As Iraq continues to lose ground to ISIS on several fronts, officials have been hyping the battle over the Baiji Refinery as crucial to the overall war, saying that once they take the area, they have a straight shot at the major city of Mosul, the largest ISIS possession in Iraq.
Which sounded like a good plan, but despite Iraq throwing a lot of additional effort at Baiji, they aren’t really making any progress there, and indeed the battle seems as stalemated as ever, meaning the Mosul offensive, which was initially planned for January and moved back to spring, is still in limbo at the beginning of autumn.
Officials say that control over Baiji is vital to give them a realistic shot at Mosul, but the unspoken reality is that if Iraq’s military can’t take a relatively small target like Baiji, they don’t have a realistic shot at the bigger cities at any rate.
The Pentagon, as usual, is downplaying the lack of progress, saying that ISIS is putting a lot of troops into keeping Baiji and “paying a heavy price for it.” Oddly, this claim doesn’t appear to be backed up by any reports of major casualties there, and the city and refinery seem simply stalemated, with both sides dug in and neither gaining or losing decisive amounts of ground.
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