US Signals Support of Anbar’s Tribes as Iraqi Government Reassess its Policies

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A member of the Iraqi security forces patrols the Najaf governorate's border with the mostly ISIS group controlled western province of Anbar as new security measures have been taken to beef up security on the border of the Saudi desert on January 24, 2015. AFP/Haidar Hamdani

Published Thursday, January 29, 2015

The United States received a delegation from the Anbar province on January 22, and promised full-scale assistance according to a White House statement, if the Iraqi government approves. Anbar’s tribes asked for more arms once the government agreed, “in principle,” to the formation of a national guard, while it waits to vote on the matter. In the meantime, Secretary-General of the Badr bloc Hadi al-Amiri proclaims that Nineveh will not be liberated before Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.

The United States stands by the Anbar tribes fighting ISIS in Iraq, and pledges to provide them with the necessary support through the Iraqi government, so long as the latter approves. This was announced by the Anbar Provincial Council in a statement yesterday explaining: “The provincial delegation that went to Washington has achieved great success on various levels by receiving support from the US, and now it is waiting for the approval of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to get it.”

The provincial delegation added in its statement: “By meeting officials of the US government and their representatives, the Anbar delegation was able to procure support for training, equipping and arming security forces and the fighters of the tribal forces in Anbar who are fighting the terrorist group ISIS. The US told the Anbar delegation that it wants an official letter from the Iraqi central government stating its approval of US support for the Anbar province.”

The sheikh of al-Bunimr tribe in Anbar, Naim al-Qaoud, said that the central government “provides adequate support to the Iraqi Volunteer Forces in terms of medium and heavy weapons and equipment, as opposed to the poor-quality weapons and equipment it provides Anbar.”

Sheikh Amer Abdelkarim al-Fahdawi, one of the most prominent sheikhs of al-Bunimr tribe in Anbar, said, “In addition to arms, Anbar’s tribes need ongoing support in terms of provisions, and the central government should provide us with all kinds of support if it wants the tribes to defeat ISIS.”

According to a government statement, Abadi met two days ago with the commander of the US Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, in the presence of Stuart Jones, the US Ambassador to Iraq. During the meeting, Abadi stressed, “the importance of increasing US support, including air support, for the Iraqi forces and meeting their need for training and arming in order to maintain their progress against the ISIS terrorist gangs.”

Iraqi government spokesperson, Rafed al-Jabouri, said that the cabinet “approved the formation of the national guard in principle and tasked a ministerial committee to draft a law to be voted on at the next session.” He added that the cabinet also decided “to lower the price of a barrel of oil in the budget estimates to $55 instead of $60 thus making it closer to the reality of global markets,” and “proposed a draft amendment to the accountability and justice law and the ban on al-Baath Party.”

The US and the Christians’ province

In related news, 17 US senators called on US secretary of state John Kerry to support the Iraqi government’s effort to establish a province in the Nineveh plains, an area where Assyrians and other Christian minorities reside. The senatorial request was sent in a letter addressed to Kerry and signed by Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democratic member of the intelligence committee. The signatories stressed “the need for the US to provide support and training for the forces responsible for this province and provide the necessary assistance to minorities, including Assyrians, to end the persecution they endure in Iraq.”

“Nineveh won’t be liberated before Salah al-Din”

Regarding the fighting going on against ISIS in several Iraqi provinces, the secretary-general of the Badr bloc, Hadi al-Amiri, said that “whoever is talking about a battle to liberate Nineveh before the provinces of Salah al-Din and Kirkuk is delusional and ignorant of military matters... Media outlets should not peddle media fabrications.” He added in a speech at a conference to support the Iraqi Volunteer Forces at the University of Basrah: “Liberating the Nineveh province can only happen after liberating the provinces of Kirkuk and Salah al-Din.”

Amiri said that “Saving the areas dominated by ISIS will be accomplished by the military forces, the Iraqi Volunteer Forces and the resistance factions. The media should highlight the victories of the joint forces against the group.”

The Saudi embassy and Iraq’s oil

A member of the Iraqi parliament’s foreign relations committee reported that the Saudi embassy was expected to reopen in Iraq: “The site of the Saudi embassy has been completed in Iraq, but the date of opening it has not been set yet. However, delaying its opening has nothing to do with the death of the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.” A technical Saudi delegation headed by Abdulrahman al-Shahri, vice chairman of the department of information at the Saudi Foreign Affairs Ministry, visited Iraq to discuss the arrangements and measures needed to reopen the Saudi embassy in Baghdad - which had been closed in 1990 — and to open a general consulate in Erbil.”

Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced that Iraq will have the fifth largest petroleum reserves in the world, adding that his country “was one of the first oil-producing Arab countries in the 1920s and has a wealth of oil and gas resources.” He said that Iraq “will increase its oil and gas reserves thus becoming one of the top five countries in oil and gas production. It is hoped that Iraq will be one of the very last countries that will continue to provide the world with at least two important sources of energy.”

Sadr responds and Hakim receives several nominations

On the domestic political scene, Muqtada al-Sadr — leader of the the Sadrist Movement — responded yesterday to statements by Iranian political analyst Amir Mousawi and demanded that he “apologize to the Iraqi people.” Mousawi had said: “The Iraqi forces are not organized in their fight against terrorism. Iraq needs a person like Abdulmalik al-Houthi to be able to fight, in an organized fashion, to defend its holy sites.” Sadr said: “I am dismayed at the statements made by brother Amir Mousawi, as they represent an ignorance of, and an injustice against, the struggling Iraqi people. I call on him to apologize to the patient people of Iraq and not to overstep the proper bounds in his statements. Iraq, after all, is the country of great men, leaders and sayyids (descendants of the Prophet Mohammad).”

In another story, Iraqi MP Abdulaziz al-Dhalimi, of the al-Ahrar bloc, said yesterday that the leadership of the National Alliance “requires a figure that is acceptable and moderate. These qualities are found in Mr. Ammar al-Hakim. There is a consensus within the national coalition to assign him to this post.” Member of al-Ahrar Movement, Amir al-Katani, said that Sadr “supports the nomination of the leader of the Islamic supreme council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim, to head the National Alliance.” Citizen Coalition MP Salim Shawqi followed suit, saying: “The National Alliance requires someone with the supreme leader of the council’s qualifications. He has many qualifications that will enable him to head the National Alliance. Perhaps the most important of them is the sense of national and political acceptability he enjoys over others, as well as his international and regional ties.”

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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