16 April 2015

Iraqi Army Opting for Small Steps in Al-Anbar Province Before Making Big Push to Recapture Mosul

Lara Jakes
April 14, 2015

Iraq Eyes Small Steps for Big Gains Against Islamic State

In Iraqi parlance, the battle to liberate Anbar is proceeding shway-shway. Slowly, slowly. Little by little. That’s not just how Iraqi security forces are mounting a new assault against key Islamic State strongholds — but also how the Obama administration seeks to wean government security forces from Iran’s influence.

Baghdad’s revamped focus on the country’s sprawling western Anbar province — parts of which have been occupied for 16 months — will play out in a series of small but deliberate steps to turn its overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim communities against the Islamic extremists. Doing so will delay a massive military operation in the northern city of Mosul, which serves as the headquarters of the Islamic State in Iraq.

So far, the new campaign has not gone well: Islamic State fighters repelled Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters in Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, late last week and kept firm control over the nearby city of Fallujah. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered more troops to surrounding areas to stave off retreat.

But the shift to Anbar gives Iraqi forces an opportunity to win over suspicious Sunnis who fear their communities will be overrun by Shiite militias — some of which are linked to Iran — after the fight is over.

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