Category Archives: Iraq

ISIS one year on since fall of Iraq’s Mosul

Here is how the year of offensives unraveled, beginning with the siege of Iraq’s second city of Mosul exactly a year ago. (File photo: AFP)

A year ago, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began a destructive campaign to gain control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria, leading to thousands of deaths and displaced millions of people.

Here is how the year of offensives unraveled, beginning with the siege of Iraq’s second city of Mosul exactly a year ago today.

Following the fall of Mosul in n June 2014, the province of Nineveh followed suit as several Iraqi army divisions collapse.

Just two days later Tikrit, another major city in Iraq, falls to the control of ISIS. Following this, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, calls for military action to be taken against ISIS. As this was happening, ISIS made the claim that they had executed 1,700 people, by issuing photos of the slaughters.

At the end of June, ISIS formally declared their “caliphate” crossing the border between Iraq and Syria, the leader of which was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In the first days of August ISIS re-launched their northern offensive, targeting the religious minority of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar in Iraq. Their actions sparked international concern, so only days later the U.S. began an airstrikes campaign on Iraq, with an international coalition not far behind.

On August 19, ISIS released a clip of the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley. This was first in a series of beheadings of international journalists and aid workers including Steven Sotloff, Kenji Goto, David Haines and Alan Henning.

ISIS militants attack ancient artifacts with sledgehammers in the Ninevah Museum in Mosul, Iraq. (File Photo: AP)

Towards the end of September, the coalition expanded the airstrike campaign to include Syrian territories.

Throughout the month of October there were several mass killings, such as that of the Albu Nimr tribesmen. The jihadist group also declared their first significant government victory near Baghdad in the Jurf al-Sakhr area.

By mid-November Iraqi forces recapture the town of Baiji, strategically located on the main road to Mosul, but fail to maintain the control and eventually lose it to ISIS again.

Islamic State group militants patrol in a commandeered Iraqi security forces trucks sprayed with the representation of the al-Qaida flag and the Arabic that reads, “There is no god but Allah,” in Fallujah (File photo: AP)

During the month of January, claims were made accusing Shiite militia men, typically loyal to the Iraqi government, of executing 70 residents in the Diyala province. Just days after these claims were made Staff Lieutenant Gen. Abdulamir al-Zaidi declared that the province was “liberated” from ISIS.

The following month ISIS released more footage of them murdering people. This time it was Maaz al-Kassasbeh, a Jordanian pilot who had been captured in Syria in December. The clip showed him being burned alive in cage. Other footage showed militants destroying priceless artefacts in a museum in Mosul.

In March of this year, Iraqi forces launched an operation to reclaim the city of Tikrit, which Haider al-Abadi announced had been successful on the 31st. In the meantime, ISIS released more footage of the destruction of ancient artefacts, but this time in the Assyrian city of Nimrud.

Security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during sand storm in the eastern part of Ramadi. (File photo: AP)

In April there was further destruction of artefacts, this time belonging to a UNESCO world heritage site in the city of Hatra.

The most recent ISIS victory was the seizure of Ramadi, the capital of the province of Anbar, on May 17. This was followed by the capture of Syrian Palmyra just days later.

(With AFP)

ISIS Holds Massive Military Parade Celebrating Victory in Ramadi …(Where’s the Coalition?)

ISIS 2

by Jim Hoft

ISIS held a massive parade in West Anbar province celebrating victory in Ramadi.
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So where is the Coalition of the Willing? And why is this not a burning line of charred vehicles?

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Da'ish convoy in Rutbah, W. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Anbar?src=hash”>#Anbar</a&gt; province, celebrating events in Ramadi. Begs the question, where's the coalition? <a href=”http://t.co/hIMO5cszF4″>pic.twitter.com/hIMO5cszF4</a></p>&mdash; حيدر سومري (@IraqiSecurity) <a href=”https://twitter.com/IraqiSecurity/status/600368151801569281″>May 18, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

#Iraq #Ramadi More than 90,000 flee Islamic State (ISIS) advance in Anbar province

More than 90,000 people have fled their homes in Iraq’s western province of Anbar where ISIS militants have been gaining ground over the past week, the United Nations said on Sunday.

