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The Battle for Fallujah is On

June 3, 2016
Plain English Version
Iraqi government forces take position east of Fallujah on May 25, 2016 during a major assault to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi government forces take position east of Fallujah on May 25, 2016, during a major assault to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi forces are battling to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Fallujah is a city with many Sunnis. It is only 40 miles from Baghdad.

IS is hiding behind the local population.  It is using them as human shields. It is also forcing many of them to fight on behalf of IS.

The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. It left the country at the end of 2011.  Before it left, Fallujah was under control. After it had left, things changed. The Iraqi Shiite-led government began to turn the country into a Shiite-run nation. They treated the Sunnis in the country in a cruel way.

The IS fighters are for the most part Sunni. By 2014, IS was taking Fallujah.

The 50,000 Sunnis living in Fallujah have mixed feelings about IS.   For the most part, they are afraid of them. But they are also unsure about how the Shiites will treat them. Most are trying to get out of the city.

Ali Sistani is the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq. He also is the top Shiite cleric. In 2014 he issued a fatwa calling on Shiite men to take up arms against IS. They formed militias.  The result was not the removal of IS, but rather the cruel treatment of Sunnis.

The Grand Ayatollah now has changed his view. He says he does not want the Iraqis to punish the Sunnis. He no longer wants sectarian killing.

Haider al-Abadi is the Iraqi Prime Minister. He is a Shiite. He has vowed to reverse the Shiite-first policies of Iraq.

Fallujah is now under siege. The people are starting to starve. Will Iraq be able to liberate Fallujah from IS? Can there be trust between Sunnis and Shiites? The Shiite militia is fighting alongside the Iraqi army. The presence of these fighters is a threat to Sunnis. The militia says it will not enter Fallujah.

The U.S. is providing assaults from the air. Air assaults are effective. But they must be mindful of danger to civilians. This limits their missions.

The only thing certain is that no side trusts another. The military struggle is a prelude to a huge political struggle within Iraq. When the armed forces free Fallujah from IS, the future of Iraq will be on the line.

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