On Christmas day,Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke to his country. He began, appropriately enough, talking about Jesus. He wished Christians a Merry Christmas, extended to "all Muslims, who believe in Jesus the Messiah, messenger of humanity and peace." Holiday greetings out of the way, the prime minister moved on to what he really wanted to address. He spoke of ongoing counter-terrorist operations, and the need for tribal support. Maliki then talked about "what is referred to as the Ďsit-in protest,' which has become a base for the leaders of al-Qaeda, "repeating the phrase twice. This was a reference to the protest site near Ramadi, the symbolic center of the mainstream Sunni protest movement countrywide.
Maliki went on, saying "this we know because they have openly appeared on the podium, declaring we are al-Qaeda, and we cut off heads. They have openly raised the banner of al-Qaeda at the podium, and soon we will air the confessions" of terrorists admitting they are based at the site. "Our intelligence from aerial and human sources inside the site, confirm the presence of both Iraqi and foreign al-Qaeda leaders. The provincial government has also confirmed that there are 36 al-Qaeda leaders based there. So now there is a popular demand that the site be shut down."
With national elections set for April, Maliki's Christmas speech, a show trial-like airing of "confessions" by detainees on state television, and a wide-ranging media campaign in the days that followed were part of an effort to tie Ramadi protests to al-Qaeda. The case was largely wrong, and to an extent made in bad faith. This and the December 30, 2013 bulldozing of the Ramadi encampment were among several actions that led to the total breakdown in security in Anbar province at year's end and exacerbated the security crisis there. However, the roots of the current crisis go back over the past year.
The Rise, Success and Failure of the Sunni Protest Movement
The Sunni protest movement began in late 2012 following the arrest of aides to then-Finance Minister Rafia al-Isawi and threats to arrest him. Isawi is from Fallujah, the volatile city in east Anbar. The protesters took a Ramadi encampment they called "Pride and Dignity Square" as their center, and quickly spread to other Sunni provinces. The protests were far larger than any Iraq had seen since 2003, and they quickly came to dominate the national political debate.
While the protests were framed as spontaneous citizen reactions, and for many participants they genuinely were, each protest site was run by political parties, or at more radical sites, by insurgent front groups. The Ramadi site was dominated by two forces, both part of Speaker Osama al-Nujayfi's Mutahidun, the state's largest Sunni Arab coalition. One was the "Popular Committees," a group headed by tribal "Awakening" leader Ahmad Abu Risha, and apparently run day-to-day by his nephew, Muhammad Khamis Abu Risha. The other was the Anbar Coordinating Committee, controlled by Ahmad al-Alwani of the Islamic Party. Nujayfi's allies worked hand-in-glove with the Sunni clerical establishment, ensuring that their protests were the most well attended.
The second largest group of protest sites, mostly located in north-central and northwestern Iraq, was run by a front group for the Baathist Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia(JRTN), which is headed by Izzat al-Duri, a former Saddam Hussein deputy. There mainder of the sites were run by an eclectic mixture of insurgent fronts and activist organizations. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq, had a notable presence only in Fallujah. Although a formal list of demands was published and accepted as "the demands of the protesters," the document was drafted by the Ramadi leaders, and both Iraqi and pan-Arab media gave Ramadi disproportionate coverage.
The movement never had a serious chance of achieving its stated goals. It stated its demands absolutely, and was too sweeping, demanding a total abolition of de-Baathification and repeal of the death penalty for terrorism, which no Shiite prime minister would accept. Although the Ramadi site's speakers were not al-Qaeda, their message was infused with themes of Sunni power and identity, they flew old Iraqi flags with the three stars of the Baath Party, and speeches sometimes contained anti-Shiite epithets. Within a few months, attendance began to trail off.
Despite the movement not being a serious threat to his government, Maliki reacted badly at first, threatening to shut the Ramadi site down by force, saying "bring it to an end, before it is brought to an end for you." After a rebuke from the Ayatollah Alial-Sistani, Iraqi senior Shiite religious authority, Maliki quickly reversed course and said he would follow Sistani's direction that the government fulfill protester demands as long as they are consistent with the law and constitution.
Political leaders established two committees in January 2013: a party committee and a ministerial committee. The latter achieved real albeit limited results, releasing about 3,000 Sunni prisoners. A more sweeping set of statutory reforms was proposed in March, including a significant softening of de-Baathification and other measures. But in return, Maliki demanded a formal ban on the Baath Party. With provincial elections scheduled for April and Shiite rivals attacking him over the compromise, Maliki wanted cover.
The main Sunni backer of the deal, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, was a political rival to the Mutahidun. Therefore, the wing of the protesters that was in the political process refused to back the deal, unwilling to give Mutlak a victory before the elections, and the bills stalled. Maliki's coalition lost seats in the election, held throughout Shiite provinces on April 20, and the last effort to meet protester demands politically died at that point.
Yet that week a tragic event occurred that would both re-energize the Sunni protests and push them in a more dangerous direction. Near a protest site in Huwija, a Sunni Arabarea of Kirkuk province, gunmen killed a soldier following a Friday sermon that could best be described as an incitement to war. The site was controlled by the Baathist JRTN, and the soldier killed was a Sunni, a local recruit -- so if Maliki had handled it properly, it was a great opportunity. Instead, after the site had been encircled by an army unit for days without incident, special SWAT forces which report directly to Maliki came in the morning of April 23 and gunned down 44 protesters. While they were all no doubt JRTN supporters, they appeared to have been entirely unarmed. Sunnis, and quite a few Shiites, were outraged, and called for accountability.
