With ISIS continuing to secure gains across the Anbar Province, Iraq’s counteroffensive is mostly centered on the region due north of Baghdad. The push is slow going.
But it’s not so much the Iraqi military leadership commanding their own counteroffensive, nor really doing the heavy lifting in the fighting, as Shi’ite allies from overseas are increasingly involved.
Rather, calling the shots in the war is Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the powerful Quds Force of the Iranian military. He’s been on the ground at most major battles, and is said to have drawn up most of the plans behind not only counteroffensives, but the defenses of both Iraqi and Kurdish cities against ISIS.
Lebanese militia Hezbollah, with its existing animosity toward ISIS and deep ties to Gen. Soleimani, is also said to be increasingly involved in the counteroffensives, joining the local Shi’ite militias in what is increasingly a sectarian holy war in the guise of a civil war.
Iraq’s military clearly hasn’t been able to accomplish much on their own, and they need all the allies they can get. Still, with the US painting Hezbollah and Iran as long-time enemies, it puts them in a difficult position to be working together in propping up the Iraqi government.