Thursday, January 2, 2014

Aftermath of Shutting Down Ramadi Protest Site In Iraq

 
On December 30, 2013, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in conjunction with Anbar Governor Ahmed Diab took down the protest site in Ramadi. The province was already inflamed by the arrest of Parliamentarian Ahmed Alwani two day before from the Iraqi Islamic Party who was one of the leaders of the demonstrations. Immediately fighting broke out in Ramadi and Fallujah, which has continued to the present time. This has brought the internal divisions within Anbar to the forefront with different groups and individuals coming out for and against Baghdad in this conflict. In the bigger picture, the premier’s actions have probably succeeded in turning a large part of Anbar opinion towards armed struggle, which will undermine Iraq’s already precarious security situation.

The decision to close the Ramadi sit-ins immediately led to violence across Anbar. As soon as local police took down the site, gunmen appeared in the streets of Ramadi and Fallujah who eventually began attacking the security forces. Some mosques in Ramadi were heard calling for jihad according to Azhar Shallal of Agence France Presse.  Several police cars were seized in Ramadi and burned by gunmen. There were also clashes reported in Hit. The fighting continued into December 31. A police station was taken over in Ramadi, the 8th Army Brigade base outside of Ramadi was hit by several rockets, while two other military camps were overrun by fighters in Haditha and Baghdadi. By January 1st it appeared militants had gained sway over large parts of Fallujah, Ramadi, with fighting spreading to Kharma. Previously, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had been trying to re-establish itself in the province. It was setting up supply bases and training camps in the desert and border regions, while its main operations were in the major cities. Other smaller insurgent groups were still active as well. Now with this decision to take down the protest site, Maliki has given impetus to a whole new group of young men to take up arms against the government. The prime minister was in negotiations with the Anbar authorities and tribes to peacefully end the demonstrations by offering a number of concessions over prisoners and development. Both sides were interested in ending the sit-ins, as they were concerned about the re-birth of the insurgency. Then the leadership of the 7th Division in Anbar was killed in a trap by AQI in the middle of December. This led to a upswing in nationalist sentiment across a large segment of society and the political class. The premier on the other hand used the opportunity to force the matter with the protesters. First he ordered a raid to arrest Parliamentarian Ahmed Alwani from the Iraqi Islamic Party who had an arrest warrant out for him for his inflammatory remarks about Shiites and the insurgency at the protests, and then cut a deal with Anbar Governor Diab to take down the Ramadi site. That enraged large segments of the province and led to the current fighting there. That’s given the insurgency a fresh breath of life, and in turn Al Qaeda can be counted on to take advantage of the situation as well.

Anbar officials are divided about how to deal with this deteriorating situation. On the one hand there are those that have aligned themselves with Baghdad. Those include the governor who has called for the Army to be sent into Ramadi to restore order. He also made comments about Al Qaeda having members amongst the demonstrators, something repeated by Maliki, and wanted the activists to go home until after the 2014 parliamentary elections. Sheikh Mohammed al-Hayes called for the premier to burn down the protest sites, and held a meeting on December 27 with the Albu Diab, Albu Jaber, Albu Ali al-Jassim, Albu Fahd, Albu Shaban, and Albu Hamza tribes, which issued a statement supporting the central government. His brother Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes of the Anbar Salvation Council said that all the protest sites should be closed on December 31 saying they were connected to terrorists. The two were threatening force against the Ramadi site previously blaming the death of Mohammed’s son on gunmen who fled into the camp afterward. On the other hand the head of the Anbar provincial council Sabah Kahout al-Halbusi disagreed with the governor’s calling for the military to protect the province, saying that the local police and tribes could do the job. The same comment was made by Sheikh Naji al-Dulaimi of the Anbar Tribes Council. Anbar has deep political and tribal divisions, which were being brought to the fore by recent events. Several groups including Governor Diab, the provincial council, both Hayes’, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha and others were trying to find compromise with Baghdad beforehand. They were worried about the re-birth of Al Qaeda in the province, wanted to get on with governing Anbar after the 2013 elections, and also could gain money and power from things like development projects if they cooperated with the central government. On the other hand, the Iraqi Islamic Party, other sheikhs, and much of the clerical establishment in the government were pushing for maintaining the demonstrations, and were largely unwilling to listen to what Maliki had to offer. Now that the cities in Anbar are revolting those differences are being emphasized even more.

