In advance of his first ever visit to Washington as Prime Minister of Iraq, PM Haider al-Abadi has reportedly removed 300 senior members of the Iraqi Armed Forces. The move was widely hailed as a significant effort to tackle the endemic corruption that continues to plague the security forces of Iraq. The visit by al-Abadi to the US is believed to be primarily focused upon a request for further deliveries of military equipment, possibly including the much anticipated but delayed provision of 35 F-16 jets, as well as deferment of payment for weaponry already received. It is also believed al-Abadi may suggest that in the absence of any agreement Iraq would have to turn to its neighbour Iran for further assistance.
Meanwhile the pro-government offensive has continued to push west into Anbar Province, with gains and losses being reported throughout a large territorial expanse. The greatest concentration of these exchanges were reported in the areas of Ramadi, Fallujah, and north of Ramadi in Saddamiyah al-Tharthar. Fierce exchanges have been reported in these areas on a daily basis, with both civilian and military casualties believed to be high. There were also a number of pro-government operations throughout Salahhudin Province, including in Kirkuk, Jabal Hamrin, Tikrit, Hayy al-Qadisiya, and Samarra. This reporting continues to evidence that despite a prolonged period of pro-government security force pressure, in a number of areas the ISIS threat has remained significant. This is perhaps most evident of all within Diyala Province, where despite a large concentration of both orthodox as well as Shi’ite militia personnel there has continued to be a persistent threat of terrorist attack. Terrorists also successfully infiltrated the area of Albu Faraj before targeting civilian residences of members of the security forces, killing family members and destroying their homes. The nearby area of Albu Aitha was also reportedly overrun. Smaller skirmishes were also reported in Shirqat as well as near the Hamrin Mountains, while Peshmerga forces were involved in a number of security operations throughout Khazar, Sinjar, Zumer, Harden, and Makhmour.
There were also unconfirmed reports that much like in Tikrit, assurances of US aerial support in Anbar Province were made contingent upon the removal of Shi’ite militia from the pro-government offensive. While the subsequent agreement of officials has allowed for widespread aerial support, it has almost certainly gifted further ammunition to those interests antagonistic to US involvement. In addition while coalition aerial support will undoubtedly act as a force multiplier, it is likely this decision will also lead to a greater requirement for the redeployment of provincial security sources from other parts of the country. There were also renewed reports of a terrorist offensive against the Baiji Oil Refinery. The attack reportedly began with the detonation of a number of suicide explosive devices, and was then followed by a coordinated programme of SAF-based assaults. However, a combination of reinforced defensive positions and a significant level of aerial support allowed pro-government forces to successfully repel the initial assault. Since that point exchanges have remained ongoing, which supports earlier assessments by the SRM intelligence team that the economic value of the site as well as the complex antagonisms of local tribal groups will ensure there will be repeated offensives throughout the remainder of the pro-government push. Indeed while these will likely reduce in intensity as the ISIS focus shifts, the value of the facility will likely ensure it continues to function as a useful operational diversion.