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Isis Unleashes Death Squads as Iraqi Forces Advance on Fallujah
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Isis execution squads have appeared in the streets of Fallujah, a city 40 miles west of Baghdad, with orders to kill anybody trying to flee or surrender as government forces advance towards this Isis stronghold. “Groups of Isis fighters are saying they will kill anybody in Fallujah who leaves their house or waves a white flag,” says Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a political activist who spoke by phone to relatives and friends in the city.

Iraqi army units started an offensive east of Fallujah on Monday morning after heavy shelling and airstrikes overnight. Mr Dulaimi said that Shia militias known as the Hashd al-Shaabi were joining in the bombardment with a home-made-rocket called “the Nimr”, named after the leader of the Saudi Shia minority, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed by the Saudi authorities in January this year.

The loss of Fallujah, a Sunni commercial hub on the main road to Jordan, would be a serious blow to Isis. Its capture of the city so close to Baghdad at the beginning of 2014 was the extremist Sunni movement’s first spectacular military victory. An interesting development on Monday was a report that three Isis gunmen were killed inside Fallujah which would be a first sign of armed resistance by local people to Isis.

The Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi claimed a “big success” by his troops within hours of the start of the operation. Wearing the black uniform of Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces he said that it had already achieved “more than was planned” as he met with commanders of the Fallujah Operational Command. Earlier in a television address on Sunday night, he pledged to “tear up the black banners of strangers who usurped the city.”

Mr Abadi is under intense popular pressure in Baghdad to drive Isis out of Fallujah after bomb attacks on civilian targets earlier in the month that killed at least 200 people. “Rightly or wrongly people in Baghdad believe these bombs are coming out of Fallujah and they want the city taken,” says a retired senior Iraqi official. The failure of government forces to expel Isis from a city so close to the capital for over two years has for long discredited its claims that it is defeating Isis.

The Iraqi armed forces are short of combat-ready soldiers and they are reliant on two brigades of well-trained and experienced counter-terrorist troops numbering about 5,000 men. In addition, there are two divisions of the regular army able to fight, but military success over the last year has been dependent on support from the US-led air coalition which destroys Isis positions while Iraqi troops act as a mopping up force.

Fallujah has already suffered badly from prolonged fighting and lack of food supplies. Local sources estimate that its population is down to between 50,000 and 60,000 people compared to 350,000 in 2011 before Iraq slid back into a full scale war. An Iraqi observer with contacts in the city said that “people have been starving there over the last six months because there is little food coming in. A 50 kilo bag of flour costs 800,000 Iraqi dinars (£470).” He added that many in Fallujah were trying to supplement their diet by fishing in the Euphrates River, but they “only catch a few small fish.”

Fallujah is not entirely surrounded on all sides and there is one desert road open to the north through which comes a trickle of food supplies, but these are monopolised by Isis fighters for their own use. Other sides of the city are besieged with the Iraqi army and Shia militia to the east, anti-Isis Sunni tribal militia to the south and more government forces, backed by US troops, around Habbaniyah to the west. The main attack on Monday was being directed towards the agricultural town of Garma where Isis has lost some ground in farming areas.

People in Fallujah are reported by refugees to be terrified of Isis, but equally so of the Shia militias whom they say refer on their social media to “Terrorist Fallujah”. Isis withdrew from other cities like Ramadi, Hit and Rutba without fighting to the last man, but their fighters might do so for Fallujah because of its military and political importance. In 2004 it was the target of two famous sieges by the US Marines that left much of it in ruins. Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, once had a population of 400,000, but 70 per cent of it was destroyed by US airstrikes and only about 15 per cent of its people have been able to return. Fallujah may well suffer the same fate.

The Iraqi government will have to recapture Fallujah at some point because of the threat it poses to Baghdad and its importance as a sign that Isis is undefeated. But previous government offensives have been marked by stops and starts because of divisions between the US, the Iraqi government, Shia militias and Kurds. Mr Abadi may also want to assert his patriotic credentials after protesters demanding an end to corruption and appointment of a technocratic cabinet burst into the Green Zone two days ago. They were driven out by security forces firing live rounds as well as tear gas and two protesters were killed and 60 wounded. Mr Abadi claims that the counter-offensive against Fallujah has been delayed by political divisions in Baghdad.

The so-called Islamic State is showing signs of weakening but its many opponents also have their weaknesses. The US has been pushing for ground offensives against Mosul and Raqqa, but ground forces in Iraq and Syria may not be capable of taking them this year. “There is no real plan about what to do after they have fallen,” says Hiwa Osman, an independent political analyst based in Irbil. “Only the Sunni Arabs can really put an end to Isis and until they do so it will never be really finished.”

Patrick Cockburn is the author of ‘Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East’, published by OR Books, £18. Readers can obtain a 15 per cent discount by using the code: INDEPENDENT

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, ISIS 
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  1. tbraton says:

    ” The US has been pushing for ground offensives against Mosul and Raqqa, but ground forces in Iraq and Syria may not be capable of taking them this year. “There is no real plan about what to do after they have fallen,” says Hiwa Osman, an independent political analyst based in Irbil. “Only the Sunni Arabs can really put an end to Isis and until they do so it will never be really finished.” ”

    I came across a news report the other day claiming that the Kurds, with U.S. air power, are readying for an assault on Raqqa, which seems more hope than reality. I suspect that it is part of an American propaganda campaign designed to underplay any possible Syrian army recapture of Raqqa, just as we saw after the Syrians and Russians pulled off their stunning recapture of Palmyra.

