Iraq has launched a military campaign to retake the provincial capital of Ramadi after it fell to "Islamic State." Initially, Shiite militiamen will lead the campaign and are already on their way to the area.
Shiite paramilitaries on the front line against Islamist fighters in Ramadi said on Tuesday that they had taken the lead in the Iraqi military's campaign to reclaim the city, which fell last week in attacks by militants from the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS).
In Iraq, the Shiites' participation in a military campaign is likely to be contentious among Sunnis in the Anbar province West of Baghdad where Ramadi is located. There are fears that too much trust placed in the Shiite militia by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad could lead to sectarian conflicts.
Last week, Iraq's military forces failed to hold Ramadi against attacks from IS forces. Their defeat prompted criticism from US officials, including Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, that the Iraqis hadn't put up much of a fight and that they had left behind equipment for the extremists to take.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed to retake the city within days.
The United States is leading an international coalition conducting airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria, where the group is also active. As IS took Ramadi in Iraq, they moved on the ancient historic Syrian city of Palmyra on the opposite end of the territory they control in the two countries. The territorial gains by IS came despite the US-led airstrikes.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday that Iraq needed to do more to hold up its end of the bargain of creating a more inclusive government, which was France's precondition for joining the airstrike campaign.
"This contract is what justified our military engagement and I say clearly here that it must be better respected," Fabius said in parliament.
He also called for international mobilization to be "strengthened" in Iraq and Syria at the risk of "new massacres and disastrous consequences."
France is scheduled to host a meeting next week of nations fighting IS.
mz/msh (AFP, Reuters)