Two videos leaked by local soldiers framed how the massacre was later perceived. One was a couple of days before the assault, and it showed an army officer pleading with protesters to allow them to search the site for weapons, saying plaintively, "You are our people, we don't want to hurt you!" The other was the morning of the assault, and it showed a unit of soldiers that had come at the site at an angle after the shooting started to help protesters escape. The video showed unarmed men, some of them elderly, running in fear. The videos helped cement a dichotomy in the public mind between patriotic rank-and-file soldiers and murderous Maliki henchmen that to this day explains continued Sunni support for army operations against al-Qaeda, but also deep distrust of Maliki's special forces.
The immediate impact of the Huwija incident was to push the mainstream wing of the protest movement toward militarization. Some protest leaders created a militia called the "Army of Pride and Dignity," after the name of the protest site. Although it was never a significant fighting force, videos of the rag-tag militia openly recruited from former regime elements had a huge impact on Shiite perceptions. And when on April 27 five off-duty soldiers were killed near the protest site,the government accused protest leaders of the killings, and began announcing arrest warrants.
While a major confrontation appeared imminent, both sides backed down, with the militia laying low and Maliki refraining from trying to enforce the warrants. And then in June Anbar held provincial elections, and the Mutahidun bloc, whose parties controlled the Ramadi site, won a plurality. They put together a coalition electing Ahmad Khalaf al-Dhiyabi (al-Dulaymi), an engineer who was politically active at the Ramadi protest site. This immediately restarted the crisis with Baghdad, which declared that Dhiyabi was one of the protest leaders for whom there was an arrest warrant.
Dhiyabi barely had time to get the governor's chair warm before he changed his tone and started looking to reconcile with Maliki. The protesters authorized him to open negotiations, and they met on October 7, but his supporters could only express dismay after he began adopting Maliki's line in interviews. In one interview he was asked about the arrest warrant, and Dhiyabi explained that it had been a misunderstanding, but had been cleared up.
By early fall, the protests were struggling with an even bigger problem, which was waning support. Attendance had rebounded after Huwija but was declining again, and mainstream media had begun to mostly ignore them. After Dhiyabi's betrayal the clerics began taking direct control, but the protests were essentially a Sunni echo chamber.
On November 25, 2013, Dhiyabi led a delegation to Baghdad to meet with Maliki. The meeting turned out to be more important than it appeared at the time. Anbar leaders portrayed the meeting as focused on protester demands, but the announced results instead focused on economic benefits, including an oil refinery, airport, and irrigation project. If those promises were far away, the benefits to Dhiyabi were immediate -- Maliki agreed to allow him to replace the chief of police and head of counter-terrorism, hire more police under his authority, and strengthen his authority relevant to army commands in the province.
The deal was unusual in the sense that Maliki generally resists devolving security control. Additionally, Dhiyabi did not explain what Maliki got out of it, but it soon became clear there was a quid pro quo. Council Chairman Sabah al-Halbusi suggested this the next day, saying the concessions would allow the protests to be closed. The following day, Deputy Chairman Saleh al-Isawi said, "It was Maliki who raised the issue of the sit-in, and demanded it be closed," adding that Maliki told them terrorists were using the site as a base, but that it could be closed peacefully.
Dhiyabi began fulfilling his end of the bargain immediately, and spoke to tribal leaders about ending the now 11-month protest camp. On December 4, they met and held a joint press conference at which a tribal leader rejected closing the sit-in. After a journalist asked Dhiyabi if he was pushing to close the site, Dhiyabi dodged the question and said the matter was being referred to the tribes.
In press conferences on December 8 and 14, Dhiyabi strengthened his tone. In the first he strongly criticized a renewed call by a protest leader to form a militia to protect the protest site. But he merely warned of "politicization" of the protests and proposed the sit-in be suspended through elections. In the next, this time flanked by police officers, Dhiyabi took an even firmer tone, defending the province's police and the need to maintain state monopoly on force against calls to an independent Sunni force.
In both conferences, Dhiyabi's took a swipe at unnamed "satellite channels" promoting a return to insurgency. This mainly meant Al-Rafidayn, the primary pro-insurgency television channel, which is run by Harith al-Dhari's Muslim Scholars Association (MSA), an organization that had backed the failed insurgency through 2007 and never stopped promoting the overthrow of the new political system. This is important to bear in mind given later events; the Sunni protest movement had always contained a pro-insurgency wing and a wing in the political process, and with Dhiyabi having been elected by the moderate wing only to betray it, pressure was building.
On December 21, the army's seventh division was undertaking a raid against ISIS near Rutba in western Anbar when it fell into a trap that killed the division's commander and several senior officers. This was a shock to the army, and so over the next two days security forces launched a much broader offensive against the al Qaeda-originated group. This offensive was focused in Wadi Huran and Wadi al-Abyadh, which are located in northern and northwestern Anbar, respectively, in the desert, away from the province's population centers and close to the Syrian border where ISIS has bases.
