Local observers and some officials express skepticism about military's ability to retake area.
Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, while appearing at the Chamber of Deputies, expressed his intention to establish a “liberation process for Nineveh” to expel ISIS groups from its stronghold in Mosul and other regions that it currently occupies. Prime Minister Al-Abadi did not reveal any additional information about the “liberation” process; however, local observers and followers doubted that the Iraqi government would be able to regain control of the governorate of Nineveh in the near future. Furthermore, these observers are surprised that the government is ignoring what is occurring in the governorate of Anbar, owing to the fact that the terrorist organization controls most of the cities and governorates that surround Mosul. Therefore, introducing a military operation into the issue is extremely complicated at best.
A source who is a senior officer in the Iraqi Army stated in an interview with an-Nahar, that “Since the governorates of Salah al-Din and Anbar, which are completely controlled by ISIS, have not been liberated, then the idea of liberating Mosul would be most difficult.” He expressed that he was “extremely surprised by the lack of attention the government is giving to the problem in the governorates of Salah al-Din and Anbar, especially since they are in such close proximity to Baghdad, contrary to the governorate of Nineveh.”
Anbar in the grips of ISIS
The symbolic and effective victories that the security forces recently achieved, especially in the governorate of Diyala and before that in the Jurf al-Sakhr district (in the governorate of Karbala), and the noticeable momentum that followed it, has significantly strengthened the confidence of the security forces. However, this does little to prevent the many dangers posed by the imminent threat represented by ISIS’s control of over 90 percent of the water in the governorate of Anbar.
A journalist from Anbar, who recently escaped from the hold of ISIS to Baghdad last week, revealed in an interview with an-Nahar that the terrorist organization controls most of the districts and cities. He further stated, “Count it out on your fingers with me, ISIS controls the ar-Rutbah district, which is near the border crossing between Jordan and Syria. They likewise control the al-Qa’im district and its border crossing between Syria and Iraq. Its control extends to the towns of ‘Anah, Rawa and Kubaysah. ISIS also controls the outskirts of the Hadithah district; however, it doesn’t control the city center. The city center is controlled by the al-Jaghayfah tribe, which is hostile towards ISIS. Meanwhile, the army controls the waters of the Hadithah Dam.”
He added, “The army controls the ‘Ain al-Asad Base in the al-Baghdadi region, which is near the Hit district, but ISIS controls the entire area around Hit. If we were to head south where the center of the Anbar governorate is located, we would see that ISIS is in control of approximately 70 percent of that area, which is where Ramadi is located. Likewise, ISIS controls the al-Jazirah region, which is where the Al-Bu Assaf, Al-Bu Nimr, Al-Bu Rishah, Al-B Ziyab, Al-Bu Bani and other tribes are all found.”
The source continued, “It is well known that Fallujah was taken over by ISIS many months ago. I can say that there are only very small parts of the governorate that are still under the control of the government. For instance, the government controls al-Amiriyat al-Fallujah, which is approximately 50 kilometers from the governorates of Baghdad and Babil. The military also controls the Habbaniyah base due to its strategic importance and military supplies.”
The source was able to speak to eye witnesses from a Baghdad suburb west of the governorate where the ‘Ayn al-Asad military base is located. He quoted the eye witnesses as saying, “A large number of American soldiers arrived at the base with all of their military equipment.” However, we could not ascertain the veracity of this news from other sources, and whether or not those numbers were just a pretext to ground forces in Anbar.
Additionally, as a result of the deteriorating security conditions in Anbar, the governorate council has moved its offices to the al-Mansur district of Baghdad; which is where most of the council members are now located. Likewise, most of the Anbar governorate’s tribal leaders are in Baghdad. For instance, Sheikh Ahmad Abu-Risha, Sheikh Wasam al-Hardan and Sheikh Muhammad al-Hayis are in Baghdad. As for Sheikh Majid al-Sulayman, he is in Amman, Jordan and Ali Hatim al-Sulayman is in the Kurdistan region.
Source documenttranslated from the Arabic byDonald Puhlman.