By Robert Tollast.
The BBC’s Orla Guerin has filed a report from Anbar after spending time with a Sheikh from the Albu Issa tribe. The report relays another example of a growing number of complaints from anti-ISIL Sheikhs in the strategic province.
Many Sheikhs assert that the government is not giving them enough funds and weapons to fight ISIL.
Elsewhere, new Sunni recruits for a government backed unit in Habbaniyah recently complained that they had not been paid for months, a sign that tensions over how much support to give to Sunnis who fight ISIL is an enduring political problem in the conflict.
It is worth considering however, that some Anbari Sheikhs switched sides again after the US withdrawal, including members of the Albu Issa. The Iraqi govt. can therefore claim some justification for limiting support for Sunni militias. Vexingly, Anbari involvement in the fight is critical to defeat ISIL, and many argue that it is precisely the policy of limited support that has led to the current crisis.
With few exceptions, most Anbari Sheikhs sided with the US against the ISIL predecessor ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) having formerly supported Baathist insurgents against the Americans and the Iraqi government. The remainder either stayed openly or covertly with ISI or the Baathists, or professed loyalty to Nouri al Maliki.
The Albu Issa tribe is a critical tribe for the government, and has branches in and around Fallujah–some tribal members are linked to ISIL, a fierce tribal division now not uncommon in Iraq.
Members of the tribe sided with the US Marines in 2006 to stabilise the area, but the fact that some have again switched sides is a potential reason why the Iraqi government is not sending them weaponry. In 2013, a powerful Sheikh from the Albu Issa, Aifan al Issawi, was assassinated by ISIS, a price he paid for working with the Americans.
The Sheikh interviewed by Guerin expressed that with or without Iraqi govt. help, he would continue to fight ISIL, who had killed over 350 members of his tribe.