Iraq may need a Geneva conference to solve issue of Falluja

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, February 11, 2014

The stagnation in Iraq’s political scene and no improvement in sight was bound to lead to a security and political vacuum. The demonstrations that swept several parts of the country, particularly the Muslim Sunni-dominated areas were the harbinger of the worse to come.

There is nothing wrong with people demonstrating. Things get out of hand when those in power use excessive force to quell peaceful demonstrators. And that is exactly what happened in the Sunn-dominated town of Falluja as well as the city of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar.

The restive Province of Anbar has not seen quiet since the 2003-U.S. invasion of the country. Many thought the withdrawal of U.S. troops would improve conditions. But unfortunately the opposite happened.

Today many villages, towns and large swathes of the Province of Anbar, which in area is equal to one fourth Iraq’s land, are outside government control.

But can the government launch a big battle in this highly sensitive province? I do not think that would be an easy decision to take even if the government has the means to do so.

This particular province defied the mighty U.S. Marine Corps, who failed to subdue it completely.  The Province borders Syria, currently in turmoil, as well as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

There are other realities which the government must consider. The U.S. with its own history of tough fighting and massive casualties emanating from clashes with insurgents in the same province will most probably not be happy with any escalation as the sides in Syria are engaged in talks in Geneva in the hope of solving their differences.

Iran, though vociferous about its standing behind the government, will think twice before translating their vows to dispatch military hardware to Iraqi army. If Iran wants to change balance on the ground it will need to send in troops as it does in Syria. And that is something I do not think it would be willing to do due its regional and international repercussions.

As far as Iran is concerned, the status quo of political and military stagnation in Iraq serves its strategy quite well.

Conditions in Iraq are more complicated than one might think and the government is too weak to take the initiative and solve problems through dialogue and reconciliation.