PRAYER ALERT: The Shiite prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, has personally given the order for Iraqi counterattacks on ISIS. They are focused on the current ISIS stronghold in Tikrit. Al-Abadi is aiming for a victory both symbolic and strategic. Tikrit is the hometown of the ousted president Saddam Hussein. It is a hotbed of Sunni insurgency against the Shiite-led government. Tikrit is located halfway between Baghdad and Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, on the nation’s main highway. Both Mosul and Tikrit fell to ISIS in June 2014. Hundreds of mostly Shiite members of the Iraqi Security Forces were kidnapped from their nearby camp and massacred. This spurred public outcries for reprisal. But to take back Mosul, PM al-Abadi first needs successful Iraqi counterattacks on ISIS to regain Tikrit.
Al-Abadi is appealing to Sunnis who were former loyalists to Saddam Hussein, and who have since joined ISIS, to change sides. He has offered one “last chance” for a pardon. “I call upon those who have been misled or committed a mistake to lay down arms and join their people and security forces in order to liberate their cities,” al-Abadi said. Some Sunnis such as the Jubur tribe, whose lands were seized by ISIS, have already committed to join the Iraqi counterattacks on ISIS. Al-Abadi hopes that other Sunnis who are shocked by ISIS’ atrocities and mass killings will follow suit. Violence in Iraq in February alone claimed 1100 lives, including those of more than 600 civilians. But Sunnis may be suspicious of Shiite Iran’s active support of this offensive. It is troubling to note that Iran is playing a greater role than the US in this campaign.
The nation’s army is attempting to evacuate civilians before it launches the Iraqi counterattacks on ISIS. ISIS is said to hold a number of civilians as human shields. Other residents are too poor to leave Tikrit. They also fear mines and booby traps that have likely been laid by ISIS against the counter-attackers.
Tikrit is only one front of the battle against ISIS in Iraq. On February 28 alone, ISIS launched at least five attacks in Iraq. It struck against Dora in southern Baghdad. ISIS also hit two sites near Samarra, one near Baqaba, and one at a border crossing on the Iraqi-Saudi border.
In northeastern Syria, ISIS lost the key city of Kobani, near Turkey, in January. But it has seized many Christian villages as it conducts a campaign of genocide…
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Al-Abadi hits back with Iraqi counterattacks on ISIS.