A little more than a week after the outbreak of violence in Anbar province, the picture of the forces fighting on the ground has become clearer. It does not, however, correspond to official Iraqi pronouncements that the conflict only involves two parties: al-Qaeda versus Iraqi security forces and their Sahwa tribal allies. At the same time, the picture also does not support declarations by Fallujah tribal leaders that the conflict is mainly one of the tribes versus government forces. Rather, Al-Monitor sources in Fallujah have confirmed the presence of at least four distinct fighting forces in and around that city.
The situation remains foggy, especially in Fallujah, where the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) emerged one day after gunmen claiming to belong to Anbar’s Sunni tribes mobilized against the Iraqi government’s decision to arrest Sunni parliamentarian Ahmed al-Alwani and break up the Ramadi sit-in by force, one year after the Sunni demonstrations had begun. The ISIS convoys of 4x4 vehicles — armed with medium weapons and anti-aircraft guns and waving the al-Qaeda banner — were terrifying and supported the scenario being presented that the ISIS had seized control of Anbari cities, in particular Fallujah, and had declared an Islamic emirate.