IRAQ TRACKER 3 JUL: IS hits W. Baghdad w/ SVEST; Barzani asks for referendum date, CJCS Dempsey on ISF

BLUF: An IS suicide bomber hit the Shi’a Mustafa mosque in Baghdad’s western neighborhood late night night. Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to set a date for an independence referendum. Though Baghdad continues to deny the fact, over 2,500 border guards withdrew from the Saudi border, presumably for deployment. CJCS Dempsey delivered a sobering assessment of ISF capabilities. Baghdad also blindly denies the documented fact that the Su-25 Frogfoots flying over the country are Iranian.

In Baghdad, an IS suicide bomber [SVEST] detonated his explosives late last night at the Shi’a Mustafa Husseiniyah alognside Airport Street in the western neighborhood of Jihad, killing four and injuring 15. Interestingly, this is the second IS suicide bomber attempt at a Shi’a mosque in a week, with one occurring in Kadhimiyah a few days back. One wonders whether the dearth of VBIEDs is a deliberate change in Baghdadi’s tactics or if a limiting factor is pushing down the capability to move VBIEDs into place. Around the same time, an IED was detonated on a police patrol on Abbas Ibn Firdos Square across the street from the Mustafa mosque, suggesting significant freedom of movement for anti-government groups in the Jihad area. Reuters’ Ned Parker delivered a crushing report today on the number of insurgent sleeper cells within Baghdad, while CNN’s Arwa Damon conducted some great interviews with a deployed LAFA unit.

In Anbar, 2,500 DBE (Department of Border Enforcement) officers withdrew from the Saudi border, presumably for redeployment, while Saudi Arabia sent 30,000 men to guard the border. Baghdad continues to stubbornly deny the fact. IA shelling killed another seven civilians in Fallujah.

In Diyala, IS released photos of their conquest of a military outpost likely somewhere near Udhaim. The photos show dozens of abandoned basic cargo trucks, a couple 4x4s, and one T-72 Lion of Babylon tank that appears to remain in working condition. The photos show approximately two platoons of ISIS fighters, and later show these fighters executing seven unidentified men in a ditch. The clashes between IS-led militants and ISF + Shi’a militia in Mansouriyah seem to be escalating, though it doesn’t appear either side maintains the initiative, though ISf claimed to have cleared ad-Walib, a small town just east of Mansouriyah proper.

In Kirkuk, IA Aviation hit a small convoy of IS tankers carrying stolen fuel west of the city. The source offered that militants had stolen 40 tankers’ worth of fuel from the pipeline in that area. The emplacement and detonation of an IED on a federal police patrol at the Kasnazaniyah Hospital in Kirkuk’s southern industrial district indicates that the joint Peshmerga-Iraqi Police security cordon around Kirkuk will necessarily have holes, even as Barzani stood up a new unit with fresh forces in Kirkuk. IS also released 32 Turkish truck drivers it recently kidnapped from the Anjanah area; it will be fascinating to learn what the IS-Ankara negotiations looked like.

In Salah ad-Din, Video surfaced showing a messy scene of men who purportedly targeted the Askari shrine in Samarra.

In Babil, ISF continue to carry out heavy bombardment by artillery and airstrike on Jurf al-Sakhar, today hitting the town’s southern village of Ruwaiyah. Babil announced the graduation of the Hawra Zaynab battalion, composed of 480 troops given two weeks training. The provincial authorities said that 1,700 volunteers were already fighting within the province itself. No word yet on where this battalion will be sent.

In Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to set a date for a referendum on independence in the KRG. Simultaneously, KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami sent a letter to Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Karim al-Luaibi threatening to countersue Baghdad if Baghdad continued to “interfere” with KRG oil exports. The letter follows a ruling from the Supreme Court that gave temporary reprieve by holding off on signing a preliminary injunction requested by Luaibi against the KRG; again, this reprieve could very well be very temporary, and it is unclear whether the normally SLC-influenced judicial system will eventually maintain its ruling against Baghdad. The article also mentions that KRG exports to Ceyhan are still at 125,000 bpd, far below where the Kurds thought they’d be–recall that KRG wanted to be exporting 1m bpd by year’s end.

PM Maliki offered amnesty for tribal fighters who had previously worked with ISIS, and said that former Iraqi Army [read: Baathists] men may apply, as well. Unlikely to have any effect without political inclusion of Sunni politicians–individual Sunnis will not apply one a one-by-one basis.

In the U.S. CJCS Dempsey basically sidestepped all significant policy questions, stating that assessments of ISF capability are ongoing. Critically, he brought up the difficulty, if airstrikes are contemplated, of identifying which targets are strictly IS elements and which are JAI, IAI, 1920 Revoltuion Brigades, JRTN, or simple tribal fighters. Exactly.

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