    “QAMISHLO – Supported by aircrafts of the US-led coalition, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on 21 May captured the village of al-Hishah in special operations, killing 8 militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the northern countryside of Raqqa–de facto capital of ISIS in Syria.

    The village lies 12 kilometers east of Ayn al-Issa, north of Raqqa, and around 40 kilometers from the city of Raqqa.

    SDF official spokesman Talal Silo told local reporters on Saturday that the main goal of the SDF forces is to liberate Syria from the so-called Islamic State, and that they are ready to liberate Raqqa, Deir aez-Zor, Manbij and the northern Aleppo suburbs following the Shaddadi model.

    “He [Silo] asserts they will use the ash-Shaddadi battle as a model for seizing other areas from ISIS. He specifically states it will be a model for campaigns against Deir ez-Zor, Manbij and northern Aleppo suburbs,” Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security told ARA News.

    “The Syrian Democratic Forces will focus on important areas that are around, but not inside, the major cities of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor,” Heras said.

    “He is sidestepping a commitment to wage a campaign to seize Raqqa because the Syrian Democratic Forces, and adjutant Arab militias that US Special Forces are training, are not yet ready to hold Raqqa and provide security for alternative governance structures to ISIS after it is defeated and displaced from the city, instead emphasizing the willingness of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” he said.

    Moreover, the US analyst said that the SDF will utilize American airpower and Coalition Special Forces advising and “assisting to seize Arab majority areas around those cities village-by-village,” he told ARA News.

    The goal of the SDF is to build post-ISIS administration structures like local councils and powerful local leaders in areas that the SDF will seize from ISIS.

    “The Syrian Democratic Forces, under American guidance, is preparing for the administration of areas after ISIS. A prominent example of this model was the announcement of the Manbij local council, supported by the SDF,” Heras added.”

    Notice that the village is 40 km. (24 miles) north of Raqqa. That would appear to put the Syrian Kurds in conflict with the Syrian army, which I read several weeks ago was preparing for a dual assault against Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. As far as I know, there hasn’t been any further news re Raqqa, but I recently posted a link to an article dealing with the Syrian army’s assault on Deir ez-Zor. It will be very interesting to see what happens if the two forces conflict. It seems to me that the people of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, being largely non-Kurdish, would prefer to be freed by the Syrian army than by the Kurdish forces, which both you and the article above indicate are unprepared to administer Raqqa even if they are able to capture it. The mention of the Kurds preparing to retake Deir ez-Zor, which is roughly 100 miles from Raqqa, underscores the pipe dream nature of the story I linked to, when the Kurdish forces are still 24 miles north of Raqqa.

    • Replies: @5371
  2. 5371 says:

    IS is a sort of meal which has to drag on interminably bite by bite, so that the diner does not have to admit the real reason why he is in the restaurant.

  3. Marcus says:

    So warfare in Mesopotamia hasn’t changed much in 4000 years: prolonged sieges, depopulation of cities, and mass executions of prisoners.

  4. woodNfish says:

    I am all for muslims killing each other. Please do it more often. A dead muslim is a good muslim.

    • Replies: @Rehmat
  5. […] UNZ REVIEW Isis Unleashes Death Squads as Iraqi Forces Advance on Fallujah […]

  6. Not much different from when the US surrounded Fallujah and would not let anyone escape, then proceeded to destroy the city and its inhabitants.

  7. Rehmat says:

    I love Fallujah – the city where Gen. David Petraeus and his American braves got their AZZ kicked by Sheikh al-Sadr’s militia.

    Earlier this month, Muqtada al-Sadr, who destroyed Zionist poodle Gen. David Petraeus plan to turn Iraq into a US-Israel colony, has now been declared Iraqi Gandhi by Zach Abels at ‘The National Interest’, an Israeli advocacy thin tank, on April 24, 2016.

  8. Rehmat says:

    If my memory serves me right, it were Nazis who said: “A dead Jew is a good Jew.”

    Had the Muslim rulers in Spain, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, Albania and Malta has done that, the world would have far less problems.

    But, as they say, everyone makes mistakes in his/her live.

    “I am a Jew of Islam because Judaism under the rule of the Crescent took a different course than that under the rule of the Cross. The Jews of Islam, although decreed by the Pact of Omar as dhimmis or second-class cirizen, never experienced the same level of hatred, anti-Semitism or persecution, which were their daily bread in Christendom. They were not demonized as god’s (Jesus) killers and did not have to defend their religion in public deputations. They were not expelled en-masse on religious grounds from a Muslim country as they were from England, France and Catholic Spain,” Rabbi Haim Ovadia, Kahal Joseph Congregation in Los Angeles, California, January, 2008.

    “Islam is an act of God’s Mercy upon Jews,” Shelomo Dov Goitein (1900-1985), a German Jewish historian in his book ‘Jews and Arabs’.

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