ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a public sermon in his proclaimed role as Caliph Ibrahim, the leader of the Islamic State, presenting a major challenge to al-Qaeda senior leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The public appearance of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Mosul and the destruction of shrines and mosques in Mosul and Tal Afar indicate that ISIS control in northern Iraq is uncontested.
ISIS targeted the Samarra Askari Shrine in an effort to divert ISF resources from Tikrit or Baghdad. The mobilization of the Sadrist Brigades to Samarra and the increase in murders in Baghdad are indications of escalated Shi’a militia activity. Tribes in Haditha may be negotiating the peaceful occupation of the city by ISIS and other armed groups. Upon establishing control of Haditha, ISIS will likely attempt to seize control of Ramadi and declare total control over Anbar province. ISIS is testing the volunteer force defending the city.
ISIS may be launching a renewed military offensive to take control of all urban centers in Anbar Province, beginning with Haditha and moving toward Ramadi. The Haditha Dam is a critical element of Iraq’s infrastructure, which ISIS and other anti-government groups may use to obstruct ISF mobility in Anbar, much like the Fallujah Dam in April 2014.