On June 18, after a nearly month-long siege, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haydar al-ʿAbadi announced the liberation of Fallujah, almost two and half years after it had been seized by Islamic State (IS) forces. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), composed of elite counter-terrorism units, regular army and police, entered the besieged city from the south and raised the Iraqi flag over its municipality building. On June 26, ʿAbadi visited the city dressed in the uniform of the counter-terrorism force that played a leading role in the operation. In general, the IS defenders did not offer serious resistance: according to Iraqi sources, they suffered between 350 and 500 casualties in Fallujah and many of its men either fled or joined the convoys of displaced Fallujans, reaching shelters in Ameriyat al-Fallujah (a city 30 kilometers south of Fallujah). The battle for Fallujah coincided with a serious political crisis in Baghdad, in which demonstrators forced their way into and temporarily occupied the “Green Zone,” the heart of the governmental apparatus. It is possible that ʿAbadi's Fallujah offensive was designed to silence the political outcry and steal the limelight from Muqtada al-Sadr, who organized the street demonstrations against ʿAbadi's government. Indeed, the Fallujah offensive temporarily marginalized widespread complaints against corruption and political incompetence.
ʿAbadi considered the achievement a “strategic victory” and a turning point in the battle against the IS. In the run-up to the battle for Fallujah, Iraqi Security Forces were retook vast areas in western Iraq, including Ramadi (December 2015), Hit (May 2016), Kubaisa (April 2016) and Rutba (May 2016). Yet the western parts of Anbar province, including the towns of Rawa, ʿAna and al-Qaim (on the Syrian border) are still controlled by the IS, and Haditha, situated near an important dam, is still under a partial IS siege.
Fallujah was the first Iraqi city to be lost to the IS, in early 2014. Its proximity to Baghdad had made it an attractive target. Subsequently, Shiʿi militias repeatedly requested that the Iraqi government prioritize retaking Fallujah, but were turned down. As recently as April 2016, following the swift conquest of Rutba, Iraqi military spokespersons reiterated that the ISF would focus on targeting the remaining IS enclaves along the Syrian and Jordanian borders. This statement, and others, may have been a form of subterfuge intended to lull the Islamic State into a false sense of security regarding Fallujah.
Ronen Zeidel is a Researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center (MDC) for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University.
 “Iraq PM Abadi Declares Victory over ISIL in Fallujah,” Al Jazeera (English), June 19, 2016.
 “al-‘Abadi Yad’u al-Ihtifal fi Tahrir al-Falluja:Sanarfa’ al-Alam al-‘Iraqi fi al-Mawsil Qariban” [Abadi calls for celebrating the liberation of Fallujah: We shall raise our flag over Mosul soon], al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], June 27, 2016.
 “Maqtal 377 Da’ishian Baynahum 40 Qanasan fi Falluja” [Killing of 377 IS men among them 40 Snipers in Fallujah], al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], June 20, 2016.
 “al-Jaysh Yuharir al-Rutba bil-Kamil wa-Yabda’ Ta’min al-Tariq al-Sari’ ma’a Urdun” (The Army Liberates Rutba and begins securing the highway to Jordan) al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], May 19, 2016.
 “al-Jaysh ‘ala bu’d 20 Kilumitran min al-Sharqat” [The Army within 20km of Sharqat], Reuters in al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], June 20, 2016.
 “Tashatut al-Juhd al-‘askari yu’id Da’ish ila Shimal al-Rammadi” [The IS military effort north of Ramadi is crumbling], al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], June 20, 2016.
 Waʾil Niʾma, “Quwa Amrikiya Tusharik fi ‘Amaliyat al-Sharqat” [American force will take part in the Sharqat operation], al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], June 19, 2016.
 al-Ghad Press [Arabic], "Federal police announce the arrest of the amir of the southern province of Daʿesh west of Baghdad," March 4, 2016.
 See, for example, the arrest of Rafi’ Mishhin al-Jumaily, a senior IS military commander, by the “Hashd,” al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], June 18, 2016.
 “Al-Quwat al-‘Iraqiya Tahtajiz 20000 Nazih min Falluja Man’an liFirar ‘Anasir al-Tandhim,” [Iraqi forces arrest 20,000 refugees from Fallujah to prevent IS men from escaping], Azzman (UK) [Arabic], June 27, 2016.
 “Wazir al-Dakhiliya: al-Intihakat fi Falluja ghair mumanhaja wa-‘Aqabna ba’d al-Mutawaritin” [The Minister of Interior: The violations in Fallujah are not part of policy and we punished some of the perpetrators], Reuters in al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], June 16, 2016. See, also: "They Survived ISIS, Then Disappeared," The Daily Beast, June 28, 2016.
 “Tikrit Tahtafil bi-Murur ‘Aam ‘ala al-Tahrir wa ‘Audat 90% min Nazihiha” [Tikrit celebrates one-year since its liberation and the return of 90 percent of the displaced persons], al-Mada (Baghdad) [Arabic], April 2, 2016.