In October 2014, after thirteen tries Jurf al-Sakhr in northeast Babil was liberated from the Islamic State. The operation was led by Badr Organization head Hadi Ameri with the assistance of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander General Qassim Suleimani and involved mostly pro-Iran Hashd units with the support of the Iraqi forces. Prime Minister Haider Abadi praised the operation and visited the site shortly after it was declared free. The entire population of the district, some 70,000-80,000 people were forced out by the Hashd and it was converted into a military base for Kataib Hezbollah who still controls the area to this day. Although there was a report that the Hashd was burning homes immediately after the fighting was over the level of devastation that those forces carried out was not known until November 2019 when Iranian intelligence documents were leaked to the Intercept.
The Intercept published a summary and a short excerpt from two reports by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security from 2014. One said that Sunni residents of Jurf al-Sakhr had fled every area the Hashd had operated in preferring to be displaced than stay where those units were. The other report noted that Islamic State families were being forced out, their homes destroyed, their livestock dispersed, and that palm trees were being cut down and burned so that the insurgents had no places to hide. Iranian intelligence worried that these acts were causing resentment amongst Iraqis against the Hashd and he Quds Force, which supported them. While the second report says that it was IS families that were pushed out it was actually all the people. This was the most brazen example of revenge and collective punishment imposed upon a community during the war. It appeared that after so many tries to capture the area, the Hashd went on a rampage in Jurf al-Sakhr to take out their frustration. It wasn’t just the homes that were targeted, but the economy and parts of the environment as well.
Five years later and not a single civilian has been allowed to return because it is a Kataib Hezbollah base. Not only that, but the district is along the main highway that Shiite pilgrims from northern and central Iraq take to Karbala and Najaf. It is therefore considered of strategic importance, and no Sunni will be allowed to reside there for the foreseeable future out of fear that will allow IS back in.
Lead Inspector General Report to the United States Congress, “Operation Inherent Resolve, 7/1/19-10/25/19,” 11/20/19
Risen, James, Arango, Tim, Fassihi, Farnaz, Hussain, Muraza, Bergman, Ronen, “A Spy Complex Revealed, Leaked Iranian Intelligence Reports Expose Tehran’s Vast Web of Influence in Iraq,” The Intercept, 11/17/19
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