Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Falluja: SNAFU

Fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and rebel groups including al-Qaida was reported near Falluja on Tuesday, 24 hours after the US agreed to speed up arms sales to the government in Baghdad.


The US announced on Monday it is to accelerate military sales to Iraq, including 10 ScanEagle drones and 48 Raven drones. It said the drones were purely for surveillance. A consignment of 75 Hellfire missiles arrived in Iraq last week.


Security officials and tribal leaders said Maliki had agreed to hold off an offensive to give people in Falluja time to push the militants out. But it is not clear how long they have before troops storm the town.

"We've done our part of the deal. Now they [tribal leaders] should do theirs. If not, a quick offensive is coming," an Iraqi special forces officer told Reuters.

Iraq's US-equipped armed forces have killed dozens of militants in recent days in shelling and air strikes, officials say. The scale of casualties among civilians, security forces and tribal fighters is not clear.


Intelligence estimates put membership of al-Qaida in Iraq at 3,000, up from 1,000 in 2011.

Joshi warned that al-Qaida was only one element in a coalition of groups opposed to the Maliki government. "What we are seeing in Anbar is bigger than just al-Qaida. What were are seeing includes a protest movement and armed tribes."


The US Congress is blocking the sale of Apache helicopter gunships to the Iraqi government amid concerns they might be used for sectarian repression, but the White House, worried about al-Qaida, backs the sale.


"No outside power can change the situation. Given Iraq's current political divisions and leadership, the most the US and other outside states can do is choose between bad alternatives and pursue the least bad options.”