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Resolution of Anbar crisis requires security, political coordination

Baghdad must combine security and political efforts to bring an end to the current crisis involving al-Qaeda and the Sunnis in Anbar province.
A man stands guard near the home of prominent Sunni Muslim lawmaker Ahmed al-Alwani after clashes with Iraqi security forces in the centre of Ramadi, December 28, 2013. Iraqi security forces arrested Alwani, a supporter of anti-government protests, in a raid on his home in the western province of Anbar, sparking clashes in which at least five people were killed, police sources said. They said those killed in the fighting included three of Alwani's bodyguards, his sister and his brother. REUTERS/Ali al-Mashh
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When the Iraqi army marched on the Anbar desert on Dec. 22 to wage war against al-Qaeda fighters along the Iraqi-Syrian border, the operation was viewed as an opportunity to restore the hope of achieving internal consensus around the necessity to fight extremism. Instead, however, it resurrected a state of confusion, leading to questions about the decisions being made in Baghdad as countless al-Qaeda militants brought the fighting from the border to the streets of the cities in Anbar province following the arrest of Sunni MP Ahmed al-Alwani, the dispersal of yearlong Sunni protests and the resulting rise in tribal anger. 

The situation in Anbar was unstable to begin with. These areas had for 10 years been the scene of numerous security disturbances and skirmishes, as residents there continued to be subjected to marginalization and exclusion at the political level. Al-Qaeda also played a major role in the instability plaguing Sunni cities, contributing to the necessity for military intervention, various conflicts and accusations of collusion burdening the local population. The Sunnis in the affected areas complained that accusations of their belonging to al-Qaeda were used to attack them and target their political figures, clan leaders and social and religious personalities.

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