Fallujah braces for another assault
By Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail
FALLUJAH - United States and Iraqi forces are preparing another siege of
Fallujah under the pretext of combating "terror", residents and officials say.
Located 69 kilometers west of Baghdad, the city that suffered two devastating
US attacks in 2004 has watched security degrade over recent months.
"Ruling powers in the city fighting to gain full control seem willing to use
the security collapse to accuse each other of either conspiracy [in
lawlessness] or incapability of control," said Sufian Ahmed, a lawyer and
human-rights activist in Fallujah.
"They suddenly changed their tone from saying that the city was
the safest in Iraq to claiming that al-Qaeda is a serious threat. Fallujah
residents know their so-called leaders are using security threats to terrify
them for their own political interests."
In the face of US military claims of improved security, violence has been
rising by the day this month. The city has now been placed under tight curfew
while US and Iraqi military forces prepare for a new offensive, according to
the local Azzaman daily.
Iraqi security forces have established new checkpoints around the city and are
forbidding movement of people and traffic. Pick-up trucks are roaming the city
warning residents that al-Qaeda has once again infiltrated Fallujah.
Iraqi police officers insist that the situation is under control despite the
"occasional incidents that take place all over Iraq".
The indications on the ground belie these claims. "The Americans and their
allies transferred our leader, Colonel Fayssal al-Zoba'i, from his post because
they have bad plans for the city," a major in the Fallujah police force told
Inter Press Service (IPS). "He has all the right to keep his post because he
was the one who led us to defeat the insurgency while the Americans failed.
They [the US military] seem to have a plan to destroy the city again."
Iraqi police and troops from other areas are being deployed in the city in what
police officials say is a build-up for a huge offensive. US occupation forces
are on the ready in nearby bases.
The government in Baghdad has made it clear that direct US military involvement
is critical for an "imminent offensive" in Fallujah, sources in the Iraqi
military have been quoted as saying in Iraqi media.
The two US sieges of the city during 2004 led to the destruction of
approximately 75% of the city, thousands of civilian deaths, and the
displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, according to the
Fallujah-based Iraqi non-governmental organization Monitoring Net for Human
Some officers in the Fallujah police believe Iraqi politicians are using the
threat of "terror" for election purposes, ahead of provincial elections
scheduled for October.
"The resignation of Colonel Fayssal is not yet definite," another police
officer, speaking on terms of anonymity, told IPS. "But I agree that the
Americans and the Islamic Party are planning something bad for the city before
the provincial elections."
The officer added, "We learned that such plans could not be conducted in a
quiet atmosphere, so politicians are adding gas to the fire just to make sure
they win the elections. We, policemen and citizens, will be the victims as
usual." Residents fear parties will use the violence to accuse one another, and
perhaps sabotage the election itself.
A police spokesman told IPS that "the media is exaggerating things once more"
in speaking of another military operation in the city. The spokesman declined
to give his name.
Everyone IPS spoke with in the city expressed fear of an impending attack.
There are meanwhile no signs of improvement of any other kind in Fallujah.
Walls now divide the city into sectarian sections, with poverty, unemployment
and suffering on all sides.
Ali al-Fadhily, IPS's correspondent in Baghdad, works in close
collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our US-based specialist writer on Iraq
who travels extensively in the region.