IRAQ DAILY TRACKER 17 [updated]: ISIS assaults western Baquba, Maliki fires commanders


A smattering of interesting tidbits this PM: Niqash reports on the situation in Baghdad: services cut, food prices skyrocketing due to hoarding and cut-off roadways to Turkey (and Jordan, as the Yabani Bridge remains under insurgent control). Additionally, Niqash says that the ostensibly ISF checkpoints previously extant in Baghdad have doubled in number and been replaced by overt deployments of Shi’a militia fighters from Badr Organization, Sadr’s Promised Day Brigades, and Asai’b Ahl al-Haq. This does not augur well for Baghdad’s Sunni residents, should the crisis worsen. Plus, the Post’s team today reported that a Sunni imam and two of his assistants were found executed in the mixed neighborhood of Saydiyah in southern Baghdad, a rare high-profile militia activity.

PM Maliki dismissed four generals, ostensibly for their role in the fall of Mosul, and said he will release on the city’s fall, which will likely be dozens of pages of diverted blame. Former Ninewa Operations Command [NOC] chief LTG Mehdi Gharrawi along with his deputy, Abdul Rahman al-Handal, and the NOC chief of staff, Hassan Abdul Razzaq, all lost their positions. 3rd Infantry Division commander (based in Ninewa) commander BGEN Abdul-Karim was also canned. The problem with this narrative is that PM Maliki promoted LTG Gharrawi from commanding Mosul-based 3rd Federal Police Division back in March, so any blame for Gharrawi’s command decisions should necessarily lie with the Prime Minister’s office.

The Pesh/ISIS fighting in Bashir, just south of Kirkuk, continues–and this short clip shot by Rudaw from the frontlines shows well-equipped Peshmerga fighters (likely KDP-affiliated, given the fact that Rudaw is a KDP channel) engaging ostensibly ISIS on the town’s outskirts. Note the basic tactical proficiency of aiming, belt control, and cover–really quite basic necessities of warfare often absent in IA engagements. And, adding to my earlier note on the Bashir fighting, the insurgent thrust here appears to have been a coordinated three-axis push, with militants hitting town of Dibs, 55km NW of Kirkuk, which ISIS has been using VBIEDs on for the past three months. The third axis was in Mullah Abdullah, a town 25km W of Kirkuk, which ISIS reportedly now controls.

Lastly, a lone VBIED in the Maridi market of Sadr City killed eight and wounded 23; while not uncommon, the heightened tensions in the capital make militia reprisals more likely–the entire point of the longstanding ISIS bombing campaign.

Additionally, preliminary reports are trickling in of ISIS fighting with Turkmen militia forces in Amerli, a town on the highway south of Tuz Khurmatu that lies just NE of the Hamrin Mountains. This–combined–with the Udhaim fighting–indicates that ISIS is attempting to reopen or consolidate its Salah ad-Din-Diyala lines of communication.

[morning report below]

Today, ISIS assaulted three neighborhoods in Baquba–Mafrag, Mualmeen, and Khatoon–showcasing their freedom of movement around the city in a particularly brazen attack on a Mafraq Iraqi Police (IP) station. Though the thrust was repelled by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) with one IP KIA and 9 ISIS fighters KIA, 35-44 prisoners died during the fighting, prompting conflicting reports immediately from both sides. Tigris Operations Command leader LTG Zaidi stated that the prisoners had been killed by ISIS mortar fire, but the NYT quoted a morgue official who reported that many of the prisoners had been executed at close range, suggesting the presence of Shi’a militia fighters or advisers. An alternate theory is that the prisoners were killed by ISF when they believed the police station was close to falling.pic 2

The NYT also reported on 4 executed men in Baghdad (specifically, Baladiyat, SE of Sadr City), which happened yesterday, as evidence of renewed Shi’a activity. Yet this activity has been occurring near-daily in Baghdad, ramping up after the inception of the Anbar Crisis in December 2013. One thing to note in Diyala: a member of the Kurdish parliament’s Pesh committee stated that Pesh controlled Jalula, but had not deployed to Sadiyah, an interesting report that contradicts earlier reporting and makes more credible anonymous reports that Sadiyah remains wholly in control of ISIS.

Tal Afar remains contested, with AFP quoting Ninewa Provincial Council deputy chairman Nuriddin Qalaban stating that ISIS held most of the city, with ISF and tribal fighters in control of some areas, including “part” of the airport. Qalaban said 50 civilians had been killed in the fighting, and estimated the total militant force at 500-700–these are likely primarily ISIS regulars, which would account for their absence in the military parade held late last week in Mosul, a city which, by the way, allegedly hasn’t had gas, water, or electricity for 72hrs.. Conversely, CDR Abu Walid continues to assert that everything is hunky-dory in Tal Afar, stating the militants only reside in outskirts of the city. That assessment appears unlikely–why else would Baghdad send 1,200 ISOF men to reinforce Walid if he were simply conducting mop-up operations?

In Kirkuk, ISIS reportedly attempted to seize the primarily Turkmen town of Bashir, with its Imam Reza shrine, but were repelled by a joint IP-Peshmerga-Sahwa force, a positive sign of collaboration. At the same time, unconfirmed reports from Kirkuk alleged that ISIS had begun to disarm locals in areas west and southwest of Kirkuk, including Hawijia, the Zab triangle, Rashad, and Abbasi.

pic 1

In Salah ad-Din, ISF made gains west of Balad, reopening the road to Ishaqi and sustaining 29WIA soldiers in the process. In moving west, ISF contingents found the dead bodies of 25 IA soldiers, ostensibly executed by ISIS–which would be a wholly separate execution from that conducted at Speicher Airbase, near Tikrit, on Saturday.

All Iraq News published a preliminary count of volunteers across Iraq‘s south that amounts to over 200,000 warm bodies for the ISF. Watching the structuring of these new units will be critical, as their inexperience and the ad hoc nature of it all leaves the door wide open for militia influence. Baghdad and Sistani may have overdone it by issuing such a wide-ranging call to arms, or might have been more selective in their acceptance process. The IA doesn’t need sheer numbers, especially Shi’a partisans who will be ineffective in both a traditional military and Clausewitzian sense in the places where fighting is actually occurring: Ninewa, Anbar, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, and Diyala.

And, because I like to end on a depressing note, militants have continued to encroach on Habbaniyah AB, reportedly having taken several IA watchtowers and heavy fighting occurred at the southern entrance to Habbaniyah itself.



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