First Published: 2017-12-09

Iraq announces 'end of the war against Daesh'
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declares victory in three-year war by Iraqi forces to expel Islamic State jihadist group.
Middle East Online

IS seized vast areas north and west of Baghdad in a lightning offensive in 2014.

BAGHDAD - Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday declared victory in a three-year war by Iraqi forces to expel the Islamic State jihadist group that at its height endangered Iraq's very existence.

"Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh (IS)," Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

"Our enemy wanted to kill our civilisation, but we have won through our unity and our determination. We have triumphed in little time," he said.

IS seized vast areas north and west of Baghdad in a lightning offensive in 2014.

With Iraq's army and police retreating in disarray at the time, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, spiritual leader of the country's majority Shiites, called for a general mobilisation, leading to the formation of Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary units.

Iraq's fightback was also launched with the backing of an air campaign waged by a US-led coalition, recapturing town after town from the clutches of the jihadists in fierce urban warfare.

"I announce the good news: the liberation by Iraqi forces of the whole of the Iraqi-Syrian border," the prime minister told the conference organised by the Iraqi journalists' union.

Iraq's close ally Iran already declared victory over IS last month, as the jihadists clung to just a few remaining scraps of territory.

But Abadi said at the time that he would not follow suit until the desert on the border with Syria had been cleared.

The jihadists' defeat is a massive turnaround for an organisation that in 2014 ruled over seven million people in a territory as large as Italy encompassing large parts of Syria and nearly a third of Iraq.

On the Syrian side of the border, IS is under massive pressure too.

On Thursday, Russia's defence ministry said its mission in support of the Syrian regime to oust IS jihadists had been "accomplished" and the country was "completely liberated".

In the border region, pro-government forces and US-backed Kurdish-led forces are conducting operations to clear IS fighters from the countryside north of the Euphrates valley after ousting them from all Syrian towns.

The head of Iraq's Joint Operations Command set up to fight IS, General Abdel Amir Yarallah, gave an update on Saturday to announce that the desert valley of Al-Jazira was under the control of Iraqi troops and the Hashed all the way from Nineveh province in the north to Anbar in the west.

Federal forces "now control the border with Syria from Al-Walid border crossing to that of Rabia", covering a distance of 435 kilometres (270 miles), he said.

- IS retains capacity -

Despite the victory announcements, experts have warned that IS retains the capacity as an insurgency group to carry out high-casualty bomb attacks through sleeper cells.

It also retains natural hideouts in the deep gorges of Wadi Hauran, Iraq's longest valley stretching from the Saudi border up to the Euphrates River and the frontiers with Syria and Jordan.

The fightback in Iraq kicked off with the "liberation" of Tikrit, north of Baghdad, that had been under IS control for nearly 10 months.

The operations have involved both Tehran, through Iranian-trained Shiite militias in the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition, and Washington as head of the anti-jihadist coalition.

The western cities of Ramadi and Fallujah followed in 2016 before the turning point of the recapture of Iraq's second city of Mosul in July this year after a nine-month offensive led by a 30,000-strong federal force.

Abadi said the battle for Mosul that left the city in ruins and thousands of its residents displaced marked the end of the jihadists' "caliphate".

Victory was declared at the end of August in Tal Afar, the last major IS urban stronghold in northern Iraq, before a final military operation launched last month against IS in a vast desert region of western Iraq.

 

Sudan clamps down on journalists covering bread protests

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq's Basra

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem

Cyprus denies bail for Israeli organ trafficker

Rising Yemen currency sparks hopes of relief

Turkish ministries to investigate underage pregnancy cover-up

Iraq PM launches online appeal for election allies

Iran central bank sees claim for billions from German stock market blocked

Iraq signs deal with BP to develop Kirkuk oil fields

Israeli occupation forces raid Jenin, kill Palestinian

HRW chief says 'Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya'

IS poses threat to Iraq one month after 'liberation'

Seven years since ousting dictator, Tunisians still protest

Iran says Trump jeopardising Airbus deals

China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

Sudan arrests communist leader after protests

Syrian opposition joins condemnation of US 'border force'

Israeli judge detains teen until trial for viral ‘slap video’

Arab league slams US freeze of Palestinian funding

Dubai billionaire to sell 15 percent Damac stake

Britain to put women at heart of peace work in Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan

Saudi to give Yemen government $2bn bailout