Iraq plans to launch its next major offensive aimed at Diyala province on August 1. 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and police have massed in the area since in early July. The operation was announced back in June. This will be the fifth offensive launched by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since the March 2008 Basra operation. Diyala is one of Iraq’s most divided provinces having Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. There are still insurgents active in the region, there are numerous Sons of Iraq units that have clashed with the government, rival Shiite groups the Mahdi Army and Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) have struggled for control of the security forces, and the provincial government is weak. Having announced the offensive so long ago however, could let many of the militants flee the province before the operation even begins, similar to what happened in Mosul earlier this year.
Currently Iraqi forces are carrying out a clearing operation in Babil province called Knight’s Leap. Babil has been a battleground between the SIIC and Sadrists. It is also a base for Iranian backed Special Groups. During the Basr operation in March, Iraqi forces tried to clear the province, but to mixed results.
Agence France Presse, “30,000 Iraqi troops poised for assault on Qaeda bastion,” 7/23/08
Aswat Aliraq, “Hilla placed under curfew,” 7/23/08