ISIS militants have encroached on the provincial capital Ramadi, displacing thousands of families.

“Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing — food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities,” Lise Grande, humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations in Iraq, said in a statement.

More than 90,000 flee Iraq’s Anbar province

Iraqi forces are preparing to mount a counter-offensive to reverse Islamic State advances on the eastern edge of Ramadi after military reinforcements were sent from Baghdad, officials said.

Provincial officials warned earlier this week Ramadi was in danger of falling to the militants.

At least 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced across the country since January 2014, including 400,000 from Anbar.

Iraqis flee as Islamic State captures three villages in Ramadi

Residents began fleeing three villages in Ramadi, capital of the Iraqi western province of Anbar, after they were captured by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants on Wednesday.

Earlier, an advisor for Anbar’s mayor, described “fierce battles” taking place between Iraqi security forces and tribal volunteers against ISIS, calling for an “urgent” need airstrikes from the U.S.-led coaltion and more military enforcement.

Aziz Khalaf al-Tarmouz told the local Al-Sumaria News that “security forces from army, police and emergency alongside with tribal members are in a fierce battle against the terrorist ISIS group in Albu-Ghanim, Albu Sodeh, Albo Mahal regions in eastern Ramadi.”

He added: “Our security and tribal forces need more military consolidation and urgency,” asking “for airstrikes from the international coaltion and Iraqi forces to support security teams there.”

The residents told the Associated Press that ISIS launched an offensive at dawn east of the city, seizing the villages Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, which had been under government control.

They say fighting is now taking place on the eastern edges of Ramadi about two kilometers away from local government buildings.

In Soufiya, the militants bombed a police station and took over a power plant. The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their own safety, said airstrikes are trying to support Iraqi troops.

ISIS was dealt a major blow this month, when Iraqi troops pushed it out of Tikrit, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

(With The Associated Press)

Iran Takes Over Iraq

Dore Gold

General David Petraeus is the best known top American officer from the Iraq War. There are only a few in the US who know more about internal developments in Iraq than he does. After all, he was commander of the successful “surge” in US forces in Iraq in 2007-2008 that changed the tide of the war and crushed the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida, which was the forerunner of the Islamic State group.

Petraeus was subsequently appointed head of the CIA by the Obama administration, a position from which he had to resign in 2012 as a result of a personal affair. Given his background, when he grants an interview to a major newspaper like the Washington Post about what is currently happening in Iraq and in the Middle East in general, his words can have enormous influence on the centers of power from Cairo to Riyadh.

In Washington today, and elsewhere in the NATO alliance, Western military strategy in the Middle East has been focused on the threat of ISIS, which is using brutal terrorist tactics, including televised beheadings of its prisoners, to strike fear in the hearts of conventional armies. Their collapse has led to the fragmentation of both Syria and Iraq. In creating what it calls a new Islamic caliphate, ISIS has erased the border between them that goes back to the First World War and the famous 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Yet in his Washington Post interview that was published on March 20, Petraeus defied the conventional wisdom in Western capitals by declaring: “The foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.”

To those who have been advocating a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, he warned that Iran is not an American ally in the Middle East, but rather a “part of the problem,” since the more it is seen as dominating the region, the more Sunni radicalism is inflamed and prompted to spread. By stressing that Iran was a greater threat to American interests than ISIS, Petraeus was implicitly criticizing the policy of the administration he once served.

Petraeus was keenly aware of what was happening on the ground in Iraq. Right now dozens of Shiite paramilitary organizations are active in the war against ISIS and are coordinated by a secret branch of the Iraqi government, known as Hashid Shaabi. Its head, Jamal Jaafar Muhammad, is believed by US officials to be tied to the bombing of the US Embassy in Kuwait in 1983, which was organized by Hezbollah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh.

These Shiite militias have a strong anti-American background and many of them were involved in attacks against US forces in Iraq just ten years ago. Today, Jamal Jaafar Muhammad is directly tied to Iran, serving under the infamous General Qassam Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He has been called Suleimani’s “right-hand man.” The connection between the Shiite militias and Suleimani make them into not only an Iraqi force but an extension of Iranian power.

