By John Lee.
Thousands of fighters from as many as 25 pro-government tribes have launched a coordinated offensive against ISIS fighters in the Western Iraqi province of al-Anbar.
The leader of these “Sahwa” fighters, Sheikh Abdel Jabbar Abu Risha, announced that the offensive was not related to Maliki stepping down and had been planned for months.
Nonetheless, Maliki was notoriously unpopular in al-Anbar, a long time hotbed of anti-government activity, and some insurgent leaders had previously remarked that if Maliki stepped down, they would turn on ISIS.
The development therefore represents a setback for ISIS, but will have to be capitalized on quickly by Abadi’s government, who would do well to seize the initiative and re-commence deeper reconciliation talks with non-ISIS insurgents and the wider Sunni community.
The offensive has apparently cleared most of Ramadi of ISIS fighters, and was coordinated with Iraqi Security Forces. Action extended as far north as Haditha, where Sahwa and ISF units are defending a key dam, down stream from Mosul dam.
Many Sunnis in Anbar, while distrustful of the government, are deeply wary of ISIS who killed many tribal elders during their previous incarnation, al-Qaeda in Iraq or “The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).
(Source: The Daily Star)