BLUF: Following Maliki’s escalation from alleging Kurdish collusion with Islamic State in the Mosul offensive, the KRG announced it would boycott further parliamentary meetings, prompting Baghdad to halt cargo flights to Irbil and Sulaymaniyah. I still think a reconciliation, but the two sides are hurtling toward making that scenario and outright impossibility.
Baghdad told the U.N. that IS elements seized 40kg of un-enriched research-use uranium from the University of Mosul–this is likely an attempt to pressure the U.S. to engage militarily in Iraq.
In the south, an arrest warrant was issued for Deputy Governor of Babil Qasim Zamili on account of his support for Mahmoud al-Sarkhi.
In Ninewa, ISF air assets are now striking the Ninewa Operations Command compound, occupied by IS. In Anbar, IA shelling of Fallujah killed another 8 and left 35 wounded. Baghdad saw another 2 men assassinated, likely by Shi’a militias, in the Tobchi sub-division of Hurriya in NW Baghdad.
In Babil, three car bombs [VBIEDs] were detonated in quick succession in three different towns: one in the parking garage of the federal court building in the NW Hillah neighborhood of Algiers, one in the town center of Imam, 25km north of Hillah, and another at a cafe in the same town. Death tolls have yet to be reported. ISF found 50 executed bodies in Nile village, just north of Hillah–likely the work of Shi’a militias operating in the area. Raad Jubouri says the executions occurred last night.
In Ninewa, ISF air assets struck depots containing petroleum products in Hammam al-Alil, a small town along the river 20km south of Mosul. This is likely an ISF attempt to disrupt IS supply lines, which have burgeoned of late as a result of oil sales.
In Salah ad-Din, more errant airstrikes targeted four civilian houses, today in the Jikulka area of Dhuluiya, just north of Balad. Two people were killed and 15 injured, and the mayor of Dhuluiya has already requested that the MoD investigatem claiming that no insurgents were present in the area. The inability of the ISF to avoid civilian casualties will cause long-term problems of stability as the immediacy of combating IS wears off. The ISF offensive on Tikrit seems to have been paused in the last few days, possibly for shaping operations of reinforcements.
In Tarmiyah, just south of this incident, an IA patrol was hit by an IED and then set upon by insurgents, leaving three soldiers dead. The Tarmiyah-Taji-Dujail sector continues to see near-daily insurgent hit-and-run attacks, which could indicate long-term problems for securing supply lines for ISF’s northern push.
In Baghdad, another IED was detonated in Ghazaliayh, which continues to see near-constant violence. On the other side, unknown gunmen pulled a barber out of his shop in the Nairiyah part of Baghdad Jadida and executed him; New Baghdad has experienced militia presence for some time now.
BLUF: Parliament set a new date–July 12th–for its second session, after delaying it until August 12th yesterday. The speaker pro tem still does not expect quorum. An IS suicide car bomber struck south of Samarra at a security checkpoint/recruitment center. IS overran the town of Azwya and reportedly executed 50 tribal fighters who had attempted to resist their advance. That movement may have prompted the bombing of the Azwya Bridge by IQAF Su-25s yesterday.
In Salah ad-Din, an IS suicide car bomber targeted a security checkpoint, killing two ISF members and two civilians. The checkpoint may have been near a recruitment center in Raqqa village, just south of Samarra. Masalah claims that fighting between IS and Jubour tribe members took place in Baiji late last night, while Shafaq claims that IS overran Azwya and executed 50 tribal fighters upon taking the town, later continuing their DDR campaign that began right after their gains in northern Salah ad-Din.
In Diyala, a local official in Udhaim said that self-defense forces continue to organize in the city, both against insurgent elements and to tamp down looting. He oddly added that IS elements had established a cemetery in Salman Beg. A similar report, this time from a provincial National Reconcilation official, claims that IS had appropriated 20,000 sheep from areas in Salah ad-Din and Ninewa to sell in outlying areas in Diyala. The same source stated that IS had demanded fees from Udahim wheat farmers in exchange for marketing their product, a tactic that may have factored into the town’s decision to turn against the organization and collaborate with ISF and AAH elements.
