(ISW) Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) recaptured the last ISIS-held neighbourhood in eastern Mosul on January 24, nearly three months since operations in the city began on November 1, 2016. Preparations and troop movement are now under way for operations to break into western Mosul, though no official start date has been announced.
Haider al-Abadi the Iraqi Prime Minister is at risk of losing his premiership. Due primarily to the machinations of the former PM Nouri al-Maliki who is manoeuvring to reclaim his former position by appealing to Iranian interests and courting the pro-Iranian support base away from the current PM
Abadi, who has been receptive to and supported by the U.S., may need to make concession to the pro-Iranian political base in order to ensure his position, especially if U.S.-Iraq relations strain.
Which may help explain why on the 30th January Abadi compromised on the appointment of a Badr Organization member as the Minister of Interior, despite previous reservations. He may also need to appease political parties by allowing their affiliated militias greater latitude in anti-ISIS operations.
PM Abadi may have conceded the operation to capture Tel Afar to the Popular Mobilization, (An Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 militias, which are mainly Shia Muslim groups.) who have long lobbied to own the operation. Popular Mobilization media stated on January 27 that Lt. Gen. Yarallah announced that the Popular Mobilization were assigned to recapture Tel Afar with Iraqi air support. Pro-Iranian militias, including the Badr Organization, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and Kata’ib Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, have been building up in the vicinity of Tel Afar, rather than moving west towards the Syrian border as they had previously intended. In previous urban operations, such as Fallujah, the Popular Mobilization has entered urban terrain behind a more experienced ISF frontline. The militias are likely seeking to coordinate with the ISF to bolster their limited urban warfare capabilities and generate Coalition air support. Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Amiri met with Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Uthman al-Ghanimi on January 26 to discuss northern operations, indicating that this effort is underway.
Pro-Iranian militias may also try to establish a presence in Mosul, though will likely remain far from the frontline. Badr Organization media claimed that a small Badr unit found a VBIED factory in the industrial neighbourhood in eastern Mosul on January 18 however the unit was also sited in the countryside southeast of Mosul around the same time, making it unclear if the unit actually entered the city. Coalition ground forces commander Gen. Joe Martin stated on January 25 that he is unaware of any militias present in the city. This is the first report of militias operating east of the Tigris River, however, and it could be an early indicator that the militias will use PM Abadi’s vulnerable position and lack of a political support base to manoeuvre without check from the Iraqi Government.