Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri Al-Maliki called for “jihad” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq’s restive western Anbar province on Wednesday, pledging to crush the Islamist insurgency before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that is set to be begin in late June.
In his weekly speech from Baghdad, Maliki also called for a “national dialogue” on Anbar, stressing that the Iraqi people must “stand with the security forces,” and that residents of Anbar must work with “their brothers from the tribes of Anbar and the local and central governments to accelerate the cleansing of Anbar” of ISIS militants.
“Everybody must unite and return to the ranks of jihad to fight against ISIS and its offshoots, as well as the conspirators who are manipulating the fate of the people of Anbar,” he said.
ISIS forces took control of Iraq’s largest province in December 2013, seizing the towns of Ramadi and Fallujah amid mass popular discontent in the Sunni-majority province towards the central government over perceived bias on the part of Baghdad.
Anbar’s tribal hierarchy has split over ISIS’s presence, with some tribesman fighting alongside its members and others joining government forces seeking to retake the province. Many inhabitants have fled following the government’s continued inability to drive out the Islamists militants, and amid fears that ISIS will seek to unite territory under its control in eastern Syria and western Iraq to form an Islamic emirate.
“It will not take long to quickly eradicate and eliminate [ISIS fighters] and achieve the great purpose of easing the suffering and [facilitating] the return of the displaced families,” Maliki said on Wednesday.
The Iraqi prime minister is currently seeking to form a new government after failing to secure a majority in recent parliamentary elections, with many opponents criticizing his security record.
In addition to the premiership, Maliki has acted as interior and defense minister over the past four years.
There has been no official response from Anbar’s local government to Maliki’s call, as uncertainty continues to surround the position of political and tribal leaders in the governorate.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Faris Ibrahim, a member of the Anbar Salvation Council, dismissed Maliki’s calls for a “national dialogue.”
“This conference means giving a chance to the opportunists who have infringed on the rights of those who fought and sacrificed themselves for Anbar,” he said.
“What Anbar and its people want is to be liberated from ISIS and its followers, who once they find themselves cornered go to the government to offer their services,” Ibrahim added.
The Anbar leader accused Maliki’s government of lacking the will to truly crack down on ISIS in the province, adding that Baghdad has made a number of bad decisions that have lost it the trust and goodwill of the local tribes.