Iraq PM announces re-capture of al-Qaim from IS

Kristopher Drake
November 4, 2017

Iraqi forces on Friday entered Al-Qaim, the main town in ISIS's last bastion in the country, military commanders said.

The stakes are high.

Meanwhile the Syrian government, which is backed by Russian Federation has regained complete control of the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Friday, representing a huge blow to the jihadists as their last stronghold in Syria crumbles. Russia, which wants to see the Syrian government take back all of its territory, and the United States, which wants to counter Iranian influence, have accused each another of firing at their respective allies on the ground.

The Syrian army, backed by Russian Federation and Iran, and Kurdish-led Syrian forces, backed by the United States, are now racing to take the rest of the oil-rich eastern province, including the key town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border.

Adding to the complications, the Iraqis are allied with both of the rival coalitions in Syria.

The simultaneous assaults on Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria and Al-Qaim in western Iraq dealt fresh blows to ISIS in its former heartland, leaving Al-Bukamal, on the Syrian side of the border, the last town of note under its full control.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the "heroic forces" on their progress in the operation, which began just over a week ago, according to a statement issued by the country's Joint Operations Command.

"Iraqi security forces have fought hard to reach this point, and their battle-proven troops captured ISIS's last Iraqi stronghold swiftly and thoroughly", said Army Maj.

But both the Iraqi and Syrian governments and their worldwide backers say they worry that the fighters will still be able to mount guerrilla attacks once they no longer have territory to defend.

"The idea of ISIS and the virtual caliphate, that will not be defeated in the near term".

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