As the crisis in Iraq's beleaguered Anbar province grows, with Islamic State group militants gaining ground against Iraqi security forces, an Iraqi lawmaker has accused the central government in Baghdad of negligence toward Anbar's Sunni tribal forces.
MP Faris Taha of the Al-Wafa bloc said on December 14 that Baghdad's failure to properly arm tribal forces who are fighting Islamic State gunmen in Anbar was not justified.
Taha's comments come after leaders of the Albu Nimr tribe warned that his men were running out of weapons and ammunition.
According to Taha, there has been good cooperation between the Sunni tribes and the Iraqi security forces. He accused Baghdad of having no intention to arm the tribes.
The Iraqi lawmaker said that arming the Popular Mobilization Militia (Al-Hashd al-Sha'abi) in favor of the Sunni tribes was damaging to the Sunni tribes' dignity and could cause a crisis situation within Anbar province but added that he did not object to Al-Hashd al-Sha'abi fighting in Anbar if this was coordinated with the tribal forces.The Al-Hashd al-Sha'abi is a Shi'ite-dominated militia. In November, Al-Araby reported that 3,000 Al-Hashd al-Shabi militia had entered Anbar to help fight Islamic State.
Taha has previously slammed Baghdad for negligence in arming Sunni tribes, saying that some tribal leaders had even sought arms from Iran. Earlier this month, he warned Baghdad that if tribal forces did move to obtain arms from outside, it would "sow more differences and have the opposite effect on the security situation in the province."
Humanitarian Crisis In Anbar Deepening As IS Gain Ground
The accusation that Baghdad is failing to arm Sunni tribesmen in Anbar comes as the crisis in the western province deepens.
Anbar's humanitarian situation, already critical, has deteriorated still further, as Islamic State gunmen have surrounded and blockaded many parts of the province. An RFE/RL correspondent in Iraq reported on December 13 that Islamic State gunmen are preventing food and other supplies from entering the besieged areas. Sources say many people, particularly children and the elderly, are dying because of shortages of food, milk, and medicines.
On December 13, Islamic State militants stormed Al-Wafa, 45 kilometers west of the provincial capital Ramadi, killing at least 19 policemen.
RFE/RL's correspondent reported that after the capture of Al-Wafa, IS gunmen surrounded large numbers of army personnel and tribal fighters in western Anbar.
Islamic State militants now control three major towns west of Ramadi, including Hit and Kubaisa. Iraqi security forces have been unable to penetrate into Hit to take it back from Islamic State gunmen, according to RFE/RL's correspondent.
Clashes have also continued in the provincial capital, Ramadi, which IS gunmen have made successive attempts to storm and capture. On December 11, Islamic State forces took control of the Al-Dolab region 10 kilometers west of Hit.
According to Reuters, on December 12 Islamic State militants executed 21 Sunni tribal fighters from the Awakening movement after capturing them near the township of al-Baghdadi two days earlier. The bodies had bullet wounds to the head and chest and were dumped in an orchard near Kubaisa, according to local officials and tribesmen.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk