The battle for Samarra, Tikrit, and other cities in the Salahuddin Province has not exactly gone favorably for Iraq, but is likewise not totally lost, and with Shi’ite militia volunteers pouring into the area, the territory is very much still up for grabs.
Still, those who head north out of Baghdad on Highway 1 are in for a stark scene, with mostly empty roads as the civilian populace of the once populace area have fled. The government’s control is at best nominal, and militias say that in many cases extends basically to the edge of the road itself, with ISIS and allies effectively controlling the surrounding areas.
There are dozens of towns and villages along the Tigris River between Baghdad and Samarra, and no reason to believe any of them won’t become a warzone at a moment’s notice.
Samarra itself is the big prize, at least so far as the Shi’ite militias are concerned. Containing many important Shi’ite shrines, maintaining a hold on the city is seen as a religious imperative, even as ISIS control of the region itself becomes stronger and stronger.