The Russian formation of a coordination cell in Baghdad is an inflection point aimed at undercutting U.S. influence over the direction of the anti-ISIS efforts in Iraq and Syria. However, the Russian footprint in Iraq is much smaller than in Syria, while U.S. influence over the ISF and Iraqi state are much greater than U.S. influence in Syria. The U.S.
ISIS claimed a VBIED attack in a market area in Zubair, south of Basra, as part of its longstanding Wilayat Janub, which previously claimed attacks primarily in areas south of Baghdad, including Jurf al-Sakhar.
Russian involvement in Iraq has prompted U.S. concerns that Iraqi officials may be sharing classified information with Russia and Iran amid a significant increase in Russian activity in Syria.
An anonymous senior U.S. official stated that “low-level Russian generals” had established a “coordination cell” in Baghdad with Syrian and Iranian military commanders to coordinate the activities of Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’a militias in Iraq.
ISF operations to recapture Ramadi remain stalled, but remain the ISF’s main effort.
Challenges are mounting against PM Abadi’s government and the ISF in Baghdad. Following the kidnapping of the 18 Turkish workers last week, likely by Iranian-backed Shi'a militias, this week witnessed the kidnapping of a former Sunni advisor from Anbar.
The Iraq Control of Terrain map depicts the control exerted by armed actors in Iraq over urban and populated areas. “Control” is defined as “an area in which a military actor exerts physical/psychological pressure to assure that individuals or groups within the area respond as directed.” Control also requires a military command to maintain physical influence over a specified area in order to prevent its use by an enemy. The control zones depicted demonstrate where groups in Iraq are capable of repelling enemy forces.
PM Haidar al-Abadi continues to take actions to ensure that the government implements his reform agenda.
Iranian-backed Shi'a militias are challenging PM Abadi's authority through political means and the use of force in the wake of PM Abadi’s recent reforms. The proxy groups' obstruction of the National Guard Law further limits the government's ability to subordinate the militias to the control of the state. The National Guard Law is legislation that is critical to empowering Iraqi Sunnis by arming them and organizing them in the fight against ISIS. The Iranian-backed militias have also used violence in Baghdad in ways that challenge the government's control of the capital.
The powerbrokers leading the most lethal Iranian-backed Shi’a militias are taking actions to undermine PM Abadi’s reforms.