Iraq's western governorate of Anbar is on the verge of completely falling into the hands of ISIS unless urgent action is taken, the Anbar Tribal Council warned Oct. 8. The Tribal Council is backing central government efforts to beat back ISIS but has protested Baghdad's appointment of Lt. Gen. Rashid Fleih as head of the Anbar Military Command, calling for him to be replaced as inept. Fghting between ISIS and Iraqi government and tribal forces has left more than 500,000 Anbar residents displaced since December. Tribal Council member Ibrahim Faris said: "It is strange that while ISIS is developing its presence and capabilities on the ground in Anbar, military and security leadership are not doing anything new to address this. As a result of this, most parts of Anbar province are now completely in ISIS's hands, including Ramadi city center." He added: "Unfortunately, the military has become a source of assistance for ISIS because for the most part ISIS is able to attack and defeat the military, taking control of their arms and equipment."
ISIS is now said to be in control of some 80% of Anbar. Reports Oct. 11 indicate ISIS has encircled Haditha, the last large town in the province not yet in the militants' hands. Should all of Anbar fall, ISIS would rule from the perimeter of Baghdad to Raqqa in Syria. If the northern Syrian town of Kobani also falls, this rule would extend to the Turkish border. Control of the hydro-electric works at Haditha would also allow ISIS to cut off electricity to Baghdad.
Anbar Provincial Council deputy head Falleh al-Issawi called for US ground forces to be deployed to the governorate, expressing fears that massively outgunned tribal fighters will abandon their weapons and flee before the ISIS onslaught unless they receive significant back-up. (CNN, Oct. 11; Asharq Al-Awsat, Oct. 9)