Iraq changes its plans regarding anti-ISIS operations in Syria


The Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, is reluctant to get involved in military operations in Syria because of the security risk that it might create for the country.

Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi expressed his country’s willingness to militarily intervene in Syria to fight ISIS sleeper cells along the Iraqi-Syrian borders.

According to some sources, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in cooperation with the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) were scheduled to start operations within Syria on Monday. The operations were set to take place in Deir ez-Zour Province, with a concentration on clearing the cities of Hajin, al-Murshid, and Sousa, from ISIS sleeper cells.

However, it seems that Abd al-Mahdi has changed his mind. Despite the preparations that were made for the operation, Abd al-Mahdi cited security concerns for cancelling the operations.

The Iraqi PM stated that military intervention in Syria might severely hamper any attempts to develop Iraq’s economy, especially with the political deadlock that remains in Baghdad over the remaining cabinet positions.

Furthermore, the fear of confronting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) located on the border with Syria, Syrian rebels or even any future Turkish patrols has convinced Iraq that it is not within its interest to intervene in Syria.

Despite this non-interventionist policy that Iraq is taking with regards to border towns, the country’s security forces continue to fight ISIS militants trying to infiltrate through the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Iraqi border patrols have recently been surveilling the border with Syria, killing any ISIS militants attempting to infiltrate.

Furthermore, over the past year, the Iraqi Air Force has conducted several airstrikes on ISIS militants within the Syrian territory.

These operations are part of Iraq’s plans to fully clear the country from ISIS militants and preventing any from entering.

Since the military defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, the ISF in coordination with local forces and tribes have been able to clear large swaths of the Anbar desert from the remaining ISIS sleeper cells. This has resulted in the destruction of dozens of ISIS tunnels and hideouts, in addition to the killing of hundreds of militants.

While the hesitation about intervening in Syria came as a surprise to many, the decline of ISIS, coupled with a desire to secure the border and protect Iraq’s own sovereignty, have not necessitated the country’s incursion into neighbouring Syria.