province’s neighborhoods and streets. As soon as government SWAT forces took control of ISIS centers, ISIS fighters managed to localize themselves in other areas.”

These sources said: “The delayed decisiveness is due to the political split in the Sunni community, which affected the role of tribal militants in the military conflict. The fact is that some of these militants fight alongside the Iraqi army, while others fight against it.”

Consequently, in his weekly address on Jan. 29, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to storm the city of Fallujah “to resolve the matter there.” He pointed out that “the battle will cost the army casualties but he has to do it.”

However, the implementation of military operations, especially in the city of Fallujah, seems a hard call because it is difficult to distinguish civilians from ISIS fighters. Moreover, many believe that the organization took advantage of the political divide, presenting itself as the defender of “Sunni’s interests” in Iraq.

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