Not only did Sunni political figures endorse the operations, but the Anbar Tribal Council did so as well. Sheikh Hamid al-Shuka, the council's chairman who is also the head of the Albu Dhiyab tribe, said "the tribes support the security services in their operations against terrorist forces ... and condemn the terrorist attacks across the province, especially the killing of Seventh Division Commander General Muhammad al-Kurwi." Sheikh Abdal-Amir al-Kaylani, the council's secretary general, said, "the council supports and blesses the operations of the Iraqi army against al Qaeda." While Maliki faced threats of resistance related to the Ramadi site, since it was clear he wanted to move against it, no mainstream figure opposed the army operations.
At this point Maliki had a historical opportunity to unite the country in a fight against ISIS, which had not only been launching mass casualty attacks against Shiites but had also conducted a relentless campaign of assassination and extortion against Sunnis in Anbar and elsewhere. But instead he decided to use the national groundswell to shut down the Ramadi protest site, which he attacked during a speech on December 22 as operations were beginning. On December 25 he gave the"al Qaeda headquarters" speech, focused on painting the sit-in as a hive of ISIS activity. In so doing he obliterated the national consensus that had been building over previous days.
There was a burst of activity to prevent a confrontation. Nujayfi's Mutahidun intervened in a high-profile way, claiming they had guarantees the Ramadi site would not be shut down forcibly. Defense Minister Saadun al-Dulaymi, who is from Anbar but has no real political support there, visited the province from December 24 to 25. Unable to convince tribal leaders, he left the day of Maliki's speech promising that "the government has no intention to raid or confront the site," and that operations would remain focused on the desert.
On Friday, December27, the eve of the crackdown, Maliki said, "Today is the last Friday sermon at the Ramadi sit-in." But by this point it should have been clear the consensus in favor of shutting it down was a Potemkin construction. True, Maliki had the support of both Dhiyabi and Halbusi. But Halbusi recanted on December 17. Officials meeting with tribal leaders encountered resistance, and the only vocal tribal leaders supporting a shutdown were sheikhs on the payroll like Hamid Hayes. Support for the sit-in had ebbed, and with the encampment perched aside the highway linking Baghdad to Jordan and Syria, it had become a nuisance. Concessions on substantive protester demands would probably have bought broad acquiescence to a closure, but not a forced shutdown in exchange for a personal deal with the governor.
From December 28 to 31 the government under took a series of ill-considered actions that led to the total breakdown of security, which has captured global attention the past two weeks. It is unlikely that this breakdown would have happened absent the temporal coincidence of these actions.
On Saturday morning, December 28, Maliki's special SWAT forces conducted a raid in Ramadi in which they arrested Member of Parliament (MP) Ahmad al-Alwani, the protest leader, killing a number of people, including his brother and sister, in the process. Officials explained they were actually there to arrest his brother, Alial-Alwani, who was wanted related to the soldiers' killings back in April, and Alwani's security opened fire, forcing government forces to shoot back. If that was what happened, then it would allow them to get around the fact that Alwani has parliamentary immunity, since he was caught in the act.
Alwani's family told a different story. They said the two houses, which are side by side, were assaulted by security, and that Maliki's SWAT executed Alwani's brother and sister in cold blood in front of him. Whether that is true or not, it is the account many Anbaris believe, and the Sunni media is routinely recounting as fact.
It is easy to understand why Maliki would target Alwani, one of the most unsavory figures in Iraqi politics. Alwani's speeches are often laced with sectarian rhetoric -- a December 2012 statement calling Shiites "children of fornication" led to protests. Maliki's reference to protest leaders talking about cutting off heads does not come from an al-Qaeda leader, but from one of Alwani's most infamous speeches in September 2013. While the speech was about Shiite militias, it was inflammatory in light of events. And since such speeches regularly make it into Shiite media, the phrase was the perfect dog-whistle for his voter base.
Later on December 28, the official television channel, Al-Iraqiya, broadcast a show trial-like program with "confessions" of a series of young men who claimed to have joined ISIS and discussed various attacks they executed under the direction of protest leaders, including Khamis Abu Risha and Ali Hatem Suleiman. The confessions were interspersed with flashes to scenes from protests, some featuring Ramadi protest leaders and others al Qaeda flags, with ominous music in the background, like a horror movie.
The government's case does not bear up under scrutiny. The narrative the confessions weave, that the purpose of the attacks was to spoil the elections, is especially illogical since Alwani and Abu Risha were running in the elections and ended up winning a plurality. The protest scenes with al Qaeda flags are from a notorious site in Fallujah, not Ramadi. Additionally, Maliki's claim that Ramadi protest leaders openly announced affiliation with al Qaeda, is false -- and it is well-known the organizations running the protest site are mainstream Anbari movements.
This is not to say that these men are not confessing to real crimes. The primary crime, the killing of five soldiers in April, was near the Ramadi site where the protesters had armed guards. Coming right after Huwija, some of the guards might have seen the off-duty soldiers and decided to kill them. Also, the other attacks to which they confessed were against government targets, not al Qaeda-style mass-casualty attacks on civilians, and Khamis Abu Risha and Suleiman had formed militias with the avowed aim of defending the protest site. The mistake was the decision to identify the site, and thus the protest movement, with al Qaeda, instead of the alleged crimes of some individuals.
Further insight into the government's case comes from a 51-second clip of the cabinet meeting in which Dhiyabi talked about the site. The video appears to cut in after Maliki asked Dhiyabi about the site, and Dhiyabi said, "the number of al Qaeda present at the site, and I think our information is better than the security services, frankly, does not exceed, at the most, 30 to 40 individuals. Some have brought in weapons, and of those who escaped from Abu Ghraib are five or six, maybe up to 10."
