The Battle for Tikrit: Week Two

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa

StrategyPage has the latest:

The army has been fighting to retake Tikrit from ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) for a week now. Despite regular pronouncements of victory the fighting continues. In Syria ISIL continues to spend more time fighting fellow rebels than the Syrian government forces. This is apparently because ISIL is trying to clear all opposition out of their stronghold in eastern Syria, which they used to share with other Islamic terrorist rebel groups. One impetus for this is the need for money and ISIL has recently gained control over most of the oil fields in eastern Syria. The oil is sold to smugglers, at a big discount, and the smugglers then truck it into Turkey and sell it to brokers who buy oil with no questions asked. ISIL has moved a lot of armored vehicles and heavy weapons, captured from the Iraqi forces in Mosul, into Syria to use against other Islamic terrorist groups and this has been a big help. ISIL also uses violence against any Sunnis in Syria or Iraq who appear less than enthusiastic about ISIL ruling them. Many Iraqi Sunni tribes have openly joined ISIL recently and that means government forces passing through tribal territory face ambush and a generally hostile population.


The report also notes two items I hadn’t seen elsewhere but I don’t find surprising: Caliphate/IS is destroying Shia shrines and mosques, and there are over a million Iraqi refugees fleeing south.

The Iraqi Army is still in the fight, maybe learned the hard way the same lessons we learned in places like Fallujah — that an “army” without much more than trucks and automatic weapons can be very difficult to dig out of urban areas. Ralph Peters was writing about this kind of post-modern fighting two decades ago for Parameters, and his predictions about the battlespace and the opponents was scarily dead-on.

As Peters predicted, it has become relatively inexpensive to arm an offensive fighting force effective enough to displace an unprepared force from a city, and incredibly difficult for an expensively-armed and -trained force, even once prepared, to dislodge them.

I’m pleasantly surprised that the Iraqi Army has shown endurance enough to continue the battle into a second week, but every day they don’t take back Tikrit is a victory for the Caliphate/IS.


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