In Baghdad, an executed body was found in the Fahama area north of the city. Ghazaliyah continues to experience high levels of violence relative to the rest of the city, with gunmen killing a policeman and detonating an IED in the area today.
In Anbar, clashes between a joint SWAT/Sahwa force and insurgents took place near the Albu Farraj Bridge north of the city, indicating that Anbar Operations Command remains effectively under siege. Masalah claims that Jaysh al-Mujahideen and others left Fallujah following a demand for allegiance by IS in the city. I’ll wait for confirmation on that one, but IS has always preferred the city proper, while other armed groups are more comfortable among the suburbs and outlying villages.
In Babil, the first reported Su-25 strike took place in Jurf al-Sakhar, killing 24 militants. The addition of more capable close air support is unlikely to rate a decisive factor in the COIN campaign there.
Politically, DPM Shaways, FM Zebari, and ISCI leader Hakim met, presumably to discuss a non-Maliki future for the country. Sadr met with Saraya al-Salam’s military leadership; he likely wants to telegraph, if not exert, control over his militia, which had in past years eluded him. Chalabi’s INC met and demanded parliament’s meeting take place ASAP.
Pressure from various political parties, not least of which the SLC, factored into Hafez’s decision to move the second CoR session to July 12th instead of August 12th. Still, Hafez has already distanced himself from the session, stating that it won’t reach quorum. The AFP report cites no mainline of evidence of Hafez’s decisionmaking, but I suspect that pressure from individual parties coalesced; the SLC has a political interest in speeding up formation, while others do not want to be tarred as anti-constitutional or stray from the clerical line, which has been in lockstep with adherence to the constitution so far.
Maliki surrogates continue to stress the INA’s adherence to the constitutional “largest bloc, first try at formation” formula.
The notoriously unreliable Bas News cites sources stating that an Iranian delegation asked Gorran to cede the post of Sulaymaniyah governor to PUK to avoid PUK’s losing power relative to KDP in the wider intra-KRG fight; Iran reportedly wants a united KRG front against ISIS, complete with cooperation with Maliki on a third term and outright military operations with the ISF. More reliably, Shafaq reports that the latest negotiations over whether Gorran’s Haval Abu Bakr or PUK’s Aso Mohammed would take the governorship had failed; in Sulaymaniyah Gorran won 12 seats in the provincial elections, while PUK won 11–one will get the governorship, the other the provincial council chairmanship.
Elsewhere in the KRG, Barzani will reportedly name leading PUK figure Barham Salih as KRG’s nominee for the post of Iraqi president; Salih served as DPM in the Iraqi Interim Government at the onset of the Iraq War and has more recently battled the Talabani family and Kosrat Rasul Ali for control of the PUK. From KDP’s standpoint, the choice could reflect either the desire for a powerful consensus pick or the desire to split off PUK factions more sympathetic to wider KDP aims for Iraqi Kurdistan.
In his BBC interview, Qaiz al-Khazali sounded many familiar themes–distrust of the US and West, accusations of Gulf support for ISIS, and most simple aggrandizement for AAH, which he said had prevented IS from taking Baghdad since it had gained critical experience in Syria. Khazali’s comments about Iran hew to the nationalistic side, which allows him to tap into more Iraq-focused Shi’a while simultaneously downplaying the outsized role of Iran in Baghdad.
National Journal’s Clara Ritger writes about the frankly embarrassing continued support for Ahmed Chalabi among former Bush administration officials, namely Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz here.
McClatchy’s John Zarocostas reports that IS executed 13 Sunni imams upon taking control of Mosul to stifle moderate dissent immediately; residents say IS now dictates the content of Friday prayers.
Reuters reports that IS rounded up 25-60 fmr. IA officers and Baathists [JRTN, likely] to head off challenges; in other news, Mosul governor-in-exile Athil al-Nujaifi estimates that IS gained 2,000 recruits from Mosul so far. Those arrested included fmr Iraqi SOF commander GEN Waad Hannoush and Baath party leader Saifeddin al-Mashhadani.