This is not a huge number for the largest protest encampment in the country, probably only two or three percent of the total. But at most "30 to 40 individuals" became "36 al Qaeda leaders" in Maliki's speech, and the site as a whole "an al Qaeda headquarters." Furthermore, it is not clear that the government has even tried to identify these individuals. Protest leaders repeatedly stated that the site was open to police inspection at any time, and there are no reports of the government attempting to search the site and being refused. Nor have the alleged 36 individuals been identified, though they might include the 10 men in the confessions video.
Also on December 28 a state of martial law took effect, beginning with a curfew. By December 30, the day security forces bulldozed buildings at the protest site, cell phone communications were cut in Ramadi and Fallujah, and residents complained that utilities had gone out. Not only was imposing martial law inflammatory, but it was also illegal, since the constitution requires parliamentary approval. Even before this the army was restricting travel between Anbar and Baghdad, also without legal basis.
By this point a new insurgency was in full swing. The call went out to challenge the curfew by force, and armed groups confronted security forces, leaving police cars and even Humvees burning in the road and an undetermined number of people dead or wounded. That evening the Mutahidun bloc and other Sunni leaders in Baghdad held a press conference and threatened to first resign from parliament and then leave the political process entirely, an act which would be an implicit endorsement of the insurgency. They demanded that the illegal state of martial law be lifted, and that Alwani either be freed based on his parliamentary immunity or his case be transferred to an Anbar court.
Faced with the possibility of total state collapse in Sunni areas, Maliki withdrew the army from the cities on December 31. This was the last step that let all hell break loose. Under normal circumstances police control security within the cities while the army controls entry and exit. But the tribal-based local police officers in Anbar can only function as part of state security when they are defending their communities against outsiders like al Qaeda. With the federal government itself besieging their towns, local police officers would not stand against the insurgents, and so the army's withdrawal left both Ramadi and Fallujah undefended.
A final point of government dysfunction was the political struggle over the police itself, which is notable since the road to this disaster began with a November deal to remove the police chief. Dhiyabi had wanted to get rid of Chief Hadi Rzayj because he was a hold-over from the previous governor, Qasim al-Fahdawi, with whom Dhiyabi has had a very hostile relationship. Defense Minister Saadun al-Dulaymi publicly confirmed Rzayj's removal during a December 10 visit to Anbar.
This made Rzayj a lame duck. But Maliki didn't get around to formally approving the change to the new police chief, Ismael al-Mahlawi, until January 5, a week into the insurgency. So Anbar went into its greatest security crisis in years with a police leadership, which had spent the past six months just trying to hold on, waiting to be replaced when the dam broke.
Baghdad's actions in December were the greatest Christmas gift that Sunnis wanting to restart the insurgency could possibly have received. Although official statements after December 31 emphasized that security forces and tribal allies were fighting al Qaeda, which to an extent they were, the majority of anti-government attacks were by nationalist-Islamist groups that had remained latent since the defeat of the insurgency in 2007, or had grown up more recently as elements of the protest movement radicalized. What is worse, the raid on the Ramadi site caused the mainstream tribal and religious leadership of Sunni Iraq to throw its weight behind the insurgency.
The Anbar Tribal Council, which supported Maliki's anti-ISIS operations the previous week, declared a tribal mobilization. This included appealing for "resistance forces who fought the Americans and former [regime] officers" to defend the province against what it called Maliki's aggression. Sheikh Abdul Malik al-Saadi, a Jordan-based Anbari cleric who is arguably Iraq's most respected Sunni religious authority, reacted similarly. On December 28, after Alwani's arrest, Saadi called for Sunnis to prepare to defend the protest site, and then after the government razed it, Saadi called for soldiers to defect from the army and Sunni tribes to mobilize to defend the province. Saadi was a pillar of the nationalist insurgency from 2005 to 2007, but in 2013 had come to accept the legitimacy of dealing with the government; alienating him was a mistake.
Indeed even after the breakdown, the government seemed oblivious to the need to build a bridge to mainstream but opposing Sunni clerics. The government has been detaining and releasing clerics supporting the mainstream wing of the protests over the past year, and Sunnis rightly or wrongly blame a series of assassinations on Shiite militias the government tolerates. Continuing this, on January 1, the government announced an arrest warrant for Sheikh Muhammad Taha Hamdun, the Samarra imam who has been the protest's de facto leader since August 2013. On January12, Muhammad Radwan al-Hadidi, a Mosul imam, was assassinated, a killing which Sunnis blame on Shiite militias.
The biggest beneficiary of the chaos was ISIS. Its high-profile convoys with Toyota trucks carrying men with automatic weapons and black flags coming into the two cities were a propaganda coup, albeit one exaggerated by international media's focus on "the return of al Qaeda." In both Ramadi and Fallujah ISIS ran convoys into the city, taking over government buildings and police stations. On January 3, ISIS gunmen surrounded the main mosque in Fallujhah's city center and after Friday prayers took the podium, raised their trademark black flag, and declared an Islamic emirate.
A range of international media outlets reported ISIS's dramatic return as "al Qaeda Seizes Fallujah," but inflated the situation since the gunmen only controlled limitedsections of the city. The mis-characterization appears to have been based on the government habit of calling all hostile gunmen "al-Qaeda," since the entire city had indeed fallen to insurgents. More realistic was a security statement on January 2 that the total number of ISIS gunmen was about 600, and that "ISIS controls about half of Fallujah, and the other half is controlled by tribal gunmen fighting the government since the shutdown of the Ramadi site."
