BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- The latest wave of fierce clashes in Iraq's Sunni-dominated province of Anbar is a result of the profound Sunni-Shiite sectarian division complicated by a resurgence of al-Qaida terror group in the country, local analysts said.
"In my opinion, the latest escalation of violence is affected by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ambivalent attitude toward the year-long Sunni protests," Sabah al-Sheikh, a professor of politics at Baghdad University, told Xinhua.
Since December 2012, the Sunni Arabs have been carrying out wide-spread and regular protests, accusing the Shiite-led government of marginalizing them and its Shiite-dominated security forces of indiscriminately arresting, torturing and killing their sons.
"Al-Maliki sometimes accused them of being part of a conspiracy plot by the former regime of Saddam Hussein and acting as proxies for Sunni regional powers. In other times, he tried to make some concessions but were never seen enough to quell the protests," Sheikh said.
Tension has been running high in the Sunni heartland of Anbar since late last month when Iraqi security forces captured Sunni Arab tribal leader and parliament member Ahmad al-Alwani, one of the most outspoken leading figures in the anti-government protests.
Clashes broke out across Anbar on Dec. 30, 2013 after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside the provincial capital city of Ramadi, which the Iraqi prime minister had termed a "headquarters for the al-Qaida leadership."
In a move to defuse the tension, al-Maliki ordered the army to withdraw from the cities in Anbar after 44 members of Iraq's parliament announced their resignation to protest against the government's harsh moves on Sunni Arabs.
However, the situation suddenly deteriorated on Wednesday as militants of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL), commonly known as al-Qaida in Iraq, attacked police stations and controlled many parts of provincial major cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
The sudden show of massive force by al-Qaida militants prompted al-Maliki to decide to re-send the army and the clashes effectively turned into a confusingly chaotic three-way war.
Ibrahim al-Ameri, a lecturer of politics in a Baghdad college, told Xinhua that the main sides fighting in Anbar province are the armed tribesmen, al-Qaida militants and the Iraqi forces loyal to the Shiite-dominated central government.
"The Sunni tribesmen, including Sahwa militia, and local police forces generally refuse the presence of the army and federal police in their cities and also reject the al-Qaida militants," al- Ameri said.
The Sahwa militia, also known as the Awakening Council or the Sons of Iraq, consists of armed groups, including some former anti- U.S. Sunni insurgent groups, who turned their rifles against the al-Qaida network after the hardline group exercised indiscriminate killings against both Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities.
"The al-Qaida militants want to establish an Islamic state in Anbar cities and are fighting all kinds of security forces, even the local police," al-Ameri said, adding the Sunni tribesmen fear that the terror group would also seek revenge against them for their cooperation with the United States and the Iraqi government in the past.
Facing their common enemy of al-Qaida, many Sunni tribesmen joined hands with Iraqi security forces to fight the Islamic militants in Ramadi, Fallujah and other areas in Anbar.
Local observers believe that the fundamental issue concerning the current chaotic clashes is the deepening mistrust and sectarian schism that could bring the country close to the brink of a civil war that threatens to disintegrate the country.
"The degree of trust among the Iraqi factions is almost zero. Such situation is a major factor behind the sectarian polarization, which in turn makes it almost impossible for any leader to rule the country," al-Sheikh said.
He warned that the Iraqi central government and the local Sunni tribesmen should not think of solving the crisis by force which may lead to more bloodshed and sectarian division.
"They have to get rid of al-Qaida first, and then they must resort to calmness and send messages of reassurance to the people of Anbar," Shiekh said.
Al-Ameri warned that both the central government and local tribes must realize that they will be responsible for any further deterioration in the security situation in the province.
"Both the government and the Sunni tribes are responsible for the Iraqis' blood. They both have to fight the (al-Qaida) terrorists and they also have to find a way out of this enmity and distrust," Ameri said.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Sunday voiced support for Iraq's ongoing efforts to combat an al-Qaida affiliate as the group has taken control of a big city in the western province of Anbar.
In a conversation with Iraqi National Security Advisor Faleh al- Fayyad over the phone, Anthony Blinken, a deputy American national security advisor to President Barack Obama, expressed U.S. support for government operations in Anbar to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), commonly known as al-Qaida in Iraq. Full story
BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Up to 17 people were killed and some 57 others wounded in a series of bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday, a police source said.
The deadliest attack occurred in the afternoon when two car bombs went off at a marketplace in Shaab district in the northeastern part of Baghdad, killing a total of nine people and wounding 28 others, the source told Xinhua. Full story