Egyptian President Sisi’s somewhat surprising support for Iraqi unity earned him congratulations from PM Maliki today.
Former ambassador Robert Ford pens a Foreign Policy piece that essentially calls for either hard partition or some form of enticing the Sunni community with such talk. Rather a non-starter, both because Baghdad can’t imagine such a plan; oh, and, this “Sunni region” has not economy to speak of. Iraqi Sunni political leaders have made very specific demands, none of which Ford includes.
BLUF: IA 6ID commander KIA while inspecting frontlines in Ibrahim bin Ali, Garma. IS suicide bombing targets cafe in Washash, Baghdad last night and suicide car bomber hits a checkpoint in Kadhmiyah today. IA Aviation airstrikes miss in several places. IA Aviation bombs Azwya Bridge, attempting to cut IS supply lines from Baiji/Tikrit to Hawija. Parliament, scheduled to meet tomorrow, pushed back reconvening until August 12th.
In Tuz, mayor Shalal Abdul reported that IA Aviation conducted an airstrike on a house 200m away from the PUK HQ in the Aksu neighborhood. Abdul expressed concern about the airstrike, given the fact that the entirety of Tuz is controlled by Peshmerga. Previous errant airstrikes were clearly instances of mistaken targeting; the political ramifications of strikes this egregious will exacerbate grievances between Baghdad and the KRG. Mortars continue to fall on Ishaqi, which looks like it will not be completely cleared prior to the ISF offensive north.
In Anbar, the IA 6th Infantry Division commander MGEN Najm Abdullah Sudan was killed in action by enemy shelling while inspecting frontlines in Ibrahim bin Ali. Another report says he was killed while visiting a camp for displaced persons in Saadan village in Zawbaa, south of Abu Ghraib. I’m inclined to believe the latter, as insurgent mortar fire killed 4 in the 24th Brigade HQ in Ibrahim bin Ali, which may have prompted conflations. IA shelling in Fallujah killed another eight civilians. The gradual loss of ISF control since early June in Malahma, north across the river from Khaldiyah, can be seen in today’s insurgent victory that left three IA soldiers and a policeman dead. Apparently, ISF remnants continue to operate west of Haditha, though I’m still taking such reports with a heavy grain of salt.
In Kirkuk, IA Aviation conducted airstrikes on the Azwya Bridge, which connects Baiji and Salah ad-Din to the Hawija and Kirkuk area; the source cited humanitarian concerns, since the bridge is frequented by displaced persons fleeing north, but ISF has a long way to go before it significantly affects IS’s ability to move quickly between Hawija, Baiji, and Tikrit. Clashes between IS militants and tribal forces in Azwya and Masakah. Peshmerga First Brigade commander BGEN Shirko Fatih Shwani stated that the Peshmerga has established a defensive barrier stretching from Sarkaran, northwest of Kirkuk, to Daquq, southeast of Kirkuk.
In Baghdad, an IS suicide bomber last night detonated his explosives inside a cafe in western Baghdad’s Washash neighborhood, leaving five dead. Insurgents continue to operate efficiently in Mashada, just north of the capital, killing four Sahwa members in a home raid at dawn today. Today, an IS suicide car bomber hit a security checkpoint on Dabbash Street in Kadhimiyah, the second suicide bombing there in a week. ISF sweeps continue to grow in number and frequency, suggesting either a a degree of panic at insurgent infiltration of the capital or brazen sectarian targeting–40 people were arrested in Jaara, a town straddling the road from Baghdad to Madain. Another executed body showed up in the Obaidi area.
In Ninewa, worryingly, IA Aviation conducted airstrikes on the Qirawan subdistrict of Sinjar, which lies at a crossroad approximately 25km southeast of the city. The presence of armed groups there suggests that IS may intend to move on Sinjar even after securing their southern route (Deir Azzor –> Albu Kamal/Qaim –> Fallujah), since it offers an alternate axis of attack from the south. IA Aviation continues to target the northern Rashidiyah area of Mosul city proper, to little avail, simply displacing hundreds of Turkmen families.
