Hayder al-Khoei writes: The fall of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, is a major defeat for the Iraqi security forces. It follows a period in which a number of strategic advances have been made by Iraqi forces elsewhere in the north and east of the war-torn country. Dreams of an offensive to defeat Islamic State in Mosul this year will now be crushed. Iraq will instead focus its resources and attention on liberating Ramadi, which lies just 60 miles to the west of Baghdad.
The complex realities on the ground will also lead to difficult choices being made on all sides of the conflict. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s approval to send in the Shi’ite-dominated Hashid Shaabi paramilitary forces to the Sunni-dominated Anbar region will worry many, but it comes at the request of local Sunnis who are desperate to defend their areas against Islamic State. The Anbar governor, provincial council and local tribes have publically asked Baghdad to send in these paramilitary forces to support Iraq’s security forces and Sunni tribesmen.
Unlike in Tikrit, several Sunni tribes in Ramadi have already been resisting Islamic State for years now. As 3,000 Shi’ite fighters have deployed to the west of Ramadi following Abadi’s green light, 4,000 Sunni tribesmen have now been deployed in the west to prevent further Islamic State advances in Anbar. Sunni-Shi’ite military cooperation — aside from the official security forces that are themselves mixed — will be a crucial element in this campaign. Sunni tribal fighters are also officially part of the Hashid Shaabi in Anbar, so this paramilitary force is no longer exclusively Shi’ite. [Continue reading…]