On Oct. 18, a delegation from the local government in Anbar province went to the Shiite province of Najaf to visit cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, under a media blackout. The Shiite cleric did not issue any statement regarding the visit, while the local Anbar government merely gave a standard acknowledgment of the event.
According to two members of the Anbar provincial council interviewed by Al-Monitor, the visit was the result of a coincidence; a delegation of the local Anbar government was supposed to meet Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani, but events during the month of Muharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar) delayed the meeting.
Council member Athal al-Fahdawi said, “Iraqi parliament member Hakem al-Zalami and Baghdad mayor Ali al-Tamimi organized the meeting with Sadr for us.”
It seemed strange for the delegation to visit the Sadrist movement’s leader, considering that Sadr does not have sway in the government to help Anbar, which has lost about 80% of its territory to the Islamic State (IS) and where several cities are threatened.
However, the head of the Anbar province council, Sabah Karhout, revealed that the meeting concerned the potential support of the 31 Sadrist members of parliament for moves that could save Anbar, as well as the entry of foreign troops into the province.
Karhout told Al-Monitor by phone, “Only two options can solve the Anbar crisis. The first is the entry of US troops to Anbar to fight IS — whose criminal acts are on the rise — and the second is the enactment of a law [to form] the National Guard, which allows tribal fighters to take up arms and receive salaries and turns them into a local force capable of expelling IS from Anbar.”