This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Iraq, Sundered

"When the attack on Fallujah started, ISIL forced us to leave our homes and kept moving us from one damaged, deserted house to another"
"All the time we were exposed to the exchange of fire."
"The afternoon of our last day there, the fighting became too fierce; they were shooting above our heads."
"I was carrying Hana [two-year-old daughter], and I quickly ran to reach the other families. My husband and other children were behind us all the time, trying to catch up with us, as he can't run as he's injured. That's how we left, taking nothing with us, not even our money. I even forgot to take my cellphone."
Suad Hadad, refugee camp, Lebanon

"The leading role played by radically sectarian, Iranian-controlled militias in the operation to 'liberate' Fallujah means that there will be parts of the Sunni population that see ISIL as the lesser evil."
"ISIL has local support and there are suggestions it is higher now than it was before the city was captured."
Kyle Orton, Middle East analyst, Henry Jackson Society, Britain

"It's going to be hard for the Iraqis to hold such a large area. And ISIL will not just let the city go -- they will continue to try to undermine the army however it can."
Tim Eaton, researcher, Chatham House, London

Iraqi counterterrorism forces face off with Islamic State militants in the Nuaimiya neighborhood of Fallujah on Wednesday. Very few families have managed to flee the city since the offensive started more than a week ago. Iraqi counterterrorism forces face off with Islamic State militants in the Nuaimiya neighborhood of Fallujah on Wednesday. Very few families have managed to flee the city since the offensive started more than a week ago. Photo: Associated Press

The presence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Fallujah, a mere hour from Iraq's capital Baghdad, allowed ISIL the too-frequent opportunity to bomb areas of Baghdad, which the Iraqi government, with its straitened control and influence over the geography that was once its own, would like to believe is impregnable to attack. This is a hopeful conceit difficult to maintain when ISIL uses suicide bombers to inflict the horrors of bombing raids in a capital city presumed to be 'safe' from incursion.

Fallujah's proximity to Baghdad mandated that the Iraqi government, with considerable help from Iranian-backed Shiite militias wrench the city of mostly Sunni Iraqis away from Islamic State. Its success in convincing Sunni Iraqis that their future could advance under the regime where sectarian  hostilities have been the order of the day, will likely hinge on how persuasive the government can be. Many Sunni leaders in the city claim to indifference; not particularly favouring ISIL, waiting to determine which way they should lean.

The Iraqi military's offensive has garnered some advances in its three-directional attack, gaining entry into the city finally. Air support from the U.S.-led coalition has been valuable in allowing the army to recapture what they claim is 80 percent of the towns and villages surrounding Fallujah, waiting now to see success in their "final push" to free the city from ISIL's clutches. The army is battling no more than 1,500 jihadists in the city centre.

They have had two years in which to secure the city, and bombs planted everywhere are testament to that. The use of suicide car bombings and the rockets they aim at the army have them holding on, despite superior numbers utilized by the regime and their more advanced weapons. "They are dug in. We think they will fight to the last", General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi said of the jihadists who had carried out a string of car bombings in Baghdad killing dozens, as a diversionary tactic.

The city that once held 350,000 people represents one of the most important strongholds for ISIL next to Mosul, the two large urban centres still in the hands of the terrorists, part of the "caliphate" since early 2014. General Sean MacFarland, commander of U.S. forces and allies in Iraq has warned that some Fallujah residents were "early adopters" of ISIL. "You could have a fairly large percentage of a fairly large city that's hostile to us", he commented, countering the claims of the city's leaders.

On the other hand, should the Iraqi army of Shiites, along with their Popular Mobilisation Forces (al-Hashd al-Shaabi), and local tribes, realize success as they mean to, routing the Islamic State fighters, the Sunni residents of Fallujah may not be too pleased that Iran-backed militias have taken their city, an important religious site for the Sunni minority. The city was front and centre of the insurgency against the Iraqi Shiite government.

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