Iraq: Ar-Rutbah Clashes

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Islamic State Counter Attacks To Relieve Pressure On Mosul

A map of Ar-Rutbah showing the location of the recent clashes in Iraq

Located in the western part of Anbar province, Ar-Rutbah is a remote Iraqi town. In 2012 it had a population of 27,879 residents, primarily Sunni, some of whom were supportive of the Islamic State (IS). As a lonely way-station on the road between the Jordanian capital of Amman and the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, it is often described as the most isolated town in Iraq.1.Book by Carter Andres. Contractor Combatants: Tales of an Embedded Capitalist

On the 21st of June 2014, the town was captured by IS militants during an IS offensive in Anbar province.2. Iraqi forces recaptured the city on the 17th of May 2016.3.

On the 23rd of October 2016, IS militants launched an assault on the town to relieve pressure on Mosul. IS in Mosul faced a major ongoing offensive, lead by Iraqi and Peshmerga forces with heavy support from US-led coalition. During their assault IS militants were able to capture the western parts of ar-Rutbah. This forced Iraqi forces and Sunni tribal fighters to retreat as IS captured positions north of the city.

In an act of confusion typical to the conflict, the governor of Anbar province stated that IS militants had failed to capture the town. Despite reports by a number of news outlets that the town had fallen to IS. As is common, the truth was somewhere in the middle:  Iraqi and Sunni tribal forces remained in control of the eastern half of the town, successfully holding the town’s entrances from the highway that links it to Baghdad. After receiving reinforcements, Iraqi forces were able to recapture the town on October 25th, 2016. To combat the remaining militants a curfew was imposed on the town.4.

The work of local militias and armed forces appear to have been successful in pacifying the town. To this day Iraqi forces remain in control of ar-Rutbah and the town hasn’t faced conflict for almost a year.

Karlo Gregorić

Economics student from Croatia, writes about anything but economics.

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