By: Novpreet Bajwa
The Iraqi militia has begun a massive military campaign against the radical Islamic group, ISIL, on Monday, starting with recapturing the city of Tikrit, one of the cities to fall in the hands of ISIL last June. If proved successful, the retaking of Tikrit paves the way to recapturing the second-largest city of Iraq, Mosul, which also fell to ISIL last June.
The major campaign includes 27,000 troops and is backed by Iran and the international coalition to fight ISIL. Iran’s covert operations commander, Qassem Soleimani, is personally in Iraq for this offensive and has been advising the commanders of Iraqi troops. The troops have surrounded the city from all directions and are using heavy artillery and air strikes.
But, it looks like the troops are already experiencing some problems. Although, they have surrounded the city, they have not been able to break in even with all the weapons to assist them. And ISIL has sent videos to the media in which they shows ISIL patrolling the borders of Tikrit, indicating their stronghold to the city, and Iraq’s failure to advance into the city.
Another obstacle the troops might encounter is the resistance of the Sunni Muslims that reside in the city. Many of them have joined ISIL to spite Iraq’s Shiite government because of their dissatisfaction with it and its mistreatment of them. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, recognizing the reasons for the Sunnis joining ISIL, has urged them to quit the group while they still have a chance, and do not bear the burden of being in the crossfire when the troops attack the city. Iraqi government has also warned the residents of Tikrit to find a safe haven in another city as it does not want any civilian causalities. The U.N. has also urged parties, the Iraqi government and ISIL, to find a peaceful way to resolve their issues that will not affect the lives of civilians.
This isn’t the first attempt at recapturing the city. There have been previous attempts in the summer right after Tikrit was captured and then in October with the help of U.S. air forces. The October attempt did help Iraq take back the city of Baiji, (another city to fall to ISIL) even if it couldn’t take back Tikrit. Baiji is an important victory for Iraq as it now re-controls the oil-producing town, and the road between Baiji and Tikrit.