In Diyala, fighting continues at Masouriyah, north of Muqdadiyah, over the gas fields there. IA suffered a mortar attack on its HQ in the area yesterday morning, a worrisome sign.
In Babil, provincial authorities established roadblocks stretching from Aswat, NW of Jurf al-Sakhar, to the Razzaza Lake. The authorities now openly speak to newspapers about the role of AAH in clearing operations in the Jurf AO.
Further south, Muthanna province authorities continue to deny the infiltration of anti-government elements across the Saudi border, indicating that armed groups remain interested in facilitating smuggling networks through that area. Most manpower and heavy weaponry comes from IS supply networks in Syria. Authorities in Basra stated that the recent two car bombs in Basra city came from outside the province and were meant to send a message to oil companies. They said that the bombs had been crafted in such a way to defeat bomb-sniffing dogs.
Politically, Sadr as expected drew back from his previous hardline position on the next PM, stating now that Maliki must go and the SLC must nominate a new PM candidate from within the bloc.
Today, SLC MP Abdul Salam al-Maliki called for the intervention of Federal Supreme Court to cancel speaker pre tempore Mehdi al-Hafez’s delaying the next parliamentary session until August 12th; clearly, the SLC believes it has momentum. Conversely, they may know the session won’t be sped up and are simply going on the record as desirous of rapid government formation.
Writing yesterday, Thomas Hegghammer argued quite forcefully that the IS caliphate announcement should be considered as a rational decision; he outlines several different rationales–going after the jihadi “youth vote” or creating space for territorial consolidation–and outlines several likely consequences. A must-read.
Joel Wing interviews Rachel Kantz Feder, who advances some quite reasonable thoughts on what prompted Sistani to issue his fatwa; the takeaway is that that fatwa was aimed as much as Iran and IRGC-QF and its proxies as it was aimed at ISIS.
In tangential news, IS in Salah ad-Din posted pictures over the weekend of a destroyed M1A1 Abrams MBT and a downed Mohajer-4 ISR UAV, which they may or may not have shot down themselves–not much of a feat, in any case. Iran has been flying and supplying Mohajers for Syria and Iraq for quite some time.
Eli Lake gets Ali Khedery, James Jeffrey, and Stuart Bowen to deliver scathing quotes about the U.S. failure to anticipate and act proactively in Iraq. Interestingly–I don’t think I’ve seen this before–Lake says the U.S. only flew one ISR mission per day over Iraq pre-Mosul. Kind of incredible.
Reuters’ Isabel Coles, who’s absolutely killing the beat from the KRG, quotes Kurdish VP and aspirant PUK leader Kosrat Rasul Ali as cautioning against independence. Indeed, the PUK’s reasoning may be sound, but the remaining political fights within Kurdistan factor into this, too–about independence, oil exports and revenue sharing, and from which party the national Kurdish president or ministers will come from.
McClatchy’s Hannah Allam interviews Shibil leader Mohamed Thaban al-Shiblawy and Najaf governor Adnan al-Zurfi, both of whom present heartening cases that argue for that idea that if Shi’a militia sectarian activities may not return on the scale previously scene.
UNAMI reports that Iraq now has over 850,000 IDPs. Over 50% are from Anbar.
And Jackson Diehl advertises for Fuad Hussein and doesn’t bother checking even one fact about Iraqi Kurdistan.
BLUF: The Islamic State released a short video showing IS leader and self-styled “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi leading Friday prayers in Mosul. Maliki fired the IGC and IFP commanders and rebutted Nujaifi’s attempt at pressuring him. An Islamic State suicide car bomber hit a security checkpoint south of Samarra, killing 12 IA soldiers.
PM Maliki continues his purge of high-ranking security officials, today retiring LTG Ali al-Ghaidan, commander of Iraqi Ground Forces, and LTG Mohsen al-Kaabi, the chief of Iraqi Federal Police. The affiliations and competency of their replacements will be critical. Additionally, Maliki pushed back against growing calls for his replacement as PM, one day after Speaker of Parliament and Mutahidun leader Osama al-Nujaifi attempted to pressure Maliki by saying that he’d relinquish the speakership if Maliki did the same with the premiership. It is unlikely either man will give up easily. Maliki also sent an emergency police regiment (III/Special Assignment) from Dhi Qar up north.
