The Islamic State’s Eastern Frontier: Ramadi and Fallujah as Theaters of Sectarian Conflict

Kirk Sowell

Abstract


The part of eastern Anbar that runs from the provincial capital of Ramadi to the area around Fallujah represents an eastern frontier for the organization that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). The jihadist organization lacks the military capability to fully incorporate these areas into its Syria-based caliphate, but it can use them as a base for launching attacks on government forces in central Iraq, supplementing its limited core forces with local recruits. Key to its ability to do this is the effective exploitation of an environment in which much of the population, though not part of its ideological core, views a military alliance with IS as the only alternative to accepting the rule of Iranian-controlled state institutions and militias. Recent statements from “tribal shaykhs” purporting to represent Anbar’s Sunnis have framed support of the Islamic State as essential in defending Sunni lives and identity, and pan-Arab media, while not expressly supportive of IS, has played into its narrative of the conflict in Iraq as a war to defend Sunni Arab identity instead of one waged for a narrow Salafi-Jihadist agenda.


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ENHANCING SECURITY THROUGH COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH

Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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