Category Archives: Iraq

Iraq: Tikrit offensive stalled by ISIS bombs everywhere

Iraq’s huge offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State group is being stalled by bombs planted by the jihadists holding out in the city, a militia spokesman said Tuesday.

“The battle to retake Tikrit will be difficult because of the preparations (ISIS) made,” said Jawwad al-Etlebawi, spokesman for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shiite militia that is playing a major role in the operation alongside the regular army.

“They planted bombs on all the streets, buildings, bridges, everything. For this reason, our forces were stopped by these defensive preparations,” Etlebawi told AFP.

“We need forces trained in urban warfare to break in,” he said, adding that the jihadists are surrounded, “but any besieged person fights fiercely.”

The operation to recapture Tikrit, the capital of Salaheddin province, began on March 2.

While Iraqi forces succeeded in surrounding the city and retaking towns across the Tigris river to the east, gaining ground inside it has proved much more difficult.

Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, the top army commander for Salaheddin, told AFP on Sunday that the forces attacking Tikrit needed air support from the US-led coalition.

Saadi said that he had asked the defense ministry to make the request to the coalition, but that no air support had been forthcoming.

ISIS spearheaded a sweeping offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June.

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition and Iran are battling to push the militants back.

Hezbollah to send forces to fight alongside Iraq in Mosul, against ISIS


Hezbollah will send 800 men to fight alongside Iraqi forces against Islamic State for the control of Mosul, the London based al-Arabi al-Jadeed newspaper reported Sunday.

According to sources, following the battle over Tikrit, Tehran turned to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with a joint Iraqi-Iranian request to support the fight against ISIS in Mosul with trained fighters. An unnamed source told al-Jadeed that Nasrallah agreed to send about 800 men from elite units to participate in the anticipated battle.

The source cited the similarity between the topography of southern Lebanon and the mountainous terrain of Mosul as an advantage in the integration of Hezbollah forces into the fighting in Mosul, saying that the Lebanese men are already familiar and experienced fighters in both open areas and narrow streets.

A Shi'ite cleric wearing military uniform stands with Hezbollah members during a funeral for their comrade Abbas Hijazi in Ghaziyeh village

The fighters, according to the report, will enter Iraq equipped with light gear and arms. Once there, Iran will equip the men with heavy weapons.

The source told al-Jadeed that unless there are any developments on the Israel-Lebanon border, the chosen Hezbollah fighters will  deploy to Iraq within two-to-three weeks. The men are expected to be stationed in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra, where they will work to draft plans for the attack on Mosul.

Iran has already began operating an operations center in Samarra led by Qassem Soleimani, Commander of Iran’s Quds Force.

According to the report, Iran’s interest in advocating for the integration of Hezbollah in Iraq’s fight against ISIS lies in its desire to deter US forces from engaging in ground activity for the liberation of Mosul. Iran, according to the source, is trying to lead a battle against ISIS without the integration of US-led coalition forces, and plans to independently lead preemptive air strikes on ISIS targets (similar to those traditionally conducted by the American-led coalition)