Iraq is planning a major attack to gain control over Anbar Province’s Fallujah and Ramadi cities held by Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Falluja and Ramadi are strategic Iraqi cities on the Euphrates River bordering Syria. Reportedly, the ISIL has tightened its grip on vast territories of Anbar province in a bid to create a Sunni Muslim state that covers Iraq and parts of Syria.
Iraqi security forces and their tribal allies made gains Sunday in Ramadi, reclaiming parts of the city from Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda. An air strike on Ramadi city killed 25 Islamist militants, Reuters reported.
But the ISIL appears in complete control of the key city of Falluja. Government efforts to wrest Falluja are getting complicated due to the defection of some tribal leaders who have now befriended the al-Qaeda mercenaries, according to reports.
Anbar province is a predominantly Sunni area that harbors widespread disenchantment toward the discriminatory policies of the Shiite-led Nouri al-Maliki government.
The Sunni grievances have forced some armed tribesman to side with the al-Qaeda which aims to set up a separate Sunni Islamic state in Iraq.
According to an AFP report, “witnesses reported ISIL militants patrolling both the cities bearing black flags.” Reportedly some of the militants already declared Fallujah as an Islamic state during Friday prayers.
According to Reuters, “Talks between Iraqi government officials and tribes made little headway on Sunday, with some tribal leaders hesitant to negotiate at all and others afraid of opposing al-Qaeda."
The ISIL’s strength and support network reportedly spans more than one country. It has a well-entrenched base within Syria which it established during the Syrian civil war.
With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Anbar province two years ago, the al-Qaeda took advantage of the power vacuum and drove out the Iraqi forces.
With the territorial control of Anbar province, the ISIL has become a force to reckon for the Iraqi administration. The group’s success in controlling Fallujah could mark a shift in Iraq’s sectarian violence from car bombs and suicide attacks to ground battles.
While the U.S. ruled out return of U.S. ground troops returning to Iraq, there is a possibility that the U.S. could deploy drones to support the Iraqi government’s counter-offensive, according to reports.
So far the increased military assistance, combined with intelligence support from the CIA, could not prevent the resurgence of al-Qaida in western Iraq.
Further with Iraq preparing a counterattack on Anbar province, the region may soon see protracted violence and bloodshed.
Al-Qaeda’s capture of Fallujah only tells of strategic disaster in the Middle East presided by United States.
Images of al-Qaeda’s black flags flying in Fallujah, where more than 1,300 U.S. troops were killed during the war only undermines the White House narrative of success in Iraq.
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