Pictures of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani
visiting Shi’ite militiamen in Fallujah have outraged
Sunni lawmakers from Anbar province. Iranian media released the pictures of the
al-Quds brigade commander making what was an unannounced and, so far,
unconfirmed visit with the Shi’ite troops. The Iraqi government has claimed to
have a need for Iranian advisers during the war on the Islamic State militants,
so the visit is likely to have happened. There are also reports that
the Iranians are building a large base in Sulaymaniya province.
M.P. Hamid al-Mutlaq, however, criticized
that need and questioned whether Turkish or Saudi advisers would be just as
welcome. In fact, Baghdad has ordered Turkish
advisers to leave northern Iraq in recent months. The troops are there with the
permission of Iraqi Kurdistan, but not with Baghdad’s consent.
Other lawmakers rightly bring
up sectarian concerns. Sunnis in Anbar do no want the Shi’ite
militiamen in their province at all, let alone an Iranian general
guiding them. Before Daesh took over Fallujah, protests
against Baghdad’s treatment of Sunnis had been taking place in Anbar. Some of
them were met with deadly violence.
By taking advantage of this discord, the Islamic State found
support and quickly occupied Fallujah and much of Anbar province. Lt. Gen. Sean
MacFarland, the commander of allied forces in Iraq fears
there may still be enough discontent among the Sunnis to fight security forces
trying to reclaim Fallujah.
About 800 civilians have escaped
the Daesh cordon around Fallujah, but authorities lament that most of
them were from surrounding areas and not the city itself. Despite the creation
of safety corridors, residents are unable to pass freely from their homes to
areas of Iraqi control. Residents are unable even to reach the city cemetery;
they’ve been forced to bury their dead
in their own gardens.
Iraqi special forces are now in position
around Fallujah with the hope to enter the city itself within hours.
At least 208 people were killed and 55 were wounded:
two women and injured 20 others who were trying to escape Amiriyat al-Fallujah.
people were killed and five were wounded in a bombing in Husseiniya.
In Baghdad, a blast killed
one person and wounded five more.
was shot dead in Sadr City.
A bomb killed
two militiamen and wounded four more in Latifiya.
In areas just north of Garma, security forces killed
110 militants and wounded 20 more.
militants were killed in strikes on Albu Bali and Khalidiya.
In Sajar, four
militants were killed.
Security forces in Hasa killed
two suicide bombers.
Read more by Margaret Griffis