Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is Desperately Trying To Avoid A Fight In Fallujah

Image from Associated Press

Image from Associated Press

As radical militants continue to assert their dominance over the city of Fallujah, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has yet to order an aggressive military response.

While the Army has surrounded much of Fallujah, anti-government forces are still making their way into the city. There is also a steady stream of small arms, mortars, anti aircraft guns and surface-to-surface missiles flowing in to the rebels.

Hundreds of fighters, mostly from the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIS), have entered the city and wrested control from the government in recent weeks. They have worked to enforce a strict rule of Sharia law in areas under their control by going as far as to close down music shops that they considered to be un-Islamic.

ISIS fighters have terrorized civilians and kidnapped several tribal leaders in their ongoing attempts to seize complete power of the city.

At this point, the most offensive course of action taken by Mr Maliki has been providing arms to some of the local tribesmen in the hope that they would be the ones to drive out the insurgents.

In arming anti-ISIS citizens of Fallujah, Mr Maliki is trying to avoid sending the Iraqi Army into a massive battle, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the American occupation.

Given the Army’s distinct inability to simply prevent enemy fighters and supplies from entering the city, it’s possible that Mr Maliki is concerned that his army will be unable to win a definite victory over the rebels in such a battle.

Another factor that Mr Maliki must be considering throughout this ordeal is that since Fallujah is populated primarily by Sunni Muslims, an invading army sent by the Shi’a dominated government could cause for tension and conflict between the two major religious groups of Iraq.

According to certain citizens of Fallujah, while many Sunni tribes are opposed to ISIS and al-Qaeda, they also harbor no positive relations with the government.

“The Tribes scattered around the city have zero loyalty to the government,” explained Sheik Muhammad al-Bajari, a tribal leader in Fallujah, to BBC News.

In other words, if Mr Maliki orders the invasion of Fallujah, the Iraqi Army could find itself battling some of the local Sunni tribes as well as the al-Qaeda backed ISIS militants.

As such, Mr Maliki’s strategy of fighting ISIS through a proxy war might be his best option for the time being. Especially considering that the Sunni tribes played a pivotal role in uprooting the insurgency throughout the Anbar Province during the Iraq War back in 2007.

However, if the anti-ISIS tribes fail to push the radical militants out of the city, Mr Maliki will have no choice but to order his troops in and in the process, turn Fallujah into a major battlefield once again.

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