Anbar Op aims to Restore Iraqi-Syrian Border

By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Iraqi security forces have moved toward the key Islamic State-held town of Qaim on the Syrian border, meeting with scant resistance. The operation is ongoing, and they will likely clear the remaining IS-held areas in Anbar province, Iraq’s largest, in the near future.

Moving northward from Rutba, the Iraqi army, police and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) successfully retook part of a key highway and the small phosphate-rich mining town of Akashat on Sept. 16.

A few days later, Iraqi security forces and groups of local tribal fighters being trained by international coalition troops at the nearby Ain al-Asad base — where British, US and Danish military are stationed — began pushing westward toward the towns of Anah, Rawa and Qaim along the Euphrates River on Sept. 19.

Al-Monitor spoke to the officer in charge of Mohammedi, a gateway town to the Badiya and Jazeera area of operations of western Anbar, on Sept. 18.

Lt. Col. Abd Hussein noted that the town, which has fewer sleeper cell attacks than nearby Hit, “is less dangerous and easier to manage than some in the region due to its tribal homogeneity,” since almost all of the inhabitants from the town are from the Albu Mahal tribe.

Many of the members of the tribe who fled IS-held Qaim came to Mohammedi and are being housed with distant relatives. One tribe member, a former bulldozer driver who is close friends with many of the local dignitaries in the town, expressed concern to Al-Monitor about what will happen after his native town along the Syrian border is retaken.

“If Iran gets a direct route through Iraq to Lebanon and Syria that goes through Qaim, this will be a very big problem,” he said.

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