ISIL counter-attack in Fallujah: can Iraqi Forces maintain momentum?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The London pan-Arab daily al-Hayat [Life] reports that Iraqi troops are advancing on Fallujah despite facing fierce resistance from Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) . At the same time, fear is mounting abot the fate of the tens of thousands of non-combatants inside the city who are caught between the advancing Iraqi forces and violent Daesh resistance.

After the beginning of the attack operations on Monday from three directions, it was the units advancing from the south that made the biggest breakthrough, taking the Na`imiya Bridge.

Lt. Gen. Abd al-Wahhab al-Saedi, the officer commanding the operations, that his forces were encountering violent resistance from the terrorist organization’s gunmen. He explained that the gunmen had launched a counter-strike to the south of the city. He said, “About 100 Daesh militants executed an assault without deploying car bombs or suicide attacks.” He affirmed that the Iraqi army blunted the attack and killed 75 of the armed men, then continued their advance toward the city. He did not say how many casualties were taken by the Iraqi army side.

The counter-attack was stopped in part by precision bombing by the US and its allies, and by Iraqi army deployment of helicopter gunships.

The Iraqi military and the Shiite militias supporting it imposed a blockade on Fallujah several months ago to soften it up for this campaign. Daesh has held Fallujah since January of 2014.

A source inside Fallujah told al-Hayat that the local population is eagerly awaiting their liberation from the clutches of Daesh. Abu Muhammad al-Dulaymi said that the locals were disgusted that they had not already been rescued by government forces, since Daesh rule is harsher on them every day and they are terrified of the organization. “Daesh,” he said, “are furious that they are not getting support from the local population.” They’ve started just cursing people in the street.

The locals are under artillery barrages from the Iraqi army and in danger from Daesh fighters who feel trapped. Daesh just rounded up a hundred men for being lukewarm toward them, and have made them disappear. They have also conscripted young men to fight for Daesh. In the past week, 3700 civilians have managed to flee the city, but they lived on its outskirts. People living inside Fallujah are finding it almost impossible to get out.

In the center of the city, where Daesh fighters are dying from US and allied air attacks, Daesh is using civilians as human shields.

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Related video:

CBSN: “Iraqi troops close in on ISIS-controlled Fallujah”

8 Responses

  1. I just read at Anti-war.com that over 4000 Iraqis were killed and 2000 plus wounded in May alone. That’s a 9-11 occurring every month in Iraq thanks to Bush, Cheney and Blair….all of whom are enjoying the good life in retirement.

  2. this is war. it escalates. it gets worse. it gets uglier. this is why moral progressive people do not believe in preemptive warfare no matter how long it goes on. . big brother loves words that are upside down. “preemptive war” “department of defense” “operation enduring freedom” “operation iraqi liberation”

    is isis ugly? yes.
    are we ugly? yes.
    is bombing the solution? no.
    can we trust our military to tell the truth? no.
    do we have a plan for the rubble and refugee camps of sunni iraq? no.
    does isis have a plan for the rubble and refugee camps? oh yes. oh yes they do.

  3. back to reality…. jason ditz from antiwar.com
    “A day after announcing their “final assault” on the ISIS-held city of Fallujah, Iraqi troops have been stalled at the southern gates, in the face of major resistance from ISIS forces. Unlike previous defenses, there was no word of ISIS using suicide attacks, and rather faced the Iraqi military heavily armed in a gun-battle.

    The commander of the offensive, Lt. Gen. Abdelwahab al-Saadi, was as upbeat as ever, presenting the fight as the Iraqi forces “repelling” an ISIS attack on the outside of the city, and claiming to have killed 75 ISIS fighters in the process. He offered no details on casualties on the Iraqi military side.

    Other Iraqi military officials told a different story, saying the ISIS forces are heavily dug-in in trenches and tunnels around the city outskirts, and keeping Iraqi troops and affiliated militias at a distance in the ongoing offensive.

    US officials have conceded that they believe Fallujah will not only be a long, difficult fight for the Iraqi military, but that the troops will likely face hostility from the civilian population as well, as the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab city is averse to being “liberated” by the Shi’ite-dominated military.

    Iraqi officials had presented territorial gains around the city suburbs as major wins, but those came largely without resistance. ISIS appears to have decided that the city would be more readily defended at the city level, instead of in the more rural outskirts.”

    • Similar things were said about Ramadi as the offensive began there. And before that Tikrit. The Shiites have the biopower here, plus US/allied close air support. Fallujah will fall.

  4. It’s difficult to see how the situation could become even worse. However, given how nefarious Daesh has been, the possibility of a even worse future is still there. If as you write the Iraqi army is able to retake Fallujah, then there might be some promise of a more inclusive Iraq. Iraq is a diverse set of people that have all suffered tremendous losses as a result of foreign policies of regional neighbors (namely Saudi Arabia and Turkey) and the United States. Internal conflict has also been a major factor that has destroyed the social fabric of Iraq. If Iraqis realize that no one group will be able to dominate the other and that each faction will have to have a say in the future of Iraq, then there is the possibility of growth and reconciliation.

  5. Daesh is using civilians as human shields.
    ==================================
    For those of us who want there to be zero civilian casualties in any war, the human shield tactic is a serious problem. How do we defeat the enemy without killing or injuring innocent civilians, when civilians–including children–are being used by the enemy as human shields?

    The only answer I see lies in foreign policy. A policy that requires our troops to be deployed overseas, in the belief that “it’s better to fight them over there than over here”, it seems to me, increases the risk of our troops facing situations where the enemy finds local civilians to use as human shields.

    A non-interventionist foreign policy, one that does not require us to be the world’s policeman, would reduce the probability that we would face enemies who use civilians to shield themselves from our bombs and bullets. If our Defense Department truly exists to defend us, here in the US where we live, and not to intervene in conflicts “over there”, the chances of innocents being caught in the crossfire would be greatly reduced.

  6. Patrick Cockburn was interesting talking about retaking Mosul … he said that the Americans were very rah-rah about taking Mosul, the Iraqis not.so.much.
    As is often the downside of “liberating” a territory, the victor is then expected to keep it “liberated” as it limpingly regenerates civil society … with Ramadhi, Fallujuah and Mosul, I wonder how overextended the Iraqi military would find itself protecting the locals from the various sectiarian miliitas which might seize the in-flux opportunity to make mischief (possibly take revenge or advantage of the emptied town)
    I was surprised to see that the Kurds and American were “advancing on Mosul” … Cockburn had said probably not this year ….
    As terrorists learned wrt hostages, liberated territory brings with it responsibilities that require high cost maintenance and manpower …
    Speculation that “attack on ISIS” is a wag the dog to divert attention from the Sadr/corruption/malaise
    I hope we’re not “overextending” the Iraqi army … forget momentum, equilibrium seems quite possibly about to be endangered

    link to thedailybeast.com

  7. Sunflower and Cockburn are the accurate perspectives. It is misleading to argue whether Fallujah will or won’t be re-taken again. Fighting to ‘re-take’ Fallujah is like spending scarce money to buy a mountain of debt, or fighting over possession of a contagious corpse. It’s Detroit with lots of holes, absolutely nothing working anymore, and no money or even agreement to fix anything. National destabilization are long term debt. “Rebels” don’t have to hold territory to ‘win’, but forces supporting genuine re-stabilization do. Where are Iraq’s deep social, political, structural, and monetary resources to hold a ‘re-taken’ Fallujah? Rah-rahs are looking for newsworthy milestones. The opposition sees another cycle in rotation. Iraq is not responsible for this mess. The US and its twice elected Bush administration is.

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