After Tikrit, what Next for Iraqi Forces?

By Mushreq Abbas for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

After the battle in Tikrit, deciding on the next step to ensure the security situation and have future successful battles against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq has taken center stage in political and media circles.The messages often seem to be in conflict, with uncertainty prevailing among the most prominent politicians in Iraq.

A lack of vision for what comes after the liberation of Tikrit shows that Iraq is not fighting a comprehensive battle. This de facto situation was imposed by the many forces fighting on the ground, each of which has different strategies, motives and priorities. In general, the lack of vision, coordination and common goals has been leading to more obstacles in the liberation of Iraqi cities with the least possible damage.

The decision to fight the battle of Tikrit was announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on March 25, and was a decision imposed at first by the Popular Mobilization Units. It is no exaggeration to say that these forces decided to fight the battle of Salahuddin, and advance toward the villages of al-Dawr and Albu Ajeel, before reaching the outskirts of Tikrit, where the operation became even more challenging.

When the battle was first launched, it was no secret that the Popular Mobilization Units were leading it without the help of the international coalition, which was supposed to be Iraq’s partner in the war. Only on March 17 did Abadi demand the coalition’s support through airstrikes.

Despite the developments of the Tikrit battle and the ensuing criticism of the performance of the Popular Mobilization Units after the liberation of the city — notably in terms of plunder and vandalism — and despite the Iranian intervention, the battle gave a morale boost to the war against IS and pushed the organization into a defensive position. It also contributed to changing the course of the war in general.

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