Iran Pulse

Iraqi battle seen as key victory in Iran

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Article Summary
The battle in Jurf al-Sakhar was portrayed by a number of conservative Iranian media outlets as key to forcing the Islamic State into retreat and eventually taking back Anbar province.

The victory of the Iraqi armed forces and militias aligned with the government over Islamic State (IS) militants in the Sunni town of Jurf al-Sakhar has been hailed as an important one by a number of conservative Iranian news outlets.

The battle for the strategic city south of Baghdad is significant in that control of Jurf al-Sakhar will enable the Iraqi army to cut off IS from its strongholds in Anbar province. The city was won solely by Iraqi forces without coalition air power, and set the blueprint for the next battle between the Iraqi army and IS in the strategic cities of Amiriya and Fallujah.

Fars News Agency interviewed an Iraqi security official who said a number of forces were involved in the victory at Jurf al-Sakhar, including volunteer forces, the Badr Organization, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah and Brigades of Islam. The commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that no coalition airstrikes were involved in the battle, a claim repeated by a number of other Iranian news agencies.

According the commander, these forces are now preparing for the next battles in Amiriya, in Western Baghdad, and Fallujah, in Anbar province, where the IS militants fled from Jurf al-Sakhar. He said that “similar operational tactics” would be used in these two cities.

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“The imminent battle in Amiriya and Fallujah are important regions for IS, and they know it to be the most important regions for their strategy, and if they lose these two cities they will be facing severe retreat,” he said. The cities were described as key to winning over all of Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where Baghdad has long struggled to retake control.

Sacred Defense News Agency, which is named after the Iran-Iraq war, also shared news reports of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi saying that the victory in Jurf al-Sakhar will pave the way for “liberating Anbar province.”

Raja News republished a special report by Fars News detailing the operations in Jurf al-Sakhar. The report described Jurf al-Sakhar as “in a way, the gate to Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf” and a “connection point” between areas occupied by IS and other parts of Iraq.

The special report included pictures of Abadi talking to soldiers and reviewing maps as well as a picture of Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani. In other pictures published on Iranian websites and social media, Soleimani could be seen siting next to the head of the Badr Organization, Hadi al-Amiri.

Mashregh compared the Iraqi army victories in Jurf al-Sakhar and the previous victory in Amerli to victories in Qusair and Qalamoun in Syria, saying they were “the beginning of strategic victories over terrorists.” The article said the Jurf al-Sakhar victory was important for four reasons: It showed “complete cooperation” between the army and other armed forces; it was “a big blow” to Western nations and regional countries who had hoped Iraq, and along with it, Iran, would be trapped in a quagmire fighting militants for a long period; the IS failure, along with other failures in Kobani, Syria and Arsal, will cause fear among IS; and after stopping IS advances, Iraqi forces have now entered the second phase of operations, which is forcing IS to retreat.

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Found in: islamic state, iraqi security situation, iraq crisis, iran-iraq relations, coalition, anbar province

Arash Karami is a contributor to Al-Monitor. On Twitter: @thekarami

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