Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iranian al-Qods Brigades chief and commander of pro-Iranian forces in the Middle East is in deep trouble. All of his military tactics have gone awry and, even worse, most of the military forces he put together in the region, like the Shiite Popular Mobilization Militia in Iraq and the Popular Mobilization Army in Syria – not to mention the Hizballah forces in Syria – have taken a beating.
None have managed to break through the lines of the Islamic Republic of Iraq and the Levant, or recover any of the cities or areas lost to the jihadis.
The pro-Iranian Shiite militias Soleimani imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight in Syria and Iraq are a washout. It was his idea to recruit tens of thousands of Pakistani and Afghan Shiite fighters to save sending Iranian troops to the Syrian and Iraqi warfronts, when they were needed at home to guard the Islamic Republic’s borders and regime.
He set up special training camps for six weeks of instruction before sending them out to the front. Instead of fighting, they lay down their arms and surrender at the first shot of any battle.
Sensing the weakness of the pro-Iranian forces facing them, ISIS this week launched counterattacks in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and also snatched strategic territory from the hands of the militias.
ISIS makes gains in Damascus and Baiji
In Syria, ISIS forces overran sections of the Qadam district of southern Damascus in a surprise attack on August 31. This was the closest to central Damascus any anti-Assad had reached since the start of the civil war (see attached map).
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources said that ISIS forces, to signal they were coming close to the heart of the Saddam regime, fired a missile that exploded in an area next to Syria’s State television station.
ISIS had again pulled off its trick of avoiding a head-on clash with major targets or large military forces by probing for the chinks in its opponent’s armor and driving through ts defenses.
This success represented yet another blow for General Soleimani, who is responsible for defending Damascus against rebel groups, and is in command of the Hizballah and pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias based in the city.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, on Tuesday, September 1, ISIS launched a series of mortar shelling and suicide bombing attacks that killed 12 Iraqi soldiers near the town of Haditha in Anbar province.
The next day, Islamic State fighters regained territory in the contested city of Baiji, home of Iraq's largest oil refinery. According to the Pentagon, fierce fighting has been taking place for months in and around Baiji, and Iraqi forces and militiamen had in recent weeks pushed back ISIS fighters in the northern town.
But much of that progress has been undone, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.
US forces order pro-Iranian militias to get out of Ramadi front
“We had seen some recent progress in recent weeks where the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) had been able to regain some territory inside the city," he said. “In the past several days, that's been largely reversed … the trend has been downward there. A lot of the gains they had made were lost.
“Clearly we are concerned about that,” Davis added, “but we know that it's an ongoing, dynamic situation there, and we are committed to helping the ISF in being able to hold on to both the city and retake the refinery as well."
But the US officers based in Habbaniyeh in the western Iraqi province of Anbar were less forgiving.
They dramatized the success of the ISIS offensive in Iraq and Soleimani’s failure by confronting the Iranian-backed Shiite Popular Mobilization Militia (SPMM) with an order to remove itself from the front line of nearby Ramadi within 24 hours.
The Shiite coalition had failed signally to break through to the Sunni city months after it was captured by ISIS.
The Iraqi Hizballah Brigades, which was part of the pro-Iranian coalition, refused to obey the American order.
But according, to the military sources of DEBKA Weekly, the American officers took this unusual step because the Ramadi standoff was going from bad to worse and they had run out of patience with the inept pro-Iranian forces.
Soleimani jumps on America to cover up his military fiascos
Since SPMM was under the command of Al Qods Deputy chief Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, this incident must be taken as the first direct showdown between the US commanders and his boss, Soleimani, whose actions in Iraq the Americans had quietly supported until now.
The Iranian general quickly unsheathed his claws to unleash an assault on the United States to divert attention from his beating at ever turn by the Islamists
Tuesday, he denounced Washington as making the Islamic State its protégé to use in harming Muslims. “The US intends to protect ISIS to make Muslims need the US and it has, in fact, turned it into leverage against Muslims," Soleimani claimed before a session of Iran's Assembly of Experts in Tehran.
In Yemen, meanwhile, the Islamists were hitting hard at the Iran-backed rebel Houthi, whom they regard as heretics – another major reverse for the Iranian general.
At least 28 people were killed in two bombings at a mosque in the capital of Sanaa. The first explosion was caused by a suicide bomber in the al-Mo'ayyad mosque, followed by a car bomb blast outside that targeted medics come to help the victims of the first explosion.
That incident marked the fifth ISIS attack on a pro-Houthi mosque in Sanaa over the past two months.