Iraq’s Anbar Province under attack and the conundrum that the U.S. faces.
Yesterday the CNN reported that an Iraqi Sunni tribal leader Sheikh Naim al-Gaod (Albu Nimr tribe) said that contrary to U.S. official reports, ISIS is gaining ground in Anbar province. Anbar is Iraqi’s largest and reaches to about 45 miles west of Baghdad. As for the regular Iraqi forces, which are Shia led, he expected an avoidance of fighting much as they did in Mosul. He said that without Sunni tribal troops, Anbar will “collapse within hours.” He noted that in the Anbar town of Jubbat-al-Shamiya, ISIS reportedly killed twenty-five government forces, and the rest pulled out and ran as soon as the shelling started. Only the Sunni tribal forces continued the fight. He predicted a massacre if ISIS forces take over the town. His pleas for more weapons from the Iraqi national forces fell on deaf ears. The U.S. gave some air support, in response to the tribal leader’s calls for help, but al-Gaoud plead for ground forces or at least “arming the tribes directly.” Al-Gaod also dismisses U.S. claims that ISIS is on the run. He observed that: “In Anbar, we are losing ground not gaining.”
The only Shia forces that seem to be willing to fight are what they call “People’s Mobilization groups.” These are usually Shia extremist dominated. They are suspected of the recent killing of a dozen Sunnis in Baghdad. Meanwhile, our hopes for stopping ISIS on the ground seems to rest on support from the more moderate Sunni tribal fighters, the very ones the Shia-dominated government is hesitant to share the arms they receive from the United States.
No matter how much the United States tries to make it appear that the battle against ISIS is non-sectarian, the more we find the Shia dominated government in Baghdad undermining our efforts.
Understand the most basic elements of this conundrum: 1) the geopolitical facts that existed at the beginning of our invasion of Iraq in 2003; 2) How we screwed up the post-fighting vacuum and thereby turned it sectarian; 3) How Islamic thought makes it so difficult for Sunni tribes to support us.
In next week’s part II, we will begin to examine these three elements and offer a commentary on our current mess in Iraq, which is more and more appearing as only one battlefield on a much larger and threatening war.