After ISIS presence in Iraq started to weaken, it seems that the country will be caught in another vicious circle. The problem Anbar Governorate is currently witnessing is expected to add to the country's woes. The situation in Anbar is heading towards more escalation following the continuous closure of al-Soqour checkpoint on the borders with Baghdad.
Residents of Anbar were denied entry to the capital. Vehicles and trucks loaded with goods from Jordan were not allowed to cross al-Soqour checkpoint. As a result, Anbar Governorate council has threatened to hold a referendum that paves the way for declaring the governorate an autonomous region that assumes broader powers.
This led many political analysts to raise many questions over the mastermind behind the plot to ignite Anbar.
Thousands of Anbar residents are forced to cross al-Soqour checkpoint on foot before they ride cabs that take them to their destination in Baghdad.
Al-Soqour checkpoint is about 5 km away from Fallujah city. Previously, it was run by Anbar Operations Command. Then, it was run Baghdad Operations Command after ISIS controlled large swathes of the country in 2014.
Many Iraqi MPs and politicians have criticized Anbar residents', including children, sick and elderly people, suffering in their arduous journey to the capital as they are forced to walk for long distances in sizzling heat to cross the checkpoint.
Anbar heading towards independence
Taha Abdul Ghani, a member of Anbar Governorate council, revealed that the council will discuss during its upcoming meeting many issues, including "holding a referendum to declare the governorate an autonomous region" as a response to the arbitrary measures Baghdad Operations Command sue in al-Soqour checkpoint.
Residents hold us responsible for this problem although the council has no authority, Abdul Ghani said, adding that that security leaderships have this authority.
He also noted that the checkpoint is the only method the residents can use to move to the capital as the other checkpoints are closed except this one.
In addition to this, Abdul Ghani said that Iranian Militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) militiamen had prevented a member of Anbar council from crossing the checkpoint although she have an entry permit.
According to observers, the situation in Anbar is a culmination of wrong policies adopted by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
He is responsible for the deteriorating situation in the governorate as well as the rise of ISIS, they noted.
Tribal leaders of Anbar have also accused Maliki of complicity with ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists groups.
Anbar a huge prison
Moreover, Hamed al-Mutlaq, a member of the parliamentary security and defense committee, did not exclude the possibility of declaring the governorate an autonomous region as a result of the inhuman and worrying measures that are implemented in al-Soqour checkpoint.
Residents of Anbar feel they are living in a big prison, Mutlaq stated. Measures adopted by Baghdad operations do not achieve security as the opposite is true, he believes.
He noted that these measures create unprecedented state of tension and hostile feelings among residents, taking into consideration that the residents are already suffering from displacement and ISIS recurrent attacks, adding that punishing them this way is unfair.
According to Fares al-Fares, an Anbar MP, the arbitrary measures taken by security forces at the checkpoint between Baghdad and Anbar have deprived the residents the happiness of celebrating Eid Al-Fitr.
Anbar residents face a state of semi-siege and a collective punishment without any clear reason, he said.
Al-Fares also called upon the Iraqi Minister Haide al-Abadi to take an urgent action to alleviate the suffering of the residents and reopen the checkpoint. Anbar residents' humiliation has distorted the accomplishments of the Iraqi army in Mosul, he added.
Moreover, MP Farhan Mohamed Saleh said that the closure of the checkpoint is recurrent under the pretext of deteriorating security situation, adding that it takes place when ISIS launch attacks in Baghdad as if the vehicles coming from Anbar are behind these attacks.
Where are the explosive detection devices? Why are booby-trapped cars not discovered at the checkpoint? he wondered.
Security forces' justifications
Captain Haider al-Saedi of the Iraqi Army said that tightening security measures at al-Soqour checkpoint aims to reduce violations which Baghdad is witnessing, hinting that there are disagreement among authorities running the checkpoint.
Al-Saedi said that the al-Soqour checkpoint was constructed after Ramadi and Fallujah cities were liberated in 2016 to stop ISIS infiltration from Anbar to Baghdad.
The recurrent closure of the checkpoint to disagreements between IMIS militiamen and the Federal Police on one hand, and the militiamen and the Iraqi Army, particularly the 24th Brigade, on the other hand, he concluded.
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