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Opinion: The Sabotage of Anbar | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Protesters burn a police vehicle during the fighting in Ramadi December 31, 2013. (REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani)

When the protests began in Anbar, I wrote an article in which I described what happened as Fitnah, an Arabic word that means sedition. The worst thing about the protests was that they were dominated by clerics too young to be up to the required level of religious learning to shoulder the responsibilities tangled up with the complex web of interests on the local, regional and international level. By their side stood short-sighted politicians, some of whom had actual links to terrorism, and everyone with an interest in the fragmentation and sabotage of Iraq, including Iraqi nationals and those who went as far as to adopt foreign policies that exceeded their capabilities.

From the start, the picture was clear and there was no doubt that the protests would lead to a collision that would tip the scales in favor of the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The first central mistake was to succumb to the wishes of politicians, who either lacked the knowledge to read the signs of war or had bad intentions, and did not pursue ISIS from the moment of its “invasion” of Fallujah. As a result, a dangerous insurgency base was formed, finding support from politicians who spearheaded the Anbar protests. Protesters raised slogans that were provocative to anyone with a civilized sense of patriotism and national unity while the mob “mastered” the violation of national commitments as well as creating a strange state of fabricated differences.

When Mosul, Tikrit and other cities fell, those politicians and preachers tried to ride the wave. But they showed naivety that verged on foolishness, especially after they were taken down by ISIS. They found themselves in an unenviable position, even an amnesty cannot remove the stigma of betrayal and taking part in the acts of sabotage.

Then, Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell into ISIS’s hands. The unmistakable truth is that all parties, without exception, have failed to launch an operation to liberate the city. What has been said about the formation of rebel battalions remains uncorroborated. Meanwhile, the picture in the city appears to be in a state of confusion in terms of the coexistence between different groups following the deliberate campaigns of ethnic, religious and sectarian disintegration. Mosul used to be a model of an advanced state of human coexistence. Every time a major security breach has taken place somewhere in Iraq, the time-frame for the liberation of Mosul has become less certain. What is happening in Anbar will reflect on the future of Mosul, not because to their links but rather because of the impact the situation in Anbar has on the center’s ability to maneuver.

After a series of successful government operations, ISIS attacked Ramadi, Anbar’s provincial center, showing that sleeper cells in the city and the surrounding areas should not be underestimated. Local tribes mobilized their militants to fight alongside the armed forces but the slow arrival of ground supplies hindered the prospects of a quick resolution. Anbar’s politicians were in a state of shock and truly isolated from the situation on the ground, and not one of them was seen fighting or even visited the battle field. In contrast, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force Qassem Suleimani and the Badr Organization leader Hadi Al-Ameri reportedly made appearances in several hot-spots in Iraq.

As vengeful fighting escalated and hostilities spread among the tribes of Anbar, refugees’ hopes of a quick return began to recede. However, achieving victory over ISIS is certain. Moreover, regional unity based on sectarianism proved to be a mere lie promoted by failed politicians. The reality has shown that national unity is the only option in confronting ISIS and that the national armed forces represent the living embodiment of social unity. The cost of what happened in Fallujah was paid for by its residents and so is the case of all the cities caught in the circle of war.

It has not been easy to convince people of the danger of ISIS through the media. However, ISIS crimes have backfired, not only against them but also against ignorant politicians who had caused the strife by inciting sectarianism and manipulating the fate of people. In the face of this complex situation, it is necessary to find peaceful solutions and reasonable political settlements away from escalation.