Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday reversed a decision to withdraw troops from tense cities in Anbar province, hours after militants attacked police stations and freed prisoners.
“We will not withdraw the army” and “we will send additional forces,” state television quoted Maliki as saying in response to what it said were requests from residents and the government of the province west of Baghdad.
Iraq’s Anbar governor Ahmad Khalaf al-Dhiyabi had declared a “security breakdown” in Anbar after militants burned four police stations in the city of Ramadi allowing for dozens of detainees to flee, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.
Clashes broke out in the Ramadi area on Monday as security forces dismantled the country’s main Sunni Arab anti-government protest camp, which was located on a nearby highway.
Prime Minister Maliki said on Tuesday Iraqi troops would pull out of cities in Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, in a move apparently aimed at defusing high tensions in the wake of the camp’s closure.
The withdrawal was one of the demands that 44 Iraqi MPs made on Monday during a news conference where they announced they had submitted their resignations.
In another move apparently aimed at placating Anbar residents, the cabinet decided on Tuesday to provide aid to the province.
The oil, trade and health ministries were to provide food, fuel and medical items, and other ministries would also give “support and necessary services to Anbar province,” the cabinet said.
The removal of the camp was a victory of sorts for Maliki, who had long wanted it gone and had termed it a “headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda.”
But while its closure removed a physical sign of deep-seated grievances among Sunni Arabs, their complaints of being marginalized by Shiite-led authorities and unfairly targeted by security forces remain unaddressed.