Success at Baiji foretold by Iraqi Ambassador to UN at Al-Khoei Foundation Event

Editor’s note: Iraqi Ambassador to United Nations Mohamed Ali Alhakim spoke at the Rise of ISIS conference held at the Al-Khoei Foundation in New York. Ambassador Alhakim spoke about the ongoing multinational operations against the Takfiri Deobandi Salafi ISIS. Chief among them was the stretegic oil refinery at Baiji. We are pleased to note that indeed the multinational effort of strange bedfellows seems to be having some results. The Saudis who funded ISIS against Asad now fear it as a competing Wahhabi Caliphate are joining the fight. The United States and Iran seem to be on the same page as well. We are crossposting two articles here that show two different aspects of the fight against Takfiri Deoandi Wahhabi Salafi Khawarij.

The BBC analysis shows this is significant blow to Takfiri Khawriji criminal force as it disrupts their lines of supply and communications. The Long War Journal analysis is focussed on the growing Iranian Al Quds role in the fight.

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Iraqi officials say their forces have driven out Islamic State (IS) fighters from the oil refinery town of Baiji, 200km (130 miles) north of Baghdad.

Gen Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi told Iraqi state TV that the town “had been completely liberated”.

There are still reports of heavy fighting around the oil refinery, which is Iraq’s largest.

IS seized Baiji in June during a lightning advance through northern Iraq and laid siege to the refinery.

The group, which also controls large parts of northern Syria, has been the target of a US-led military campaign since August.


Iraqi troops took control of large parts of Baiji on Sunday, but stopped short of advancing on the refinery, the road to which is believed to be heavily booby-trapped.

Iraqi war planes targeted fleeing IS fighters near the refinery on Friday, an Iraqi army captain told Reuters news agency.

Other reports suggested Iraqi troops had now broken through to the besieged oil facility, which lies around 10km (6 miles) from the town centre.
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Analysis: Hugh Sykes, BBC News, Baghdad

Baiji is on the main road between Baghdad and Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, which has been under IS control since early summer.

If the Iraqi army does regain control of the area, it could be a turning point. Controlling Baiji and, importantly, the road that runs between the refinery and the town, would cut the militant group’s supply lines to Tikrit, which they still occupy, further to the south.

If entirely liberated, the Baiji area could be used as a base for trying to drive IS out of Tikrit as well.

That would cut IS communication with two other key towns that they still occupy south of Tikrit, Samarra and Dujayl, which are about 60km (40 miles) from Baghdad.

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The Iraqi military and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are reported to have liberated the central city of Baiji from the Islamic State and are close to breaking the siege on the nearby oil refinery. The Shiite militias, which are heavily supported by Iran’s Qods Force, are playing a key role in recent gains against the Islamic State. US airpower has supported the militias and Iraqi government forces.

General Abdul Wahab al Saadi, the senior commander in the area, announced the “liberation of Baiji” earlier today on Iraqi state television, The Associated Press reported. Several Iraqi military officers also claimed success in Baiji, which hosts Iraq’s largest oil refinery.

Iraqi officials told Reuters that security forces have advanced to within one kilometer of the refinery, which has been surrounded by Islamic State fighters since the beginning of the summer. Officers claim that Islamic State fighters who are retreating are being targeted by aircraft.

Security forces and the Shiite militias have killed 17 Islamic State fighters over the past 24 hours, according to All Iraq News.

Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous, a Shiite militia that is responsible for killing hundreds of US soldiers in Iraq between 2006-2011, is known to be fighting in Baiji. Al Ahad TV reported that the militia, along with Iraqi Army units, killed Ala Burhan al Tikriti, an Islamic State commander who “supervised the execution of the massacre at Camp Speicher,” an Iraqi base outside of Tikrit where hundreds of Iraqi troops were murdered. Numerous videos of the League of the Righteous fighting alongside Iraqi forces in Baiji have also been published on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

The League of the Righteous was formed in 2006 as an offshoot of Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The militia, which has been trained by Hezbollah and Qods Force, was the largest and most powerful of what the US military called the Special Groups, or militias backed by Iran. The group was at the forefront in using EFPs, or explosively formed penetrators, the deadly mines that can penetrate US armored vehicles. Hundreds of US soldiers were killed in EFP attacks.

Three of the group’s top leaders, including its military emir, Akram Abbas al Kabi, are listed by the US as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. [See LWJ report, US sanctions Iranian general for aiding Iraqi terror groups.]

Iranian militias spearheading Iraqi assaults against the Islamic State

The Iraqi government has grown dependent on Iranian-backed Shiite militias ever since the Islamic State launched its offensive to take large swaths of northern, central and eastern Iraq in mid-June. The Islamic State’s summer offensive, combined with the group overrunning most of the western province of Anbar beginning in January, cause the collapse of nearly half of Iraq’s Army divisions.

The militias deployed to Samarra, the provincial capital of Salahaddin, as the Islamic State took control of the nearby cities of Tikrit and Baiji. Samarra is home to the Al Askari Mosque, one of the most revered religious sites in Shia Islam.

Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was spotted in Samarra directing the defense of the city.

The Shiite militias were at the vanguard of the fighting in two other recent successes: driving back the Islamic State from Amerli in Salahaddin province and from Jurf al Sakhar in northern Babil province.

At the end of August, the League of the Righteous and the Hezbollah Brigades, another Iranian-supported militia, supported Iraqi troops in breaking the Islamic State’s hold on Amerli. The Hezbollah Brigades is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. [See LWJ reports, US airstrikes in Amerli supported deadly Shia terror group and US aided Hezbollah Brigades in breaking Islamic State siege of Iraqi town.]

At the end of October, the League of the Righteous, the Hezbollah Brigades, and the Badr Brigade, yet another Iranian-supported militia, drove the Islamic State from Jurf al Sakhar.

After the town was liberated from the Islamic State, photographs and videos of the militias celebrating the victory alongside Iraqi troops were published on the Internet. Soleimani was photographed with several members of Shiite militias in Jurf al Sahkar. One photograph purported to show Soleimani along with Hadi al Amiri, the head of the Badr Brigades, The Washington Post reported.

The US, either intentionally or unintentionally, has supported the Shiite militias’ gains. US and coalition aircraft launched multiple airstrikes in Baiji, Amerli, and Jurf al Sakhar as the militias and Iraqi forces began their offensives. Most recently, the US conducted 28 airstrikes in Baiji between Oct. 18 and Nov. 12, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal and Qualitative Military Edge.

The deployment of Iranian militias in Sunni areas such as Baiji and Jurf al Sakhar is certain to complicate the fight against the Islamic State. While the Islamic State has lost territory, the jihadist group has positioned itself as the defenders of the Sunnis against Iran and its Shiite proxies in the Iraqi government.


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