Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—A peace initiative launched by the local government in Anbar Province has not yet received a clear response from armed groups fighting government forces in the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
The initiative, supported by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, aims to resolve the violence currently gripping both cities, which the Iraqi government and some tribal allies are attempting to wrest back from insurgents who seized them at the end of December.
It calls on fighters battling government forces to lay down their arms, for military forces to be withdrawn from the area, and for the Iraqi government to negotiate with local citizens with “legitimate grievances.”
Meanwhile, the Mutahidoun Coalition in Iraq’s parliament, led by parliament speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, criticized attempts to end the crisis using military force.
The leader of Mutahidoun Coalition in the Iraqi parliament, Salman Al-Jumaili, said in a statement on Saturday: “Any initiative to resolve the Anbar issue cannot succeed if it did not include an end to the artillery and air bombardment of Fallujah and other residential areas, the return of the displaced, removing the army away from residential areas, and the return of local authorities to restore security.”
Jumaili added: “There are great opportunities for a political solution which could spare civilians and the army great losses.”
He added that he was “surprised at the stances of some political parties and personalities who rejected the political solution and focused on the military solution only, when they themselves called for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis since its start, through negotiations and political means,” a reference to calls from MPs from Maliki’s State of Law Coalition.
In the meantime, an MP for the Iraqiya List, Talal Al-Zawba’i, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “resolving crises, however great or small, requires, along with real desire for a solution, a dialogue to be opened with the real enemies—and not to throw accusations around unfairly.”
He added: “It is a known fact that Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have never called for dialogue nor accepted it, while we find today that the revolutionary rebels, who the government refuses to recognize, are calling for dialogue, which means they are serious about finding a solution to the crisis.”
Zawba’i said: “The conditions they imposed for dialogue are practical and include the withdrawal of the army and meeting legitimate demands,” adding that “dialogue with those who have the territory is much better than dialogue with people who cannot reach the areas they claim they represent.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a source from the Iraqi Army’s Anbar Operations Command said on Saturday that an army unit from the Al-Jazeera Operations Command, responding to intelligence reports, disrupted a terrorist plan to support the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Ramadi and pursued a convoy of seven vehicles, “clashing with them in the area of Wedyan between Al-Rutba and Al-Qa’im, resulting in the destruction of the convoy, the killing of 11 members of ISIS, and the arrest of three others.”
The source said the armed group “attempted to go to Ramadi to deliver arms and missiles to ISIS . . . and occupy the security forces on the parameter of the city to break the siege after the army took control of the Al-Malaab, Jumhouriya and Tash districts.”
The source said the destroyed convoy had a number of Katyusha rockets, explosive devices and mortars, as well as light and heavy weapons.
Another security source said “army units, in cooperation with police and tribal forces, stormed a hideout in Al-Malaab district in central Ramadi and clashed with insurgents, resulting in the deaths of six ISIS leaders.”
The source said army forces found three explosive belts and destroyed five booby-trapped cars which were parked near the hideout.