Iranian state TV channel Fars reported on the death of likely IRGC officer COL Shoja’at Alamdari Mourjani, continuing the “shrine defense” narrative by saying that Mourjani had been killed fighting to defend Samarra. The exact circumstances of his death are as yet unknown.
The Baghdadi video opens up many questions, such as why Baghdadi decided to reveal himself now after years of secrecy and OPSEC so intense that we had only a blurred photo from the Iraq War previously. As J.M. Berger noted at the end of last week, the general reaction to the khilafah announcement had not been overwhelming at all outside extant pro-IS circles. Sadly, Baghdad has chosen to ignore the video, further damaging their credibility by stating that the video was fake, since IA Aviation had wounded Baghdadi in an airstrike and he’s in Syria, recuperating. The response is understandable, given likely criticism over Iraqi military incompetency with respect to his appearance in Mosul. The Telegraph’s Ruth Sherlock met with some of Baghdadi’s childhood acquaintances, receiving quotes that generally line up with most assessments of Baghdadi. Quiet, efficient, intelligent.
In Salah ad-Din and Kirkuk, tribal fighters near Rashad, south of Kirkuk, killed an IS leader in his car, while IS detonated explosives on the water and electricity infrastructure in Mahouz, a village northwest of Hawija where IS pushed out tribal leaders recently. IS also continued targeting the Hawija-based Obaidi tribe, kidnapping a tribal elder in the village of Assous 30km south of Kirkuk after he failed to pledge allegiance to IS or provide the group with 20 vehicles and 500 weapons. This follows fighting last night between IS and the “Mintafuda Tribal Council” in Abbasi and Tel Ali that left seven IS members dead and 10 more wounded. The tribal fighters had recently distributed leaflets in Zab and Sharqat warning IA and IP recruits not to pledge to IS.
The JRTN Youtube channel continues to post daily updates showing insurgent control of Baiji, suggesting that IS/JRTN tensions have not bled south from fighting in Hawija; other JRTN videos show presence at Baquba and in the siege of the IA 8Bde HQ near Ramadi. ISF dismantled another 40 IEDs on the highway between Samarra and Tikrit–whether these were placed previously or continue to be placed by infiltrators as ISF + militias move northward is a critical indicator of insurgent strength in the area. ISF continues to skirmish outside Tikrit and maintain their hold-out in the Baiji refinery, today deflecting a dual thrust by IS on the northern and southern gates of the refinery complex.
In Basra, two VBIEDs [car bombs] were detonated simultaneously at a restauraunt in Manawi al-Basha, a southern neighborhood, and at the Buraq Hotel on Istiqlal Street, after one one VBIED in Basra in June. These VBIEDs are normally chalked up to IS–they’re the only insurgent group capable of penetrating this far south.
In Ninewa, IS released pictures of their destroying a number of Shi’a husseiniehs in Mosul. A senior IA source finally reported the fall of Tal Afar, describing commander Abu Walid’s withdrawal as necessary because “staying in [those] circumstances was suicide.” The commander reported that insurgents were able to bring heavy mortar fire to bear and used suicide bombers to open holes in ISF defenses.
In Anbar, IS detonated explosives on a bridge serving the international highway in Sawlawiyah. It’s unclear which bridge was targeted, but I presume that it was the Yabani Bridge, a previous ISF position recently taken by IS. Significantly, the ISF engaged IS on the highway in the area today–making the attempt a possible response to tactical ISF gains. This will further serve to cut off existing ISF contingents in Haditha and Hit from resupply by Baghdad. IS-led militants continue to make gains in Ramadi, today hitting several IP stations in the city’s south, burning 3 watchtowers, stealing 4 IP vehicles, and killing four policemen. In Haditha, ISF claimed to have carried out clearing operations in Khafsa, a small town west of Haditha that affords access to the highway to Syria; presumably, the town was being used as a staging area by IS.
