By Ali Mamouri for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
On May 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of military operations to retake the city of Fallujah. Operations have been successful so far, as several parts of the city’s outskirts were liberated. Iraqi forces settled at the gates of Fallujah after liberating Saqlawiyah in northern Fallujah on May 28.
Operations to liberate the city are expected to be completed in the coming days. The biggest challenge, however, is to plan the post-liberation phase, which will point at the government’s power to take full control over the city and secure it from terrorist organizations in the future. The anti-terrorism forces that were assigned to enter the city began their infiltration from the north and south May 31. They cleansed a few suburbs around the city June 1 and are gradually advancing toward the center.
Fallujah has been one of the areas most resistant to political change in Iraq since the fall of the Baathist regime in 2003. It was a main stronghold of the Baathist Party; a large number of the party’s officers hailed from there. Several clashes between jihadi factions and US forces occurred in the city from 2003 to 2008. Based on that, Fallujah is very symbolic for these factions.
It was the first city seized by al-Qaeda in 2004 and the first to be held by the Islamic State (IS) in 2014. IS had taped several video segments in Fallujah showing elderly tribal leaders pledging allegiance to the organization, and showing IS militants killing and crucifying Iraqi soldiers they had detained. Based on this history, it would be no exaggeration to say that Fallujah is Iraq’s jihadi capital.