Russia Controls the Levers of the US-Iranian-Backed Battle for Ramadi

Is the battle for Ramadi the Iraqi army’s big chance to recover its lost honor since rolling over in the face of the Islamic State from June 2014?
According to a report run by US media on Monday, Dec. 14, the battle to regain the city overrun by the Islamic State seven months ago, offers just that chance.
“For Iraq’s armed forces, and the Americans who are training and backing them, this is a particularly important fight. Here, the country’s Shiite militias are not taking part, and that gives the regular Iraqi military a chance to repair its image.”
Maj. Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of the Anbar Operations Command said: “This had to be a battle using purely the Iraqi military” – an assessment confirmed by the White House and Pentagon.
On this point, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and military sources beg to differ: In actual fact, the Ramadi offensive is being led not by one, but by three military forces:
1. Iraqi army units are attacking the city from the north.
2. Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militias, such as the Mahdi Army, the Badr Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Committee, are attacking from the south.
They are under the command of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who led the Shiite militia forces in the capture of the towns of Tikrit and Baiji. Muhandis fights in the guise of an Iraqi Shiite militia chief, concealing his real identity as an Iranian brigadier general and the secret deputy of the Iranian al-Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
As Soleimani’s deputy, Muhandis is the real commander of Iran’s Iraqi front.
3. The US military, whose warplanes bomb the ISIS forces controlling the Ramadi city center – 80 percent in support of the pro-Iranian Shiite militia operations and only 20 percent to benefit the Iraqi army.
This attests to a measure of US-Iranian cooperation, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report.
Last month, the US conducted 200 air strikes against ISIS targets in Ramadi (equal to the number of Russian air raids in Syria in 48 hours)
It is therefore hard to say that the battle for Ramadi is conducted “purely by the Iraqi army” – especially when a fourth partner is in play in a behind-the-scenes, yet critical, role.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources disclose that Shiite militia operations are directed by the Russian war room in Baghdad, headed (as we reported in a separate article) by Col. Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, joint commander of Russian forces in Iraq and Syria.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and the commander of the Badr Brigades, Hadi Al-Amiri, are regulars at the Baghdad command meetings, which regularly hear updates on all US military movements.
These briefings provide the Russian general with enough intelligence for steering Russian and Iranian military moves according to the state of war with ISIS and other terrorist organizations – but also in accordance with American military steps.
With his hands on the controls of the war 24/7, Gen. Dvornikov can use Iranian allies for pulling invisible strings to manipulate US forces in Iraq.

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