Following their seizure of the Anbar and Diyala provinces, fighters affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, have been recently pushing to extend their influence towards the “Baghdad Belts,” the regions bordering the capital.
In a bid to achieve their objective, insurgents have resorted to blowing up several bridges in Anbar—a tactic aimed at blocking supplies to the Iraqi forces and disrupting the army’s movement.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Mutahidoun bloc in the Iraqi parliament, Salman Al-Jumaili, blamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition for boycotting two parliamentary sessions to discuss the Anbar crisis.
In a press conference on Monday, Jumaili accused Maliki of “underestimating [the worth of] people’s blood.”
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, an Iraqi MP in the Mutahidoun bloc, Mazhar Al-Janabi, said: “As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Maliki is responsible for the crisis and its outcomes. He also bears responsibility for the widespread arrests currently taking place in the Baghdad Belts.”
Janabi accused Maliki and the security forces of disproportionately targeting Sunnis, who make up the majority of the population of Anbar.
“Arrests of innocent people from a specific demographic in specific places means there is a complex failure in managing the security file,” he said, calling on the government “to identify the enemy so that we [can] all unite in confronting it.”
Complaints of sectarian discrimination by the central government and the security forces are a long-standing grievance in the province of Anbar, and led to large scale protests last year.
In December, insurgents—some of whom were linked to Al-Qaeda affiliates such as ISIS—expelled government forces from the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
Jumaili said Iraq has paid a heavy price over Maliki’s “wrongful approach in dealing with the crises the country is going through.”
“What makes things worse and more suspicious is that arrests are made without arrest warrants being issued,” he said.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the leader of the Baghdad Belt League, Eyad Al-Jubouri, said: “The Baghdad Belt is controlled by the residents and there is good coordination between us and the security forces in order to prevent militants from sneaking in.”
Jubouri blamed insurgents for the violence, and said that the security forces had released suspects who had been proven to have no connection with terrorism.
“With the elections drawing near, there are some who try to deal with this file from an electoral angle,” he added.