Arab media say Iraqi government forces are resisting an offensive by Islamic State militants in the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi Sunday, while making gains in nearby Diyala Province. As the bitter conflict goes on, Sunni tribesmen are calling for more arms and air support from the government.
Iraqi government aircraft fired on Islamic State attackers in the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi Sunday, as Sunni tribesmen battled to defeat a multi-pronged attack by the militants.
Tribal leaders claim to be holding off the militants who are trying to infiltrate government-held parts of the city.
Anbar Provincial Council Head Sabah al-Karhout said Islamic State is waging a bitter battle for the city.
He says the security threat against Ramadi Sunday is dire. He indicated that Sunni tribesmen were fighting the militants and have received four plane-loads of arms from the government, but need still more.
Al Arabiya TV reported Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi discussed the issue of arming Sunni tribesmen with Anbar officials Sunday.
Parliament Speaker Selim al-Jabouri, a Sunni, demanded the government arm Anbar's Sunni tribesmen during a press conference in the Jordanian capital Amman on Sunday.
He says the tribes have all helped to defend Anbar province against Islamic State terrorists, and there has been a running dispute with the Iraqi government leaders on how to arm these tribes and pay them. He adds that some arms have come, but not enough and that more are needed.
James Denselow, research associate at the London-based Foreign Policy Center, tells VOA that with government forces making progress in parts of the country, the dilemma now centers on how to arm the military without having those weapons fall into the hands of Islamic State.
“You've got the Iraqi prime minister leading the way with a Christmas shopping list to the Americans," he said. "I think he's asked for 175 MA1 Abrams tanks, 146 Stryker vehicles, 50 Bradley fighting [vehicles]. It's a long, long list now, which all comes into this notion that the time now as [President] Obama said last week is for the offensive to begin, and for any offensive to begin there needs to be weapons.”
US plans to arm Sunni tribesmen
A Pentagon document prepared for Congress calls for the U.S. to buy arms for the tribesmen, including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, grenades and mortars, if the spending request is approved. The U.S. has launched hundreds of airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, while deploying more than 3,000 advisers to assist Iraqi troops. But it has not dispatched ground troops and says it has no plans to.
In other developments Sunday, Iraqi forces reported success against Islamic State fighters in Diyala province. Kurdish peshmerga captured the town of Jalawla while the Iraqi army and Shi'ite militiamen said they have retaken the town of Saadiya. A reporter for VOA's Kurdish service said 19 peshmerga were killed and 60 wounded in Jalawla. Iraqi state TV said security forces also reopened the main road from Baghdad to Samarra.
Germans fighting with IS
Meanwhile, Germany says it believes about 550 of its countrymen have been or are fighting with Islamic State forces, with about 180 of them already returning to Germany.
Berlin said about 60 Germans have been killed or killed themselves in fighting in Iraq and Syria, including nine suicide bombers.