Monday, February 22, 2016

Fallujah: Tribal Revolt Or Insurgent Disagreement In Iraq?


In mid-February 2016 reports emerged of clashes between tribes and the Islamic State in the city of Fallujah. Local officials and sheikhs called it a rebellion against the insurgents, while others said events were being blown out of proportion. One Anbar politician even said it was a disagreement between militant factions. Either way, IS squashed the fighting, and now there is speculation about its meaning.

There were reports of five days of fighting in Fallujah, although some dispute that. On February 17, the first story emerged of the Jerisat clan fighting IS in the city. By February 20 the Mahamda and Halbsa tribes were said to have joined in the fray with clashes in the Nazzal and Jolan neighborhoods that included burning three checkpoints and a building. The Islamic State responded by arresting 150-180 people effectively ending the conflict. Several Anbar officials and sheikhs called it a revolt against the Islamic State, but there were dissenters from that narrative. Hisham al-Hashimi, a government adviser on the insurgents wrote on his Facebook page that this was just a disagreement between the Jerisat and IS, and an Anbar councilman told Al Mada something similar that this was all due to differences between the insurgents. He went on to say that there was only one day of fighting, and then it ended, not four days as the media had it. The Interior Ministry confirmed the shooting, and a video emerged allegedly of the clashes. What exactly happened is now up for debate.

The general explanation given for the conflict was that the extreme rule of IS and low supplies within the city were the catalysts, but there could be more to it. First, after the fall of Ramadi, locals in Fallujah could be taking the opportunity to show their discontent with IS rule. The local officials and sheikhs who talked about an uprising could also be positioning themselves for a future Fallujah operation to try to argue that the city is not all pro-IS. Fallujah was the first place to fall to insurgents back in January 2014. It took several months for the Islamic State to assert its control over it and push out the other factions, but it has been under its jurisdiction for over a year with no signs of dissent. That could support the argument of Hashimi and the Anbar councilman who claimed this was just a disagreement that was then exaggerated by people outside of the city who had their own agendas. Because Fallujah has been under such tight control for so long the latter point of view appears more believable for now. Until more information emerges its difficult to believe this was any type of revolt.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Clashes in jihadist-held Iraq city halt after residents seized,” 2/21/16
- “Iraq tribesmen battle IS inside Fallujah for second day,” 2/20/16

Alsumaria, “Tribal fighters in Fallujah burn Daash checkpoint and kill two of its men,” 2/19/16

BBC, “Iraqi tribes clash with jihadists in IS stronghold of Fallujah,” 2/19/16

Al Forat, “Clan elder narrates for the news: Euphrates tribes of Fallujah launch uprising against Daash,” 2/19/16

El-Ghobashy, Tamer, “Islamic State Reasserts Control Over Fallujah,” Wall Street Journal, 2/21/16

Al Maalomah, “14 Daash killed including a senior commander in clashes with members of the tribes in central Fallujah,” 2/20/16

Al Mada, “Calm returns to Fallujah after the implementation of Daash mass arrest campaign,” 2/21/16
- “Conflicting news about the outbreak of clashes between the clans of Fallujah and Daash,” 2/20/16

Morris, Loveday and Salim, Mustafa, “Islamic State facing new trouble in Fallujah as Sunni tribesmen target them,” Washington Post, 2/19/16

New Sabah, “Daash repressive practices lead tribes to declare revolution against it,” 2/20/16

Shafaq News, “Daesh Militants Capture 150 Civilians in Central Iraq,” 2/20/16
- “Three clans in Fallujah clashing with Daash in the city and impose control over parts of the Nazzal neighborhood,” 2/19/16

Sotaliraq, "Armed clashes between Jerisat clan and Daash members in Fallujah," 2/17/16

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