ISIS had an advantage in organization and training and may well have controlled half the government buildings at one point, but it quickly began to lose control and within a week the "emirate" had disappeared. Six hundred militants, however well organized, were not going to hold a city of 350,000 people, full of armed tribesmen.
These non-ISIS insurgents who currently remain in control of Fallujah and significant portions of the rest of the province appear to break down into three main groups. The largest is the Military Council of the Revolutionaries of Anbar (MCRA). Based on its rhetoric, support from specific insurgent media, and commentary from other Iraqi sources, the MCRA appears to be a new umbrella group for the old nationalist insurgents, including Harith al-Dhari's Muslim Scholars Association (through a group called the "1920 Revolution Brigades"), JRTN, the Islamic Army, the Rashidin Army, the Iraqi Hamas, and Abdullah al-Janabi's Fallujah-centered Mujahidin Shura Council. It is especially strong in the Fallujah area, but also has a presence outside Anbar, including in Ninawa and Salah al-Din.
The second is the similarly-named Anbar Tribes Revolutionary Council (ATRC). This group was formed prior to December 2013 from disaffected leaders of the protest movement in order to provide a military defense for the Ramadi protest site. It is nominally headed by Suleiman, and unlike the MCRA, does not aim to overthrow the current system of governance, but rather defend Anbar from what it views as the current government's aggression. While insurgents in general are distinguishing between local police and federal forces, Suleiman made a further distinction in his January 3 statement between the federal army and Maliki's special forces. This draws on the view, widespread among Sunnis especially since Huwija, that the army contains patriotic Iraqis but, as an institution, has been abused by the prime minister.
Aside from having different leaders and aims, these two groups are not on good terms. Not only does the MCRA view the ATRC as insufficiently revolutionary, but much of its propaganda attacks Suleiman personally for his past work within the political system.
A third group is the more nebulous Army of Pride and Dignity (APD). The APD took the name of the protest site, and the original militia Suleiman helped form after Huwija in April 2013, but it is not the same organization. Based on APD propaganda, including its Twitter account -- which like the MCRA vilifies Suleiman -- it may actually just be an arm of the larger group. Or it could have no central command, serving as a label like the "Free Syrian Army" which any group of guys with guns can adopt.
Having empowered the insurgency, the government then proceeded to make the crisis worse by shelling Fallujah, and has continued to do so more or less continuously. While the army claimed it was shelling terrorists, Sunni media was flooded with residents saying they were firing randomly into the city. The Mazra arms depot east of Fallujah is an example of this; while there were early reports that ISIS had seized the base and pillaged the armaments there, this was based solely on a government claim, since it was calling every group it was fighting "al Qaeda." But while ISIS never claimed control of Mazra, numerous sources supporting the MCRA claim "tribal revolutionaries" have. There haven't been any reports of ISIS or the insurgents committing atrocities, so the likelihood is that most of the civilian casualties will have been caused by the army.
Furthermore, Maliki and Dhiyabi, now closely linked in the popular mind, were not on the same page. One indication was that Dhiyabi was telling Sunni media that ISIS was mortaring Fallujah, as the army was saying that it was doing so targeting "al Qaeda." Furthermore, both the governor and the provincial council publicly announced they had adopted a plan to allow Janabi to take control and head a tribal military council to bring order to the city as an alternative to ISIS.
Dhiyabi must not have consulted Baghdad on this, since Janabi is only somewhat more moderate than al Qaeda, and indeed the army immediately began attacking Janabi's organization. On January 7, the government claimed it killed Abu Tafil al-Qawqazi, a Janabi lieutenant, insisting at the same time that Janabi was al Qaeda. Janabi distanced himself from al Qaeda a few years ago, and did so again this month.
Despite repeated threats to storm the city, Maliki appears to have thought better of it and on January 8 announced the army would not attempt to take the city by force "so long as the tribes" fight al Qaeda. The difficulty is that ISIS has now gone underground, and MCRA insurgents control most of the city. Even most government statements have become more realistic, in many cases acknowledging that it is not just fighting al-Qaeda, but "outlaws" or "gunmen."
Two weeks after the crackdown that sparked the crisis, life in Fallujah has partially returned to normal, albeit under partial insurgent control. On January 11, the provincial government in Ramadi moved to appoint a new mayor in Fallujah, Zubar Abd al-Hadi al-Arsan, and a new police chief, Muhammad Aliwi al-Isawi, although since he was the acting chief when the security collapse occurred, this may not inspire confidence. Residents continue to complain of shortages of food, water, and other essentials, and the army continues to shell the city, as if this were a way to defeat the insurgency. But the specter of another full-scale Battle for Fallujah appears to have receded.
The short-term task is to get back to the status quo before Maliki's "al Qaeda headquarters" speech. Security forces need to focus operations on known ISIS bases in the desert and the Baghdad belt, operations which, when conducted in a precision manner, have strong Sunni support. As for the non-ISIS insurgents who make up the majority of Sunni militants, they were a problem before, but were contained. Most Sunnis haven't forgotten the horrible results of the last insurgency, and Anbar is almost entirely dependent on the federal budget, which is itself based largely on oil revenue from the Shiite south.
Furthermore, Sunni voters participated in last year's provincial elections at about the same rate as Shiites, and protest attendance gradually declined over the course of the year. It took a colossal degree of ineptitude, magnified by blatant political opportunism, to create this crisis.
In the longer term, all must recognize that alleviating the security threats coming from the Sunni provinces will require years, not weeks or months. Iraqi officials are right to claim that they need better weapons to fighter terrorism, especially in terms of reconnaissance technology. But much more important, though, are internal reforms -- transparency in the arrest of suspects, ensuring that those arrested actually get a trial and aren't held for years without charge, strengthening the local police, changing army tactics toward population-centered operations, and above all enforcing parliamentary oversight over security and division of powers between Baghdad and the provinces. However much blame can be rightly apportioned to Sunni protest leaders for the obstinacy, Baghdad can do more to resolve these problems than any other actor through a comprehensive change in its own methods of governance.
Kirk H. Sowell is apolitical risk analyst based in Amman, Jordan, and editor-in-chief of InsideIraqi Politics (www.insideiraqipolitics.com). Follow him on Twitter: @uticensisrisk.
The 2014 Budget Status in a Nutshell : What, Why, Where and When ?
" .......... a bill the federal budget for the Republic of Iraq for the fiscal year 2014, and referred to the House of Representatives, according to the provisions of Articles (61 / item and 80 first / second item) of the Constitution, with taking into account some of the amendments approved by the Council, including the fact that the export of crude oil produced in Kurdistan by SOMO exclusively by multifactorial and approved with the participation of representatives of the province in the pricing committee. ; and,
It also provides for adjustments to exclude amounts federal contracts oil companies (16 trillion dinars) and the provincial companies (900 billion dinars) of sovereign expenditure and be re-calculated on the basis of the region's share of 17% of the amount of investment firms and this paragraph are permanent. ; and,
The budget of the year 2013 amounted to 138 trillion Iraqi dinars, on the basis of calculating the price of a barrel of oil at $ 90, and the amount of export of 2.0009 million barrels a day. "
"The budget bill arrived today to the House of representatives and was referred to the competent financial and economic committees." ; and
" .......... Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will visit Kurdistan region during these days to find a balance, pointing out that the Presidency *( Najafi ) sent a budget to the economic and Financial Committee in the House of representatives." http://www.microsofttranslator.com/b...Fview.35352%2F
" ........called for a budget discussion in the Finance Committee to resolve all differences before submitting them to read. *( them is Parliament as a whole )
" ..........today Thursday, 1.16.2014, that the absence of the House of Representatives was all parliamentary political blocs, causing a lack of quorum, a 163 deputy to hold a hearing today, prompting the head of the House of Representatives of the Federal lifting session to the twenty-eighth of this month."
Maliki asks Washington outfitted with weapons and military training to cope with (terrorism)
(Voice of Iraq) / Baghdad - Detection Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, on Thursday, has offered a list of the United States to supply Iraq with weapons that are needed to eliminate the al-Qaeda militants, and while pointing to the quest for a training dollars for the Iraqi army in the coming period, showed "no regret for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq despite the conditions security currently being experienced. "
Maliki said in an interview with the Washington Post had seen (range Press), said that "Iraq gave Washington a list of weapons that are needed to restore control of Anbar and the elimination of al-Qaeda militants," noting that "in spite of the need for Iraq's weapons of medium and light in the short term, we need to long-term to fighter planes and helicopters and air defense systems to ensure stability. "
Maliki said that "the United States is now working to supply Iraq with light and medium weapons, which include another shipment of the Hellfire missile," pointing to "I made these requests after making a call with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden."
The Chairman of the government to the "quest for a more American-trained Iraqi forces, whether in Iraq or Jordan to focus on these exercises on how to confront and fight against terrorist attacks."
He also said "I am convinced to victory against al-Qaeda and tribal forces need more time to expel its members, and we will succeed by kicking them out of the city of Fallujah, but the security forces are afraid to take a toll among civilians if they enter the city and this was to provide tribes with weapons in order to flush out militants."
The head of the government that "the problem of sectarianism in Iraq has been resolved in the years 2008 and 2009, but re-entered the country with the appearance of the new al Qaeda infiltration across the Syrian border," noting that "violence has been exported to Iraq by other Arab country."
He Maliki "not to regret forcing U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq, despite the events taking place in Anbar province since the U.S. withdrawal," pointing out that "Iraq and the United States were still exchanging information through continuous contacts include intelligence information on the location of centers of al-Qaeda and pathways smuggling which they adopt is likely This cooperation can be enhanced more. "
Iraq had expressed, in the January 10, 2014, expressed his appreciation for "the support armaments" American his security forces to improve their capabilities to confront "terrorists and extremists", while stressing the importance of activating the strategic framework agreement between the two countries, called for the issuance of a presidential statement of the Security Council to support the government's efforts in its plans to combat "terrorism" and communicate with the people of Anbar and clans, and other countries claim collaboration for "defeat" al-Qaeda.
Iraq has signed and the United States in 2008, the strategic framework agreement to support the ministries and agencies of the Iraqi transition from the strategic partnership with the Republic of Iraq to the areas of economic, diplomatic, cultural and security, based on reducing the number of reconstruction teams in the provinces, as well as providing important sustainable for the rule of law, including the program the development of the police and the completion of the coordination, supervision and report to the Fund for Iraq relief and reconstruction.
