The Iraqi Ministry of Defense today claimed it retook four cities between Baghdad and Samarra from the Islamic State during operations over the past week. From Al Shorfa:
Over the past two weeks, “the army managed to clear four new cities in Salahaddin province — al-Dhuluiyah, al-Ishaqi, al-Mutassim and Balad — and is now in full control of them”, said army commander in Salahaddin Lt. Gen. Sabah al-Fatlawi.
The army killed and arrested dozens of ISIL fighters in the process, and destroyed large quantities of their weapons and explosives, he said.
There is one problem with this story: no one seems to have been aware that these four cities were under Islamic State or allied forces control. Dhuluiyah has been considered contested, while at times heavy fighting has been reported at Balad and Ishaqi. Islamic State fighters have been launching attacks along the road north of Baghdad in an effort to cut off supplies to Samarra. But none of these cities were considered to be under enemy control.
Either the Iraqi Ministry of Defense is attempting to take credit for gaining ground it never lost, in an effort to bolster its image; or the situation on the road from Baghdad to Samarra has been far worse than reported. Neither scenario is a good sign.