“They’ll only enter Fallujah over our dead bodies.”
That’s the quote of one of the fighters for a local tribal brigade inside the Iraqi city, which fell to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) last week, and which is facing an invasion by the Iraqi military.
The Defense Ministry has announced an indefinite delay on the offensive, citing fears of civilian casualties. The bigger problem is the tribal leaders though, who say they are prepared to fight the military if they move against the city.
“If the army attacks Fallujah to fight a handful of al-Qaeda elements, that will have dire consequences,” warned one of the tribal leaders, saying the Maliki government should focus on fighting AQI on the city’s outskirts, and leave their ouster from the city itself to the tribesmen.
It’s not an idle threat. Much of Fallujah’s Anbar Province was in open revolt during the days leading up to AQI’s takeover, and the Sunni Arab locals are clearly as averse to the Maliki government as they are to AQI.
Maliki’s threat of a military offensive has also created a major humanitarian crisis, as over 13,000 families are reported to have left Fallujah and Ramadi, and are dependent on the Red Crescent for aid.