Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Sunni Arab tribal fighters will “take full control” of Iraq’s restive Anbar province within the next two days, according to Ahmad Al-Dabash, the founder of the Islamic Army in Iraq.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in Erbil on Saturday, he said: “In two days’ time, the tribal revolutionaries will take full control of Anbar, just like they took control of Mosul before. We will continue to advance until we achieve all our rights, and we will defend our religious sites ourselves, and no one will be allowed to attack any religious sites in the country,” he said.
Dabash said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the militant group that on June 10 took control of Mosul and sent shockwaves throughout Iraq and the region, had “handed control of the city over to the other factions.”
He described ISIS as similar to the 10th Armored Brigade of the Iraqi Army in the era of Saddam Hussein, which was known to hand over the command and administration of areas it had seized in battle to other factions.
But Dabash denied that his Islamic Army had any close connection to ISIS, saying: “We have no alliances with anyone. Each side works according to their leanings, but when the two interests met with a common enemy who wanted to break us, we decided to point our arms [against] this government.”
The Islamic Army, which was formed in 2003 to fight against US-led coalition forces, has been battling Iraqi government forces in a bid to oust the Shi’ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
Like many of the Sunni Arab groups now taking up arms against the government, the Islamic Army’s fight has corresponded somewhat with the goals of ISIS, an Al-Qaeda splinter group, although the Army’s leaders denounced Al-Qaeda’s ideology as “too extreme” in 2006.
Dabash added that the south of Iraq will soon witness a “massive uprising” against the Maliki government, which he accuses of seeking to “bring back tyranny, meaning the rule of Iraq by one person and one party, which is something that cannot be allowed to happen.”
“You will see a massive uprising in southern Iraq which is larger than what is taking place now in the Sunni governorates . . . Many tribes in the south are contacting the revolutionaries daily and expressing their willingness to start a revolution.”
Residents in Sunni-dominated Anbar have long been angry with Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad, whom they say has issued policies and laws which discriminate against them. In December, residents began a months-long sit-in in the city of Ramadi in protest against the Maliki government, which was later forcibly dispersed by security forces.