Hassan Hassan writes: At the peak of ISIL’s military momentum in 2014, the Iraqi city of Haditha was in the middle of it all. From its northwestern tip, ISIL had seized areas that stretched to Aleppo. The group’s territorial depth east of the city extended to the Jordanian border. The militants also seized Tikrit, west of the city, and Baghdadi to its south. The group enforced a siege around the city that would last for two years.
Haditha’s remarkable resistance is even more impressive given that ISIL saw the city in western Anbar as a vital prize. In September 2014, ISIL tried to take control of the Haditha Dam, Iraq’s second largest hydroelectric facility after the Mosul Dam. In May 2015, ISIL’s takeover of Ramadi deepened Haditha’s isolation from the south.
But Haditha still survived the pressure from ISIL. In an audio statement released one month after ISIL took over Ramadi, ISIL’s former spokesman specifically mentioned Haditha as a top priority for the group. In particular, he singled out the Jaghayfa tribe that led the effort to protect the city.
“If we do overrun Haditha before they repent, we won’t spare anyone until it is said that there used to be Jaghayfa here and homes for Jaghayfa,” said Abu Muhammad Al Adnani, who was killed in an American attack in August.
Attempts to take the city further intensified after Adnani’s speech. As the operation to expel ISIL from Mosul enters its second month and the campaign to isolate Raqqa enters its third week, the story of little-known towns such as Haditha deserves attention. ISIL swept through cities such as Mosul and Raqqa with relative ease but, despite all odds, failed to take ones such as Haditha. [Continue reading…]