The most important Shiite militia in the Hashid Shaabi network is the Badr Organization which underwent training in Iran for years. Its leader, Hadi al-Amiri, admitted last week to Reuters that his followers view Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the leader of the Islamic nation as a whole — and by implication, Iraq — and not only as the head of the Iranian state. Al-Amiri also said recently that the Badr Organization had worked with Hezbollah, which shared its military lessons from fighting Israel.

Today, in the battle over the Sunni city of Tikrit between ISIS and the Iraqi government, Baghdad has massed around 30,000 troops; according to American officials who spoke with The New York Times, two-thirds of them are Shiite militias that have been trained and equipped by Iran. In other words, Iranian-backed militias in Iraq are becoming larger and more powerful than the Iraqi Army. This led Petraeus to conclude that Iran was adopting the Hezbollah model for its surrogate forces in Iraq.

Washington has consistently insisted on the need to preserve the territorial integrity of the Iraqi state. That undoubtedly explains US policy over the last year of refraining from supplying too advanced weaponry to the Kurds. However, the actions of the Iraqi Shiite militias in their war against ISIS, and in particular their brutality against the Sunni Iraqi population, will clearly accelerate the breakup of Iraq. Disputed areas with mixed populations have already faced ethnic cleansing. In short, the militias are having the exact opposite effect that they were intended to bring about.

What is Iran is trying to achieve in Iraq? This was recently revealed on March 8, by Ali Younesi, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. In the past, Younesi served as the powerful intelligence minister under President Mohammad Khatami. Younesi said that Iran was once again an empire. Its capital was Iraq. He added: “There is no way to divide the territory of Iran and Iraq.” He spoke about an eventual “union” between the two countries. In short, he was speaking about an Iranian takeover of Iraq.

In fact, last December over a million Iranian Shiites entered Iran for the Ashura festivals in the Shiite holy cities. According to Iraqi sources they crossed the international borders without any passports; Iraqi authorities do not know how many remained or if they left.

It appears that the recent changes in the Middle East have not only melted the borders between Syria and Iraq, but also between Iraq and Iran. In the past, Iraq served as a buffer state separating Iran from the rest of the Arab world.

With the Iraqi buffer removed, there will be a territorially contiguous line from Tehran to Jordan’s eastern border. It was noteworthy that General Suleimani was quoted as saying that Iran could control events in Jordan, the same way it operated in Iraq and Lebanon. Days later the Revolutionary Guards denied that Suleimani made such a statement and issued their denial through the Iranian Embassy in Amman.

Yet there were other developments detailed in Al Jazeera on March 16 that show how Iran was already at Jordan’s doorstep. It was deploying its Revolutionary Guards forces, as well as those of Hezbollah (and other Shiite militias from Iraq and Afghanistan) in southern Syria, in an area adjacent to the Jordanian border.

Iran is clearly exploiting its nuclear talks with the West to establish its hegemonic position and erect a new regional order from Yemen to Kurdistan. But above all it is what is going on in Iraq today that is altering the shape of the Middle East and consequently the kinds of challenges Israel is likely to face in the years ahead.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

Iraq: Tikrit offensive stalled by ISIS bombs everywhere

Iraq’s huge offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State group is being stalled by bombs planted by the jihadists holding out in the city, a militia spokesman said Tuesday.

“The battle to retake Tikrit will be difficult because of the preparations (ISIS) made,” said Jawwad al-Etlebawi, spokesman for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shiite militia that is playing a major role in the operation alongside the regular army.

“They planted bombs on all the streets, buildings, bridges, everything. For this reason, our forces were stopped by these defensive preparations,” Etlebawi told AFP.

“We need forces trained in urban warfare to break in,” he said, adding that the jihadists are surrounded, “but any besieged person fights fiercely.”

The operation to recapture Tikrit, the capital of Salaheddin province, began on March 2.

While Iraqi forces succeeded in surrounding the city and retaking towns across the Tigris river to the east, gaining ground inside it has proved much more difficult.

Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, the top army commander for Salaheddin, told AFP on Sunday that the forces attacking Tikrit needed air support from the US-led coalition.

Saadi said that he had asked the defense ministry to make the request to the coalition, but that no air support had been forthcoming.

ISIS spearheaded a sweeping offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June.

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition and Iran are battling to push the militants back.