Yesterday, the Iraqi Army finally managed to wrestle the strategic city of Ramadi from ISIS militants after launching a major and successful offensive in the past few days. Thus, locals are finally able to witness 7 months of bitter skirmishes come to an abrupt end. This victory comes on top of a string of advances by the Iraqi Army in 2015 – most notably in Tikrit, Baiji and the entire perimeter of Baghdad.
These events have the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to promise the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq within the next 12 months. During a press conference on the liberation of Ramadi, he proudly proclaimed: “2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh’s (Islamic State) presence in Iraq will be terminated”.
With the loss of Ramadi, ISIS militants are now reduced to their remaining strongholds in Mosul, Fallujah, Hit and a string of minor towns along the border with Syria. Effectively, the leader of the Islamic State, Abu al-Baghdadi, has seen his regional power in Iraq shrink to merely 4 partially controlled provinces out of the country’s 18 governorates.
Earlier this month, the Iraqi Prime Minister also stated that ISIS-controlled areas within Iraq have been reduced from 40% to 17% due to large-scale offensives by both Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army. With the loss of Ramadi, the Islamic State now only holds only some 15% of Iraq within its grasp.
Arguably, Islamic State strategists have played their cards poorly by failing to find even one regional ally. In terms of countries, ISIS has become increasingly hostile to both the United States of America and the Russian Federation whilst simultaneously declaring war on the Iraqi government, Syrian government, YPG, Peshmerga and even the seemingly ideologically similar Islamist rebels within Syria such as Jabhat al-Nusra.
Haider al-Abadi ended the conference with the following: “We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final blow to Daesh”.