The Islamic State is struggling to hold its ground in various areas in Iraq. After losing control of important cities such as Tikrit, Baiji and Ramadi last year, the group is now besieged in Fallujah and faces growing external and internal pressures. Recent reports have indicated that the group faced an attempted insurrection that spread to several neighborhoods in Fallujah during February 2016. In addition, the Iraqi Army has recently launched a new offensive to retake areas between Samara and Baiji currently under ISIS control.
In the meanwhile, however, IS was able to carry out massive attacks in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, over the past week. On February 29, IS launched two coordinated VBIED attacks in Sadr City, a Shi'ite eastern quarter of Baghdad, killing over 70 and leaving more than 100 injured. On the same day, fighters from the group carried out an armed attack on military posts in Abu Ghraib, 15 miles west of the capital. On March 6, another Islamic State suicide attack was carried out in Hillah, a Shi'ite town south of Baghdad. At least 47 were killed.
Iraqi officials were quoted saying that the attacks were a reaction to the Islamic State's defeats in other parts of the country, but it is likely that the recent effort to target Baghdad is guided by strategic calculus rather than desperation. The Islamic State is probably attacking the capital from different directions (east, west, and south), in order to force the Iraqi military to redeploy its forces around Baghdad and allocate more troops to secure the city. This is likely to put a heavy burden on the army and its allies, hampering their ability to advance in other fronts, and may give IS more time to prepare for a defensive battle in its core territories.