The Iraqi ambassador in Washington, Luqman Philly, accused the current U.S. administration, in the January 9, 2014, during an interview with The Washington Times, The Washington Times American, I have read it (the long-Presse), they were not "driven" in its strategy to support Iraq, " curb "the threat of Al Qaeda as much as it was the previous one headed by George W. Bush, returned this constitutes a" disregard "for the interests of Washington," grand ", while the White House has confirmed its commitment to partnership with the Iraqi government to build its capabilities in the fight against" terrorism ", stressing that the solution This problem "must" be an Iraqi.
The province of Anbar, based in the city of Ramadi, (110 km west of Baghdad), undergoing large-scale military using various weapons, including weapons, U.S. and Russian Iraq began to be imported against armed groups, and severely strained against the backdrop of the arrest of the security forces MP from the list are united Ahmed al-Alwani, and the death of his brother, as well as the killing of a nephew of the President of the Anbar Salvation Council, Hamid al-Hayes, the son of Mohammed al-Hayes, the leader of the Sons of Iraq, in (the 28 of December 2013 the past), while confirming a number of tribal leaders of Anbar province in western Iraq, organizations fight them "terrorist" in the province, arguing that the government "exaggerates" the size of these groups and "boasting" of the issue for political purposes and achieve the "gains" election at the expense of the people of Anbar.
Thousands of people fled the violence in Fallujah and Ramadi in the past week or so. Most decided not to flee to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, as they did when the Americans attacked in 2004. This time, they chose the autonomous region of Kurdistan. It did not make much difference in traveling time, and yet it made a world of difference.
Kurdistan is safe and booming; Baghdad is a victim of violence, corruption and stagnation. In Kurdistan people with different religions and backgrounds live together; in Baghdad, fights have restarted between Sunni and Shiite groups. “I cannot go to Baghdad because I am Sunni,” refugees say. Baghdad now is out of limits for them because of the sectarian violence there.
At the same time, they have completely lost trust that the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will ever treat them as equal to Iraq’s majority Shiite population. Kurdistan then seems a logical choice for refuge. And yet it is not. Since the al-Qaida attack of September on Erbil, the Kurds have restricted the entry of Iraqi Arabs into their region. Trying to keep out new perpetrators, only Arab families can pass the checkpoints. Single young men are refused entry.
There is another, even more pressing reason, why Iraqi Arabs from Fallujah might hesitate to come to Kurdistan: The knowledge of crimes that have been committed towards the Kurds under the regime of Saddam Hussein. As Fullajah and Ramadi were places where Saddam had a secure base and where his fall from power has been deplored, inhabitants must know that Kurds will eye them with distrust.
Yet they came, and were given the possibility to find shelter. Families cramped together in hotel rooms and motel apartments, many in shock from what they had been through, but safe. Motel and hotel owners were very supportive, and even protective towards the refugees. Arabic was spoken without any sign of hesitation. TV stations in lobbies were turned to Iraqi channels. “It reminds me of 1991,” one person said, “when Saddam’s troops came and we just got into the car and ran, not knowing where and for how long.” That was the feeling that took hold of the Kurds when the refugees from Anbar knocked on their door.
Here were people -- just ordinary people -- who had become victims of politicians fighting, and needed their help. The Kurds have been in that situation themselves, more than once. There are many stories about how grateful Kurdish refugees were for the help they received when they fled in 1991, to Iran for instance. For those who went there, an often lifelong connection was created. That sentiment led Kurds to waive aside their distrust for the Iraqi Arabs and help people whose pain was so close to their hearts.
Of course, we have seen the same happen for the Kurds who fled from Syria. Some 250,000 of them have found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. Aid organizations praise the KRG for the help it offers. Whereas, in most other countries, aiding the Syrian refugees is left to international organizations, in Kurdistan the government does most of the work itself, in close cooperation with aid organizations. But the Syrian Kurds are brothers, and the Iraqi Arabs are still looked upon with distrust for their connection with the enemy. Of course, there are old connections between the tribes on both sides of the divide.
And sure, these are Sunnis fleeing to a region which is predominantly Sunni. Kurdistan is a region with a deep scar. And what happened is enormously important in the process of healing. Ask psychiatrists what it means if one of their patients is offering his guestroom to someone whom he had reason to hate for pain inflicted in the past.
Somehow, I have the feeling this help amounts to far more than the Middle East adagio that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Sure, both Sunni Arabs and the Kurds are in conflict with the Shiite government -- for different reasons, and on a different scale. But I am sure the old hate has not just been put to rest because of the shared bad feelings towards Baghdad. Kurdistan has shown it has a heart.
That people who need refuge, who need help, are welcome, that the years of struggle and persecution have taught the Kurds one big lesson. A Dutch proverb that comes to mind: “Whoever does good to others, will be treated well in return.” I hope this feeling will last and outlive any future attacks (which I hope will not happen) by Sunni radicals on Kurdish soil. For now, humanity wins, as it should, always.
The Anbar military operations took place under tense and sectarian circumstances. The Iraqi people have become divided regionally, ideologically and politically. Many groups raised their voices to criticize Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who remained silent regarding the events unfolding in the country.
While Shiite crowds have been demanding support and a strong stance on the part of Sistani in the recent military campaign, Sunnis harshly criticized him, considering his role to be insignificant in the equation given his silence and failure to react swiftly.