Maliki could not have picked a worse time to come down on the protesters, and now he is suffering the consequences. Major cities in Anbar are in open rebellion. This will provide a great recruiting tool for the insurgency and Al Qaeda. At the same time, any hope the premier might have had of cutting a deal to end the remaining protests in Fallujah, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salahaddin are now out the window. Within Anbar the local council, which just took power in 2013 will find themselves running an ungovernable province, and more divisions will likely emerge over how to deal with Baghdad. The tribes too will face increasing dissent as well, and the clerical establishment, which was another important ally of the demonstrators may find their influence slipping away if more and more young men turn to the gun rather than protesting. Overall, the prime minister has made a mess of things, and helped the vary militants he was trying to defeat.
Smoke emerging from Ramadi (AIN)
Blocking the highway to Syria and Jordan outside of Fallujah (AP)
Lighting tires on fire on highway outside of Fallujah (AP)
Burning police station outside of Fallujah (AP)
Police vehicle in Ramadi set ablaze (Reuters)
Police truck taken over by gunmen in Ramadi (Reuters)
Another police truck burned in Ramadi (World Bulletin)
A funeral for a person killed in the fighting in Ramadi (AFP)
Taking away the dead from the fighting in Ramadi (AFP)
Police truck burning in Ramadi (AFP)
Gunmen walking through the streets of Ramadi (Reuters)

SOURCES

Abdulrazaq, Hawar, “Exiled Iraqi VP officially resigns from his post,” Bas News, 12/31/13

AIN, “Breaking news … MPs of Motahidon Alliance submit their resignation protesting Anbar events,” 12/30/13
- “Gunmen control police station central Ramadi,” 12/31/13
- “IA Brigade moves from Basra to Anbar, says official,” 1/1/14
- “Urgent….4 tribes announce supporting ISF in Anbar,” 1/1/14

Agence France Presse, “44 Iraq MPs resign after protest camp cleared,” 12/30/13
- “Iraq militants free prisoners, burn police stations,” 1/1/14

Dunlop, W.G., “Iraq army to quit tense cities after protest camp cleared,” Agence France Presse, 12/31/13

Al Forat, “Anbar Governor calls to deploy military forces inside Ramadi to combat terrorists,” 1/1/14
- “Fallujah Police Headquarters, Mayor Office detonated by terrorists,” 1/1/14
- “Maliki orders concerned ministries to provide necessary services to Anbar,” 12/31/13

Ghaziny, Yasir, “Deadly Clashes Between Iraqi Forces and Tribal Fighters in Anbar,” New York Times, 12/30/13

Al-Mada, “Management Anbar: Daash infiltrate into the cities of the province and will pursue them,” 12/31/13

Al Masalah, “Suleiman escaped from Anbar to “Erbil,” 12/31/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “Anbar Tribes Council: Tribes support local police, do not allow assaulting official institutions,” 1/1/14
- “Armed clashes erupt again in east of Fallujah,” 12/31/13
- “Armed clashes resumed east of Fallujah,” 1/1/14
- “An Army HQ subjected to Katyusha rocket attacks north of Ramadi,” 12/31/13
- “BREAKING NEWS Anbar Governor says that Alwani will be released within hours,” 12/29/13
- “BREAKING NEWS Ramadi sit-in organizers agree to take off protest tents, authorizing the Governor do it,” 12/29/13
- “Chairman of Anbar Council rejects the Governor’s call for the Army return to cities,” 1/1/14
- “Clashes renewed in Ramadi,” 1/1/14
- “Jamal Karbouli accuse Anbar governor of colluding to break up the sit-in,” 12/30/13
- “Mosques in Falluja call for pursuing who set on fire security centers, official building,” 1/1/14
- “Sadoun Dulaimi leaves Anbar for Baghdad with tribal chiefs’s demands,” 12/29/13
- “Security source: Armed groups overrun military compounds in Hadeetha,” 12/31/13
- “Security source: Military units did not withdraw from Ramadi, clashes,” 12/31/13
- “Urgent..Maliki directs to act quickly to compensate what Anbar province lost of services because of the activities of terrorist groups,” 12/31/13

Radio Nawa, “Hayes: ending the sit-in squares is essential,” 12/31/13

Rudaw, “Sunnis Announce resignations, Calls for Resistance After Anbar Crackdown,” 12/30/13

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraqi police dismantle Sunni protest in west,” Associated Press, 12/30/13

Shafaq News, “Iraqi ministers boycott cabinet sessions in protest against Anbar events,” 12/31/13
- “Maliki: Al-Qaeda has lost its safe haven in the sit-in square,” 12/30/13

Shallal, Azhar, “Clashes kill 10 as Iraq forces clear Sunni protest camp,” Agence France Presse, 12/30/13

No comments: