By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
4 May 2015
The Iraqis are gearing up for another war against ISIS, the second to occur during the rule of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi after he won the battle of Tikrit. Several army forces, security forces and Shiite popular mobilization militias, as well as some Sunni tribes, are gathering to head to Anbar province. There’s more to the battle than Anbar and the battle is not limited to the ISIS as Abadi’s real rival in Baghdad is former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who is launching a widely-inciting political and media campaign against him. Abadi seems confused and is sometimes adopting contradictory stances due to apparent pressures exerted on him
The prime minister stands between two fierce rivals and is in big trouble. If he loses the war in Anbar, his political rivals will pursue him in Baghdad and ISIS will expand its influence. Victory will not be easy to achieve with the protests and threats made by his rivals in Baghdad as it requires depending on the Sunni tribes who are most capable of defending their areas.
Abadi has retreated from arming the Sunni tribes and has only provided them with simple weapons due to pressures by extremist Shiite parties. To resolve the problem, the Americans volunteered to perform the task of arming the Anbar tribes who oppose ISIS but after his rivals criticized him, Abadi had to object to that and the American government backed down.
All this fighting will firstly be at the expense of the Iraqis and the Iraqi state and will be in the interest of the ISIS and Iran’s proxies. Anbar’s battle is part of a war that may prolong as the terrorist organization resides in several areas, such as the city of Mosul which is still occupied by ISIS and which will be the most difficult to liberate as the Iraqi government may have to seek the help of countries like the U.S. and perhaps Turkey and Iran to restore it. Even after Mosul is liberated, there are several areas which will take a long time to liberate.
If Abadi loses the war…
Therefore, the prime minister must think beyond Anbar and must realize that he will lose his battle with political rivals if he loses his war against ISIS and that he will emerge victorious over them if triumphs over the terrorist organization.
However it’s impossible to emerge victorious if he bases his decisions on pleasing sectarian parties and his political rivals, like Maliki. Rejecting to arm the Sunni tribes who are fighting ISIS and objecting to America supplying them with arms will only help the militants spread and will drive thousands of the Anbar’s sons to join the organization as long as they have no other choice. Let’s recall the tragedy of the 100,000 people who were displaced from Ramadi as they were forced to leave their city out of fear of ISIS and the anticipated fighting, especially after events in Tikrit and the destruction that followed.
The neighboring governorates refused to provide refuge for those displaced. They were then left out in the open as Abadi’s rivals escalated the situation after Shiite extremists claimed that there were terrorists living among the displaced. The aim of all this partisan and sectarian escalation is to topple Abadi and push him to make wrong decisions.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.