The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

U.S. in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts said al Qaeda’s takeover of two Iraqi cities in An­bar prov­ince is an out­growth of a jail­break or­ches­trated last sum­mer by the ter­ror­ist net­work.

Al Qaeda’s Iraqi af­fil­i­ate, the Is­lamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), car­ried out the so­phis­ti­cated at­tack on two Iraqi pris­ons in mid-July, free­ing some 500 pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing large num­bers of al Qaeda ter­ror­ists and se­nior lead­ers.

Those es­caped pris­on­ers are now the back­bone of the forces con­trol­ling Ra­madi and Fal­lu­jah un­der the black flag of al Qaeda.

The July at­tacks took place at the no­to­ri­ous Abu Ghraib prison and a prison near Bagh­dad called Al Taji.

The mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion was care­fully planned and in­volved dozens of fight­ers equipped with mor­tars, rock­et­pro­pelled grenades and as­sault ri­fles. The at­tack­ing forces also used sui­cide car bombs to breach se­cu­rity bar­ri­ers.

Be­fore the prison raids, al Qaeda in Iraq was viewed as se­verely weak­ened. The hun­dreds of es­caped pris­on­ers strength­ened the group that now is desta­bi­liz­ing An­bar and threat­en­ing the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki.

Al Qaeda in Iraq now has an es­ti­mated 3,000 fight­ers, many of whom are con­trol­ling Ra­madi and Fal­lu­jah.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the lack of U.S. sup­port — the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has promised to speed up de­liv­er­ies of mis­siles but has ruled out send­ing troops — is prompt­ing neigh­bor­ing Iran to of­fer its mil­i­tary sup­port.

Iran’s Is­lamist regime grad­u­ally has been in­creas­ing its strate­gic in­flu­ence in Iraq through Mr. al-Ma­liki’s pro-Shi­ite poli­cies. For ex­am­ple, Iraq has be­come a ma­jor tran­sit route for Ira­nian Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps fight­ers on their way to fight in Syria’s civil war on be­half of the Bashar As­sad gov­ern­ment.

The es­caped ter­ror­ists in July were de­scribed by U.S. of­fi­cials as hard­ened first- and sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion al Qaeda ter­ror­ists who set­tled in western Iraq, in­clud­ing Ameriya, Sa­marra, Fal­lu­jah and Ra­madi.

Iraqi gov­ern­ment forces failed to re­cap­ture the two cities, Agence France-Presse re­ported Tues­day.

“Se­cu­rity forces and armed tribes­men tried last night to en­ter ar­eas con­trolled by the ISIS in the south of the city,” a po­lice cap­tain in Ra­madi was quoted as say­ing by the press agency.

The al Qaeda takeover fol­lowed an in­ci­dent Dec. 30, when Sun­nis were an­gered that gov­ern­ment forces cleared protest camps near Ra­madi. Al Qaeda seized on the Sunni anger to fo­ment an up­ris­ing.

Mr. al-Ma­liki has or­dered to the army to re­take the cities and is giv­ing An­bar tribal mili­tias time to take steps to oust the ter­ror­ists.

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