Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is in complete control of the city of Fallujah and there are no government forces within the city limits, former Iraqi finance minister and deputy prime minister Rafie Al-Issawi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Issawi, who leads the Al-Mustaqbal Movement affiliated to the Sunni-led Mutahidoun Coalition, said he was in Erbil to seek a solution to the unrest that has engulfed Iraq’s western Anbar province after ISIS forces took control of a number of cities last year.
“We are here to meet with religious scholars and tribal sheikhs to discuss a formula that will resolve the crisis that has engulfed the province, and particularly the city of Fallujah which ISIS has taken complete control of,” he said.
As for the reasons why ISIS has been able to keep control of the city, he said: “This is due to the bad decisions of the military leadership and its lack of understanding of the security file in Anbar, not to mention the absence of military forces on the ground which gave ISIS the opportunity to take control of Fallujah.”
The former finance minister, who is a leading Sunni political leader in the country, blamed the Baghdad government’s treatment of Iraq’s Sunni community for the ongoing crisis.
He said that many local tribes had joined the ISIS forces due to actions by Iraqi security forces cracking down on anti-government protests that had taken place in the province prior to the ISIS incursion. “Rather than responding to the protesters’ legitimate demands in Fallujah and Ramadi, the government chose the military solution, which prompted the tribes to take up arms to protect themselves.”
However Issawi acknowledged that the government’s fightback to retake the province from the ISIS rebels had witnessed some successes, saying that the provincial capital of Ramadi was now back under government control.