Following the Iraqi government breakup of a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi on Dec 30, fighting erupted in Fallujah, with the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham seizing the southern half of the city. The black Al Qaeda battle flags now fly from government buildings in Fallujah. The Iraqi government is saying that the other half of the city is controlled by “tribesmen,” who are nonetheless allied with ISIS. The mosques are once again being used to issue a call to arms to the young men of the city to join the jihad.
In Ramadi, fighting has been more intense, as some of the Sahwa militias appear to be resisting the ISIS fighters and their allies. Government troops shelled Fallujah on Jan 3, attempting to dislodge the ISIS forces, and there are reports of Iraqi Special Operations Forces in the city fighting ISIS and their allies. More of Fallujah’s inhabitants have fled to ISIS-controlled parts of the city, attempting to avoid the shelling. There are reports of ISIS snipers set up in empty buildings throughout the city.
Long War Journal reports that the names of the tribes allied with ISIS in Fallujah have not been reported, but during the height of AQI’s insurgency in the city, the Zobai and Fuhaylat sub-tribes of the Albu Issa were the primary supporters of the Al Qaeda affiliate. It seems likely that the same tribes have reverted to their previous loyalties, and with the shelling and the Shi’a-centric nature of the Iraqi government, it does seem likely that more may follow. The whole of Al Anbar Province has been descending in to violence lately, as the majority Sunni province increasingly believes that the Shi’a-majority government is marginalizing the Sunni.
There has been fighting in Karma, and the Iraqi Army says they are preparing for operations to clear Haditha, Rawa, Anah, and Al Qaim. Those familiar with the past campaigns in Iraq will recognize the names, especially Karma, which was a major trouble spot for a long time. It appears nothing has really changed.