Iraqi military officials, having mostly recaptured, and largely destroyed Ramadi, have made much about the idea of advancing on Mosul, ISIS’ largest city, as the “next” target, and the one that will effectively break ISIS’ back in Iraq.
But Mosul is a huge and difficult target, and the reality of the situation is that the next round of fighting against ISIS is likely to be around Baghdad, rather than a move deeper into ISIS territory. This is almost certain to include another round of intense fighting over Fallujah.
Located between Ramadi and Baghdad, Fallujah is a significant Sunni city in its own right, and one with a considerable history of support for Islamist factions, centering around the US destruction of the city during the occupation.
Shi’ite militias in particular see attacking Fallujah as critically important to taking away ISIS’ threat to the country’s center, preventing them from moving against either Baghdad or south toward the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala.
The downside to attacking Fallujah yet again would be as a talking point, as officials could hardly present the move as breaking new ground when they’ve contested Fallujah with ISIS time and again in recent years, and so far every effort to expel ISIS has been unsuccessful or extremely temporary.