Richard North, 14/08/2014  

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While western commentators such as the veteran Patrick Cockburn are writing dire prognostications about Iraq, and the inevitable triumph of the "caliphate", no one seems to have told the Iraqis that their fates are sealed.

By building a composite from local press reports such as this, and reports from the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA), it seems that they have a completely different version of events from that painted by the western media.

For instance, over the last few days, Iraqi security forces have destroyed six vehicles and three excavators and their ISIS occupants, in the al-Zalayah area south of Tikrit. When ISIS fighters launched a large-scale attack on Dijlah, also south of Tikrit, they were repulsed with heavy losses.

The insurgents used heavy and medium weapons mounted on four-wheel drive vehicles, but the army engaged them in violent battles for more than four hours, killing 28 gunmen and capturing eleven more, force the rest to withdraw.

A further five ISIS fighters were killed in by security forces backed by military aviation, in an operation in Jurf al-Sakhar, 45 km northwest of Hilla. A cache of weapons was also destroyed. Then, eleven ISIS elements were killed or wounded in Sinjar district, after an American air raid.

Elsewhere, Tigris Operations Command have confirmed that an operation to liberate the al-Edhaim area has killed 120 ISIS fighters. Some 200 explosive devices have been seized, and a large number of vehicles destroyed.

Military intelligence has also announced the killing of 73 ISIS terrorists after an airstrike in Sinjar. The Air Force, in cooperation with military intelligence, targeted gatherings of the (IS) organization at the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Sinjar. Amongst those killed was the new governor of Sinjar, Ahmed Al-Warshan.

In addition to this, a special force of the Iraqi army, in cooperation with the Peshmerga forces security forces, arrested 30 Islamic State fighters in the Malah village in the province of Kirk Kirkuk. Amongst the detainees was a local leader Abdul Razak Aynawi, and his deputy, Sheikh Isa Abd al-Sharif, responsible for recruiting new fighters.

Then, an army force backed by militia liberated al-Wafaa district, northwest of Ramadi, leaving the district currently under the control of the security services after re-opening the police station. Electricity and water services are being repaired and assessments are being made of damage to public and private property.

Yet these activities are only part of the intensive military operations being carried out by or alongside Iraqi security forces. Forces from the Army's 1st and 7th divisions and the federal police have carried out 12 military operations in Fallujah, Ramadi, al-Qaim, al-Rutbah and al-Karma since 2 August.

The Iraqi air force carried out six sorties targeting specific camps and ISIS strongholds. Air and ground operations have killed 71 terrorists in total, including 16 fighters of Arab, Asian and African nationalities, five of whom were in leadership positions.

In Anbar province, operations are being overseen by Lt-Gen Rasheed Flaih. With the support of tribesmen, he claims more than 98 percent of Ramadi has been cleared and troops are moving into the western parts of province. They have cleared al-Ameriya sub-district, south of Fallujah, the Zawbaa villages and the international highway connecting Baghdad to Fallujah.

ISIS still control parts of Fallujah, al-Qaim, Anah, Rawah, Kubaisa, al-Karma sub-district, parts of al-Nuaimiya and al-Saqlawiya sub-district. The group has been trying to overrun Haditha but failed due to the resistance they faced, causing them heavy losses, including the killing and arrest of scores of their terrorist emirs and commanders.

The terrorists could not reach al-Rutbah, al-Nukhaib, al-Khalidiya sub-district and al-Habbaniyah. These areas have forces supplied with weapons and equipment to repulse any potential terrorist breach.

A significant feature of recent fighting has been the major support received from tribes in the areas. This has been a direct result of a government amnesty for "misled" tribesmen. More than 184 armed elements have surrendered to the security forces and have been reintegrated into the militia.

Furthermore, more than three battalions of tribesmen have been trained to support and back the military units. They train at the police academy in al-Habbaniyah sub-district, east of Ramadi, undergoing a 45-day intensive course supervised by high ranking officers.

Gen Flaih speaks of ISIS having "sharp disputes" with armed factions whose opinions differ from ISIS ideology, with ISIS carrying out targeted assassinations of militia leaders to ensure there is no opposition or a force that could stand up to the terrorists.

A number of elements and leaders in Fallujah and Ramadi have been murdered by ISIS in an attempt to prevent any competition with its so-called caliph or the "emir" responsible for each city or district.

Part of the fight-back has been to reinforce the border to prevent foreign fighters infiltrating. The security situation at the border crossings in Trebeel, al-Tanf and Arar in western Anbar is stable. The crossings were never closed as the army, border guards and emergency battalions are in complete control of the border strip between Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In recent days an ISIS convoy trying to cross into Anbar from Albu Kamal on the Syrian side was destroyed, and 14 vehicles and trucks were blown up, killing all those who were in them.

As far as morale goes, Gen Flaih says the army has many stories to tell of sacrifice and heroism. And, he says, the sacrifices of local tribes "cannot be forgotten".

Crucially, though, not all the developments a military. As later as yesterday, the Egyptian Grand Mufti, Shawqi Allam, refused to refer to ISIS/ISIL as "Islamic State". The group changed its name from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) to the "Islamic State" when it announced the creation of its "caliphate".

Allam said this group did not represent Islamic values or law. Its crimes were a shame to Islam and Muslims, and regional and international co-operation was needed to fight such groups.

And if this attacks their religious base, the New York Times talks also of hitting ISIS where it hurts – disrupting its cash flow. But, in so doing, it also recognises that which we have been emphasising: ultimately only the Iraqis have the power to defeat ISIS.

From the look of it, the Iraqis realise this and have been making a start. Our tentative conclusion is that the ISIS/ISIL/IS "surge" has stalled, and the Iraqi forces are beginning to make a recovery. Give it a few weeks and the western media might even begin to notice.


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