Less than two years after American forces have left Iraq violent attacks on Falluja have occurred. It is reported that Falluja and the Anbar province capital Ramadi has fallen into Al-Qaeda backed militants control in Iraq and there is a fear of an ensuing civil war. Falluja a city in the western province of Al Anbar is approximately 43 miles west of Baghdad.
After 3 days of battle the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, ISIL, has taken control of the city and pushed police forces to the edge of the city. ISIL has gained control of government buildings including the police headquarters and U.S. military equipment. The flag of the ISIL now flies over the city’s center. Earlier in the week ISIL had also taken the capital of the Anbar province, Ramadi, which is a Sunni strong-hold that U.S. forces had to contend with during the Iraq war.
The ISIL is the stongest militant grouped based in Syria.
Hadi Razeij, head of the Falluja police force, said the police had withdrawn from the city and was no longer in control. Further reports indicate that the fighting in the city has ceased and that the center of the attacks are now along the highway that links Falluja to Baghdad.
Struan Stevenson, President of European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Iraq, has released a statement that Iraq is near the brink of civil war and that it will likely fall along ethnic lines between Sunni and Shiite. There is concern that the Sunni will seek the assistance of Al-Qaeda linked ISIL to find protection from Shiite persecution. At one time the Sunni looked to American forces to provide that protection.
Stevenson contends that Sunni members have been under a constant attack from Shia backed government forces led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik. Stevenson fears that with the fall of Falluja to rebels in Iraq that a civil war may be next. Malik who succeeded the transitional government and in now in his second term as Prime Minister has been accused of trying to remove Sunni remnants from the government.
Stevenson’s press release states that on Dec. 28, 2013 government forces arrested Dr. Ahmad Alwani by an assault force of 50 armored vehicles, heavily armed troops and helicopter gunships. The arrest was also called a massacre as government forces killed 9 of his family members and arrested over 150 of his staff. Dr. Alwani a senior Sunni MP and Chair of the Iraqi Parliament’s Economics committee has been a key critic of Maliki and of Iranian meddling in Iraq. Dr. Alwani was arrested under charges of terrorism.
The military arrest took place in Dr. Alwani’s city of Ramadi, where Alwani had been participating in a sit-in against the Maliki-led government. The insurgency appears to have begun in Ramadi as a back-lash against the arrest.
Maliki stated, in a speech from Baghdad, that the Iraqi government forces would not rest until the province was cleared of militants. Stevenson is voicing concern that the militant uprising may be composed of Sunni citizens who are in fear of the Shiite led government. It is reported that ISIL members were broadcasting the message that they were there to protect the citizens from the government and asked for their cooperation.
Falluja is the same city where U.S. contractors were captured, burned and hanged from a bridge. Many will recall the images that were prevalent throughout the world media outlets. The fall of Falluja to rebels in Iraq is troubling news and the statements of civil war are not what the U.S. government was hoping for as an end to the means of the Iraqi war. The U.S. State Department released a statement that they were concerned over the news and that they would work with Iraq and the tribes to defeat a common enemy. The question being raised by Stevenson is who is the enemy this time?
By Anthony Clark