25,000 Shia Gather for the Battle of Ramadi*
American advisers, and air support by the U.S., one can imagine how that’ll work-out!
By Juan Cole
Al-Zaman (The Times of Baghdad) reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi met Tuesday with leaders of the Shiite militias to plan the retaking of Ramadi, a Sunni Arab city about 78 miles due west of Baghdad that fell on Sunday to Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) as the Iraqi armed forces there collapsed.
Ramadi is potentially a base for attacking the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, with its tomb of the Imam Husayn, the martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Daesh could also use it to gain control of nearby Iraqi military bases and their weapons depots.
The Shiite militias have rallied, now that PM al-Abadi has lifted his earlier injunction against them operating in heavily Sunni al-Anbar Province, and are making plans to push Daesh back from Ramadi.
Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Corps and over-all leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces or Shiite militias, said Tuesday that the military task of taking back Ramadi is actually less complicated than campaigning north of Baghdad in Salahuddin Province (where the militias and the Iraqi Army have taken Takrit and Beiji from Daesh).
He said that 25,000 militiamen were already gathering for the fight, which would begin as soon as the volunteers could be assembled and armed. He said they would be joined by Sunni tribal levies and American advisers, and would be given close air support by the US and its anti-Daesh coalition.
The Badr Corps is the paramilitary of the Badr Organization, a pro-Iran Shiite party. It was founded as a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s and originally was attached to the what is now the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a political party founded at the instance of Ayatollah Khomeini.
So that al-Ameri is talking about cooperating with American military advisers on the ground and receiving American, Jordanian and other close air support is quite remarkable and a sign of the strange bedfellows that Daesh has brought together against itself.
Although some observers have stressed Sunni-Shiite unity insofar as some Sunni clans of Eastern al-Anbar have fought against Daesh, the clansmen are dejected about the fall of Ramadi and the ignominious retreat of the Iraqi army.
BBC Monitoring quotes from al-Mada, saying it reported that the head of the Sunni Al-Bu Fahd, Rafi Abd-al-Karim al-Fahdawi remarked:
“Al-Bu Fahd tribes in Al-Khalidiyah areas, eastern Al-Ramadi, deployed around 4,000 fighters to protect their areas from any attack by Da’ish.” He added that they are in a “state of disappointment and despair” and that “the morale of his tribe’s fighters deteriorated after the security forces’ withdrawal from Al-Ramadi and the government’s failure to meets its promises to supply them with weapons…” Another clan leader said, “some tribes abandoned fighting because they did not get any weapons or support” from Baghdad.
At the same time, there are signs of Baghdad coordinating with Iran. PM al-Abadi met with the Iranian defense minister, Brig. Gen. Husain Dehqan, in Baghdad on Tuesday evening and underscored that the security of Iran and Iraq are inseparable as they fight terrorist extremism (i.e. Sunni terrorist extremism), pledging that Iraq would never allow an attack on its eastern neighbor.
Al-Abadi also said, “we do not support the war on Yemen” and urged that the conflict be settled by negotiations among Muslim countries. The statement might underscore his alliance with Iran, but it is sure to anger the Gulf Cooperation Council states led by Saudi Arabia, who see the Houthi rebels in Yemen as agents of Iran.
Iraqi President Fuad Masoum, an ethnic Kurd, visited Tehran and likewise underscored the common security of Iran and Iraq.
Al-Abadi plans to head to Russia, where he hopes for support and weapons from Vladimir Putin. Since Daesh has a Chechen contingent, the Russians want to see it crushed, lest it spill back over onto Chechnya, an ethnic Muslim province in the Caucasus that has repeatedly staged secessionist rebellions against the Russian Federation. They have been crushed brutally, provoking a terrorist backlash.
Russia has already provided some arms to Iraq for its current fight against Daesh.
An Iraqi air force F-16 fighter jet
At least 300 members of the Takfiri ISIL group have reportedly been killed in an airstrike by the Iraqi Air Force targeting the positions of the terrorist group in the western province of al-Anbar.
“Preliminary estimates indicated the number of dead to be more than 300 terrorists” in the airstrikes on the the ISIL positions in the regions of Anah and Rawah, west of the province, a statement by Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba, an Iraqi Shia movement fighting the ISIL Takfiri group, said on Tuesday.
It was also said that the Iraqi army conducted “extensive air raids” against the “largest shelters of the Takfiri group between al- Rummaneh area and al-Bagoz district,” west of the provincial capital, Ramadi.
The statement also said,
“The militants were coming from Syria to support the terrorists in Anbar.”
Faisal al-Esawi, a leader of the Albu Esa tribe in the Amiriyat al-Falluja district near Ramadi, also said that as many as 400 Takfiri militants were killed in the Iraqi air raids on the regions of Anah and Rawah.
Since last week, the Iraqi army, backed by Popular Mobilization Forces, has been conducting operations southwest of the city of Samarra in an effort to retake Anbar’s provincial capital from ISIL extremists.
Among the other aims of the operations are blocking the advance of Takfiri ISIL terrorists active in the Tharthar region, north of Fallujah, and preventing the Takfiri militants from moving into the northwestern and northern areas of the capital, Baghdad, as well as the Diyala Province.
Al-Anbar Province, which is located in the western part of Iraq, is the major stronghold of the Takfiri ISIL militants in the country. The group controls swathes of land in northern parts of Iraq as well as in eastern Syria.