Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—As Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters seek to gain control of the strategically important Haditha Dam in western Iraq, local Sunni Arab tribesmen have pledged to confront the terrorist group despite also opposing the central Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Hadithi—a prominent local tribal figure—said: “The tribes inside and around Haditha, including the Jaghayfah tribe inside the city and the Bou Nimr tribe on the west bank of the Euphrates, will not surrender the city. Whatever the differences we have with the central government, which ignored the legitimate demands of the Iraqi people in the western [region] . . . and allowed groups such as this [ISIS] to enter the country, we will not surrender Haditha.”
He added: “Talks between us and ISIS failed and the insurgents gave the tribes two days to surrender the city or else. The tribes will back the government security forces against the insurgents if they try to storm the city.”
The government has sent military reinforcements to Haditha to prevent ISIS taking control of the dam amid fears the militant group could seek to destroy it, flooding central regions and harming Iraq’s power grid. ISIS was able to seize the Albu Haiyat area and the small town of Jubba near Haditha earlier this week and is amassing forces for a concerted push.
Sheikh Ghassab Al-Ithawi, a prominent Anbar tribal figure, said that local tribes had united against ISIS, adding that the militant group’s recent advances in a number of Iraqi regions means the group is increasingly being spread thin on the ground.
“ISIS will not be able to cross the Haditha line because of the strength of the tribal forces in the area,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Haditha hydroelectric dam produces 1,000 megawatts of power, and is a key portion of Iraq’s electrical grid.