Tough Choices: Everyone Agrees, Shiite Militias Must Be Invited to Fight in Ramadi, Iraq
Early in the morning on May 15, the extremist group known as the Islamic State launched a surprise attack on bases held by the regular Iraqi army and police in Ramadi. The city has been one of the few major centres in the province of Anbar that was not already in the hands of the Islamic State, or IS, group.
The IS group base their ideology on Sunni Islam and most of the population of Anbar are Sunni Muslims – although far from everyone wants the extremists in charge there, conflicts between different Sunni tribes, long-standing Sunni protests against the policies of the previous Iraqi government headed by Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite politician, and the shared sect have made Anbar an easier target for the IS group.
However Ramadi had never fallen to the IS group, having become one of the last outposts for official pro-government forces in the Iraqi army and local police and anti-IS tribal fighters. Skirmishes between the IS group and Iraqi security forces here have been going on for months and Ramadi often seemed to be on the brink of falling to the IS group.
On this particular Monday morning, the IS group used suicide bombers to disrupt long-held defensive lines. This saw the IS fighters able to reach local government headquarters as well as army headquarters in Ramadi.
The bombings caused confusion and the military’s lines of communication were cut. Chaos ensued and once again, the Iraqi army decided to withdraw. The Iraqi military went first, moving to the Habbaniya military base, and the local police left their positions just a few hours later. The IS group quickly moved into the areas the military had deserted, raising their flag on the roof of the provincial council building and the army’s former headquarters.
“In just one day, we lost a year and a half of resistance against the IS group,” Majid al-Alwani, a tribal leader in Ramadi, told NIQASH, referring to the fact that some tribes had been fighting the extremists in this area, in one shape or another, for far longer than June last year. “The IS group has been trying and failing to control Ramadi for months now. I regret to say this but they have finally achieved that goal.”