In Baghdad, two tortured and executed bodies showed up in Shula, a Shi’a-majority neighborhood in northwest Baghdad with a heavy and active Shi’a militia presence. Gunmen killed a family of four in their house in Bawi, Madain, south of the capita–likely Shi’a militias. Two more civilians were killed in a hit-and-run attack with machine guns on a car traveling on the Mohamed al-Qasim Expressway in eastern Baghdad. The attack is a time-worn IS method, but could be other groups, too. Two IEDs targeted the municipal council building in Sadr City’s Muzaffarabad Square. An IED hit the Suad Naqib Mosque in central Ghazaliyah, a mixed neighborhood with heavy insurgent presence. Baghdad Provincial Council released a statement acknowledging sectarian killings and kidnappings in areas south of the capital, and requested that Iraqi Federal Police be given the lead role in investigating such occurrences. Another IED exploded on the Mechanic’s Bridge in Dora, an area of increased insurgent activity recently.
In Babil, ISF claims to have killed five IS leaders, including the Wilayat al-Janoub emir Mohammed al-Janabi. I’ll believe it when I see it.
An IA-affiliated Youtube channel released footage of what it reports to be an execution of an IS militant; if confirmed, this would be the first instance I’ve seen of the IA purposefully putting out an execution video. The Sadrist Saraya al-Salam also released video of their executing a suspected IS militant by gunfire after hanging him from a heavy machine gun mounted on a 4×4.
In Kirkuk, Islamic State elements imposed control on four villages that had resisted their presence, taking the homes of each hamlet’s tribal of political leader. In Arumel, a small village home to Hadid tribal leader Anwar al-Asi, IS took Asi’s house after having overrun the village during their push to the Ajil oilfield last week and forcing Asi to flee to Sulaymaniyah. For IS, the strategic position of the village next to the Tikrit-Kirkuk highway and the Hamrin Mountains likely outweighs the costs of alienating tribal elements in the area. In Mahouz, home of Education Minister Mohammed Tamim, tribal elements recently took back the local police station from IS, but the village is likely under ISIS control following the fall of Tamim’s house. In Tal Asfar, another village next to the Tikrit-Kirkuk highway, IS kicked out Hadid tribal leader Sheikh Lukman Dhari al-Asi. Lastly, the home of former MP Yassin al-Obeidi in Riyadh sub-district was overrun. This is the first tangible indication that IS intends to follow through with its plans to pacify its areas of control in the Hawija arc.
In Diyala, clashes erupted between the Islamic State and JRTN for the third time in a week, this time in the eastern villages of Sadiyah. Two men of each side were killed. North of Sadiyah, Peshmerga claimed to have killed five IS elements with an artillery strike on a house in the southern reaches of Jalula as IS returned mortar fire.
In Salah ad-Din, IS used IEDs to detonate the home of Salah ad-Din police chief MGEN Hamad Nams, who had already fled. Simultaneously, IS detonated IEDs on part of the Baiji police directorate, killing four children who were nearby. Critically, 3rd Division elements arrived to reinforce the bulk of the Fourth Division, which has been stationed and staging at its former HQ of Awja over the past week in preparation for a push northward. The 3rd Infantry Division had presumably partially collapsed in the general retreat from Mosul.
Back in Washington, Dana Priest and Aaron Gregg report that no Iraqi “team” has qualified to fly the F-16 and none will until mid-August. Individual pilots are indeed ready, as has been reported before, but flying a fourth-generation fighter jet requires more than one servicemember. The flight teams are not the limiting factor, in my opinion–the infrastructure to support the F-16 contingent doesn’t yet exist. Nor do the F-16s really matter all that much, given the fact that Iraq is calling is airstrikes from both of its neighbors, Iran and Syria.
Finally, the U.S. military reports that it has begun scrambling to fit AGM-114K/R Hellfires to aircraft other than the two extant AC-208s; given the fact that SOCOM and