Islamic State group active in Anbar following 'quartet' intervention

Islamic State group active in Anbar following 'quartet' intervention
Analysis: The militant group has tested US and Iraqi readiness for battle by launching attacks, emboldened by the US preoccupation with Russia's intervention in the country.
3 min read
07 October, 2015
Iraqi forces have been exhausted in Anbar [Anadolu/Getty]
The effect of the intervention by the "quartet coalition" - Russia-Iraq-Syria-Iran - in Iraq's Anbar province has begun to become visible.

After all the work of Anbar clans and the Iraqi armed forces in coordination with the US in preparation to liberate the vast western region, the Islamic State group was able to resume operations and attack several areas after almost a month-long hiatus.

Observers and officials alike in Anbar continue to hold the Iraqi central government responsible for the security disorder, saying that joining the new quartet coalition has affected relations with Washington.

They said the US had begun to follow up politically on the feasibility of the new alliance, its impact on its interests in the country, and the extent of Iraq's commitment to the security agreement between them - and has shifted its attention away from preparations for the campaign to liberate Anbar.

A leading tribal figure in Anbar, Ammar al-Issawi, told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "Until a week ago, all preparations and coordination with Washington were growing by leaps and bounds, and IS was only in a defensive position and was not able to conduct attacks for a whole month."

By joining the quartet coalition, Iraq has "pushed Washington to hold talks with the Iraqi side to discuss its strategy in Iraq and the impact of the new coalition on it, and this was accompanied by a slowing of airstrikes on [IS] strongholds and preparations for the battle of Anbar, which was expected to begin at the beginning of this week".

Issawi noted that holding back preparations to launch the battle had "motivated IS to come out of its defensive positions and launch a surprise attack on the al-bu-Faraj, and the al-Bu Aitha areas, north of Ramadi".
The international coalition did not participate in repeling the attack
- Ammar al-Issawi: A leading tribal figure in Anbar

Issawi added that "the tribes responded to the attack and clashed with the group, which withdrew after an hour".

"The international coalition did not participate in repeling the attack."

Issawi said the attack was a "trial balloon launched by IS to test the extent of the readiness for the Battle of Anbar, and the extent of cooperation and coordination with Washington, and whether the quartet coalition made an impact on Washington's preparations for the battle".

Anbar MP, Abdullah al-Fahdawi, said the central government was to blame for a resumption of IS activity in the province.

Fahdawi told al-Araby: "The quartet coalition - which includes Russia - and its presence in Iraq, as well as Iraq requesting that it intervenes militarily and strike at IS, has clearly begun to impact the course of the Iraqi security agreement with Washington, which is discussing that impact with the Iraqi government and seeking to draw a new strategy in Iraq."

Fahdawi called on the government to "stop interfering in the province, which is on the verge of being resolved, because its intervention will only be negative".

"Cooperation and coordination between Washington, the tribes and the military in Anbar, was about to bear fruit - if it were not for the country's policy and it joining the Russian coalition."

The US has denied that it halted air operations or military cooperation with Iraqi security forces in Anbar.

The US embassy in Baghdad said in a press statement: "There has been no halt to Coalition airstrikes against [IS] or cessation of US advise-and-assist efforts in Anbar province.

"The US-led coalition remains committed to working with its Iraqi partners in operations to degrade and destroy [IS] in Anbar province and throughout Iraq."

Leaders of the ruling National Alliance in Iraq and the Popular Mobilisation militia have reportedly not been happy to see Sunni tribes being armed and equipped in Anbar.