Resigned Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi made a scathing comment on Sistani's position on his official Facebook page. He said that Sistani’s rhetoric has no connection whatsoever with reality and has been lost amidst the sounds of bullets and the roar of cannons. Hashemi demanded that he issue a fatwa allowing soldiers in the Iraqi army to abandon their missions. Hashemi also criticized the American position, considering the United States to be biased towards and colluding with Iran against Iraq's Sunnis.
Many international newspapers around the world raised the question about Sistani's silence on the events unfolding in Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor published an article titled "Who can end Iraq's Sunni-Shiite violence?" The article described him as an "advocate for democracy" in Iraq, demanding him to take up a leading role to end the country's current crisis. It was widely re-published in newspapers and news websites.
However, these scenarios and perceptions about Sistani's position fail to consider the circumstances of the situation in Iraq and the political vision of the Shiite authority in Najaf. Any analysis that does not take these two factors into account must be deemed unviable.
The rapid developments in Iraq and the diverse variables on the ground have complicated the situation in an unprecedented way, which make any wise political decision-making difficult. The most significant variables in the Iraqi situation are:
First, the fledgling political process in Iraq requires statesmanship, since any abnormal development — such as ousting the government by illegal means — would pave the way for demolishing the rest of the democratic framework in the country. Therefore, Sistani was keen to avoid any interference in the political process, or impose certain visions to establish legal grounds allowing the religious authority to flagrantly interfere in the political process.
Second, indications confirm that there is a quasi-consensus internally and externally to prevent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from taking up power for a third term. Thus, analysts believe that Maliki's operations in Anbar in the run-up to the elections, can be seen as his last attempt to mobilize early support for his electoral campaign by fomenting sectarian conflict in the country. From this perspective, any interference on the part of Sistani will give a chance to the warring political parties to use it to their advantage and further exacerbate the situation.
Third, Sistani has showed his discontent with Maliki's government for two years and supported the peaceful demands of Sunni and Shiite protesters on many occasions. A source close to the religious authority in Najaf told Al-Monitor that there is a conviction that the operations in Anbar will be swiftly carried out and that the military institution should not come under political criticism. The failed government is to be censured and not the army. The army ought to be supported in its defense of the country and its mistakes ought to be corrected in such a way that does not undermine its institutional position in the country, according to the source.
Sheikh Bashir al-Najafi, a cleric coordinating with Sistani's office, issued a statement on the occasion of the anniversary of the foundation of the Iraqi Army on Jan. 6, warning against using the army as a political card to win the elections, referring to those who failed to properly serve the nation as the reason for the impasse the country is facing today.
For his part, Shiite cleric Sayyed Hussein al-Sadr issued a statement earlier on Jan. 5, warning about targeting innocent people in the operations against terrorism. Other Shiite political leaders, such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim, stressed the necessity of a professional work on the part of the army and the need to distance it from the political conflicts and from the massacres that are being carried out against innocent people.
Fourth, the conflict in Anbar has taken a different turn when tribal forces, such as the Abu Risha group joined forces with the army, with the support and coordination between the Iraqi government and the US. The representative of the religious authority in Karbala praised this cooperation between the tribes and the army.
In his latest initiative titled "Our Steadfast Anbar," Ammar supported this coordination.
He stressed the need to solely authorize the Iraqi armed forces to defend the country's border in Anbar against terrorism, and said that the region's people ought to join the ranks of the army in their fight against terrorism. This is not to mention the government's pledge to set up economic projects to speed up the reconstruction process in the province. This further confirms the decision of the religious authority in Najaf not to interfere, as mentioned before, and the need to wait for the situation to calm, because any interference on its part is likely to impede the initiatives.
According to Sistani's political vision, the religious authority ought not to lead the political process in the country, which is in direct conflict with velayat-e faqih (which advocates clerical rule in a country). Sistani insists that the religious authority should limit its missions to the advisory and guiding role within the general framework of democracy, without any discrimination on sectarian or political basis. Sistani regards the religious authority as a social institution with humanitarian missions, and not as a political party with a political vision to rule the country.
Finally, the situation in Anbar has yet to degenerate into a sectarian conflict as happened previously in 2006 to necessitate an urgent interference on the part of Sistani to help bring needed calm. Therefore, Sistani will continue to play his role as guarantor of peace and security by preventing sectarian tension among sects and religions, and coordinating with all parties without interfering in political affairs, which would be seen as an attempt to apply clerical rule in Iraq. It's clear for observers that Sistani's position and savvy in dealing with the political crisis will eventually tip the balance in favor of the political and social system in Iraq in the long run.
Commission: Send the names of candidates for election to the parliament of the accountability and justice next week
Follow-up - and babysit - The High Commission for Elections Almstlqh intention to send lists of names of candidates for the Justice and Accountability (formerly De-Baathification) next weekend.
The head of the electoral administration in the Office of Miqdad Sharifi said in a statement received news agency public opinion (and babysit) a copy of "The Commission plans to send lists of the names of candidates of political entities and coalitions to the Justice and Accountability Commission early next week."
"The Electoral Commission is determined to send all the lists of the names of candidates of political entities and coalitions to participate in the election of the Iraqi Council of Representatives in 2014 early next week for the purpose of auditing," noting that "The Commission is continuing its preparations to hold the election of the Iraqi parliament scheduled for 30 April next year."
The Justice and Accountability Commission (formerly the de-Baathification) has confirmed in 14 of the last month to exclude any candidate from contesting the upcoming parliamentary elections in case law as comprehensiveness.