Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Iraqi Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that its forces had killed dozens of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters in Ramadi, the center of Anbar province, while the army’s Anbar HQ denied that it had set a date to begin an offensive against insurgents in Fallujah.
A statement issued by the ministry said: “The armed forces, supported by the air force, the army air corps, and in cooperation with tribal forces and local police, carried out a successful operation in which they killed more than 50 terrorists from the ISIS terrorist organization.”
The statement added: “Around 135 explosive devices were defused and seven vehicles were destroyed, two of them loaded with machine guns, in addition to one booby-trapped motorbike, in the Al-Malaab district of Ramadi.”
Meanwhile, the Iraqi army’s Anbar Operations Command said no time has been set to storm the city of Fallujah. A source at the operations command, however, said: “There are surveillance aircraft belonging to the Iraqi air force monitoring the area of Fallujah.”
The source added that “orders we received from the office of the commander of the armed forces included working on a plan to reduce army and civilian losses.”
The Iraqi government lost control of the two cities in the country’s western Anbar province in late December, after Iraqi security forces were expelled by armed insurgents, including fighters from radical jihadist organizations linked to Al-Qaeda, such as ISIS.
The eruption of the crisis followed over a year of mounting sectarian and political tensions, with many of the province’s Sunnis occupying public places in what they said was protest against the sectarian bias of the central government in Baghdad, led by Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, and its security forces.
In a related issue, Iraqi parliamentary speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi and a delegation from Anbar Province visited the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, to examine the measures taken by the ministry to assist Iraqis fleeing the violence in Anbar.
Nujaifi’s office issued a statement which said: “During the meeting with Minister of Displacement and Migration Dindar Najman, they discussed the aid provided by the ministry to the displaced in the areas of Kurdistan and other provinces, including food and medicines, especially [now] that the Anbar crisis represents a humanitarian crisis.”
According to the statement, Nujaifi emphasized “the importance for the ministry to expedite the delivery of aid to displaced families, because it is the authority responsible for this issue, especially following the increase of numbers of the displaced caused by armed operations.”
Nujaifi demanded that the ministry “should head a campaign to help the people of Anbar in coordination with the local authorities of the province and the Council of Ministers in order to provide all the needs of the affected people.”
According to the statement, the minister said: “The security situation and the budget have greatly affected the ministry’s performance, and that allocated funds were running low and a decision must be made by the Council of Ministers to exempt the ministry of immigration from the procedures it is required to followed, most of which related to the budget.”
Meanwhile, the Defense and Security Committee at the Iraqi parliament criticized the government’s handling of the crisis.
The committee said: “The Anbar crisis clearly showed that there was a flaw represented in the government’s inability to deal with the problems and meet the demands of the people, because the problems faced by Iraqis are primarily political and not related to the military or security except in terms of the consequences.”
Shawan Mohammad Taha, MP for the Kurdistan Alliance and member of the Defense and Security Committee, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is a view which says the Anbar crisis was deliberately created to cover the government’s failure, and therefore, it is an attempt by the Iraqi government to return to the international community under the pretext of fighting terrorism.”
Taha added: “The other important issue is that there is no clear strategy in the context of security and defense, because the basic principle is to deal with the causes which lead to the development of the phenomenon of terrorism, which are poverty and unemployment, and subsequently, the failure in this issue has led to the targeting of the political forces and alliances, and holding them responsible for this failure.”
Meanwhile, Iraqi MP for Fallujah, Hamed Al-Mutlaq, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “What is happening today is a result of an accumulation of failure over a number of years, because terrorism and militias in Iraq are not the product of today.”
“The government ignored people’s demands and confused issues, and no longer knew if the solution was a security or a political solution,” he added. “Security solutions alone do not provide results without being accompanied by a comprehensive political solution, and this is what we demanded from an early stage, but we never received a response of any kind from the government.”