Battle of Anbar
Posted on June 16th, 2015
Iraqi army and militia Shiite fighter are preparing for one of the most important and game changing battles with the so called Islamic State IS. Iraqi army has been criticised by its allies and friends for showing lack of will and commitment in fighting against Islamic State. Whether these allegations are based on fair and accurate information or just an escape goat? “Iraqi army in its modern form was created by the United Kingdom during the Inter-War period of de facto British control of mandatory Iraq. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi army was rebuilt along American lines with enormous amounts of U.S. military assistance at every level.”
In many experts opinions it is still a young force under the shadow of U.S. military. In couple of my trips to Middle East, I have seen Iraqi Special Units in training. Although the Units were made of young soldiers I could see determination and courage in their faces. They were ready to sacrifice their precious life to protect their country. As famous quote from Napoleon Bonaparte “There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers.” Can we say the Iraqi army`s withdrawals in recent events blamed on Officers in control? I am afraid the answer is not as black and white as you might think. After all I think it is unfair to blame just the Iraqi army for Islamic State advances in recent months.
Who are Islamic State and where they come from? “Islamic State can trace its roots back to the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who set up Tawhid wa al-Jihad in 2002. A year after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and formed al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which became a major force in the insurgency.” It was one of the myriad jihadist groups that incubated in Afghanistan during the 90s up until the US began dropping bombs there in 2001. Zarqawi and his militia left Afghanistan to take refuge with (ironically) the Kurdish branch of al-Qaeda, who was based in the northern mountain ranges of Iraq. Zarqawi’s stated aim was to precipitate a sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. With the power vacuum left by Saddam’s fall, it appeared Zarqawi had plenty of space to manoeuvre and craft such a venomous milieu. Zarqawi still had problems with legitimacy and funding in Iraq. The issue of legitimacy arose from the persistent nationalist angle perpetuated by Sunni Iraqis, as well as his lack of religious authority. Zarqawi was killed in a targeted killing by a Joint US force on June 7, 2006, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) north of Baqubah. By this time, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had risen steadily through the group to become a trusted aide to its leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and his deputy, the Egyptian jihadist Abu Ayub al-Masri. It was at this point, that Isis made an approach to the Ba’athist remnants of the old regime – ideological opponents who shared a common enemy in the US and the Shia-led government it backed. The deaths of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayub al-Masri were a serious blow to Isis. When Abu Omar was killed, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi was made leader.
Upon conquering northern and central Iraq, ISIS changed its name to the Islamic State (IS), and declared Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph Ibrahim. Upon declaration of the restoration of the Caliphate, the Kurds also formally announced their plans to break from the Iraqi central government, hearkening the subsequent rebirth of Kurdistan.
When [the civil war in] Syria became serious it wasn’t difficult to transfer all that expertise to a different battle zone. The Iraqis are the most important people on the military and Shura councils in Isis now, and that is because of all of those years preparing for such an event.
Life with Isis means power, money, wives and status – all attractive lures for young firebrands with a cause – but it also means killing and dominating for a worldview. Leaving the group would mean that them and their family would certainly be killed. Staying and enforcing the group’s brutal vision.
ISIS began operations on Kurdistan in late July of this year, but prior to the commencement of those hostilities, they had been rooting out religious minorities under their dominion in Mosul and Anbar province. The message to the non-Sunnis was to convert to Islam or pay a “jizya,” which is essentially a tax for not being a Sunni Muslim. After a short period, ISIS arbitrarily changed the message to “leave or die,” thus triggering an exodus of Christians from northern Iraq.
Not all Islamic State fighters are from Iraq, More than 11,000 people have travelled from abroad to fight in Syria, officials suggest, although some have gone back home again. They ally themselves with different factions, and sometimes change loyalties as groups merge, disband or change allegiances. Naturally, countries with bigger Muslim populations tend to send the largest number of fighters. But some countries with relatively small Muslim populations have sent a disproportionately large number of jihadis. Finland and Ireland have the highest number of foreign fighters per capita — nearly one per 1,400 Muslims living in those countries has gone to Syria. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, but tiny numbers of fighters going to Syria. And even countries closer to the conflict such as Turkey, Algeria and Morocco have sent relatively few. (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, which all have more Muslims than any country other than Indonesia, have not issued official estimates of how many of their citizens, if any, have gone to Syria.). Britain and France have comparable percentages of local Muslims going to fight in Syria — just over one in 6,000 British Muslims and one in 6,666 French Muslims have gone to Syria, governments say. The figures in the Netherlands are not far off, around one in 7,700. American Muslims are going to Syria at a much lower rate, closer to one in 25,000.
It’s not just men who are lured to join Islamic State, the exact number of women who have joined jihadist groups in Syria is impossible to ascertain, but terrorism analysts at London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation estimate there are some 30 European women in Iraq and Syria who either accompanied their jihadist husbands or have gone with the intention to marry members of ISIS and other militant groups. That may be less than 10% of the number of Western men currently estimated to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, but the fear is that the number of women involved may grow more quickly. Women have always played a role in war, if not in actual combat then in the vital areas of intelligence gathering, medical care, food preparation and support. ISIS’s vicious campaign to carve out a state ruled by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law is no different, though its strict laws prohibiting mixing between genders has limited women’s presence on the front lines. Instead, women are drawn — or recruited — into vital support roles through effective social-media campaigns that promise devout jihadist husbands, a home in a true Islamic state and the opportunity to devote their lives to their religion and their God.
Baghdadi believes that the world’s Muslims should live under one Islamic state ruled by sharia law, the first step towards which is establishing a caliphate spanning Syria and Iraq. Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Doha, wrote in a paper last month: “Isis now presents itself as an ideologically superior alternative to al-Qaida within the jihadi community and it has publicly challenged the legitimacy of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. As such it has increasingly become a transnational movement with immediate objectives far beyond Iraq and Syria.”
The question of who can stop the IS-terror is becoming more and more urgent. When Mosul was taken, it became clear that the Iraqi army had hardly anything to oppose the well-equipped and optimally financed IS-fighters with. The army practically left the city to the militants without a fight.
The jihadists’ most recent campaigns show that the highly praised fighting power of the Kurdish Peshmerga militias is limited as well. The Kurds have started a counteroffensive, the results of which remain to be seen. And this time around, they are supported by the Iraqi air force. But so far, they have had to accept bitter defeats and, most importantly, they weren’t able to protect the region’s population.
The US is reported to be preparing to open a direct dialogue with Iran about how to deal with Isis. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Washington was set to open talks with Tehran on ways to push back the militants. Whether this will extend to military coordination – US air strikes, or drone intelligence in support of Iranian Revolutionary Guards or Iraqi units – is up in the air. In Iraq, the Iranians themselves have played a key role in countering IS. Revolutionary Guards have advised Iraqi security forces, Iranian pilots have carried out air strikes, and Iranian-backed Shia militia have been mobilised.
Saudi Arabia also views the Islamic State as a serious threat because the group harbours a number of jihadists from the Gulf, and the return of those militants to their home countries would bring with it the prospect of further regional instability.
Defeating the Islamic State Requires a Saudi-Iranian Compromise.
Information on this article has been gathered from different sources.