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Iraq’s divisions will delay counter-offensive on ISIS

Iraq’s divisions will delay counter-offensive on ISIS
US air support and pledges of weapons and training for Iraq’s army have raised expectations of a counter-offensive soon against Islamic State, but sectarian rifts will hamper efforts to forge a military strategy and may delay a full-scale assault. 

The Sunni Islamists stormed through northern Iraq in a 48-hour offensive in June, charging virtually unopposed towards the outskirts of Baghdad, humiliating a US-trained Iraqi army which surrendered both land and weapons as it retreated. 

By contrast, even a successful effort by the Shia-led government to dislodge Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from Sunni territory where it rules over millions of Iraqis would be fiercely fought and could stretch well beyond next year. 

The Baghdad government relies on Shia militias and Kurdish peshmerga to contain Islamic State - a dependence which underlines and may even exacerbate the sectarian rivalry which opened the door for the summer offensive.

US newspapers have cited officials in Washington saying the Americans’ training mission aims to prepare Iraqi troops for a spring offensive to retake territory, including Mosul, northern Iraq’s largest city and Islamic State’s powerbase.  Hemin Hawrami, an official close to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, told Reuters that Iraqi forces would not be ready to take the fight to Mosul, in Iraq, until late 2015. “There will be no spring or summer (offensive),” he said. 
Agencies

Agencies

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