Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’a militias spearheaded major operations to recapture desert terrain west of Samarra and Tikrit in Salah al-Din Province. The operation, announced and initiated by the Joint Operations Command on March 4, involves the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Popular Mobilization, and aims to secure the Jazeera desert area northwest of Baghdad and prevent its use by ISIS as a support zone.
Iraq Situation Report
ISIS conducted a large-scale campaign against civilian and military targets across Iraq between February 25 and February 29.
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi made his boldest move against Iranian proxy militias yet.
Prime Minister Abadi is facing grave political challenges following his announcement of a cabinet reshuffle on February 9.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Chief, Vincent Stewart, noted that a Mosul operation was unlikely to occur in 2016, underscoring that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have far to go before being ready to recapture the city.
Financial difficulties stemming from collapsed oil prices, corruption, and the cost of the anti-ISIS fight pose an increasingly dire threat to Iraq that may prove more destabilizing than ISIS.
The U.S. is actively searching for ways to increase its impact on the anti-ISIS fight in Iraq. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called on Coalition members on January 22 to increase the amount of support they provide, and the U.S. indicated plans to intensify its own assistance for anti-ISIS actors in Iraq.
Iraqi Shi’a militias significantly escalated their confrontation with the U.S.
Rival Shi’a political factions are capitalizing on increased instability in Basra to compete for influence.
The ISF made significant gains in Ramadi in December, clearing much of the city center and recapturing the government complex on December 28.