The deployments of ISF units from the south to various fronts in western and northern Iraq between December 2013 and the present has caused a security vacuum in the southern provinces.
Iraqi Security Forces, Shi'a militias, and the Popular Mobilization have begun to shell Tikrit. Shelling may disrupt ISIS within the city, making further advances to clear ISIS possible. Shelling will also likely inflict civilian casualties, which may have divisive consequences within the Popular Mobilization.
The success or failure of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has reached a critical juncture. Far from defeated, the ongoing Afghan insurgency remains a serious challenge and threatens to reverse hard-won prior gains.
The role of Iranian-backed militias is introducing an obstacle for the Iraqi Government in its effort to reclaim the territories that fell out of its control. Since the fall of Mosul in 2014, these militias have played a crucial role in retaking areas from ISIS with minimal support from coalition air power and heavy reliance on Iranian support. The lack of precise coalition targeting is for the first time a limiting factor leading Iraqi commanders to halt the operation to retake Tikrit.
The regime’s claimed downing of an American predator drone may signify regime intent to assert its sovereignty in the context of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
Various Iraqi forces are pressuring ISIS on three different fronts, all of which are of strategic importance to the organization. ISIS will therefore likely attempt to escalate its attacks elsewhere to divert the resources of these forces.
The main area of Alam sub-district, NE of Tikrit, was declared retaken from ISIS by the ISF, Iraqi Shi’a militias, and local Iraqi Sunni fighters on March 9. Since then, there have been no reports of clashes in the area to suggest a continued presence of ISIS or a concrete effort by ISIS to retake Alam.
While Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that both the separatists and Ukrainian Anti-Terror Operation (ATO) forces had withdrawn a large amount of heavy weaponry in accordance with the February 12 ceasefire agreement, shelling and clashes persisted in several key areas across the frontline.
Key Take-away: The threat of large-scale attacks in North Sinai by ISIS’s Wilayat Sinai is elevated as of March 12, 2015, but this threat is not assessed to directly target the upcoming Egypt Economic Development Conference in Sharm al-Sheikh scheduled for March 13-15, 2015 due to heightened security in South Sinai. Wilayat Sinai may, however, conduct attacks elsewhere during the conference in order to portray instability and derail economic and political opportunities for the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.