IRAQ TRACKER 8 JUL: CoR reconvened; IS suicide bomber in S Samarra; IS executes tribal forces in Azwya;

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.

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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.

IRAQ DAILY TRACKER 24 JUN: ISF credibility hits new low; ISIS hits Ramadi funeral; ISIS in Mosul to stay

ISIS held another military parade in Mosul last night–looking forward to reviewing that–while they reportedly bulldozed the Sheikh Fathi shrine west of the city today. The ISF commander in the area, Abu Walid, announced a new offensive in Tal Afar, but it remains unclear whether or not he still exercises command over whatever ISF contingents remain in western Ninewa province. A security source reported that ISIS continues to booby-trap its areas of control in Mosul, a development I warned would make re-taking seized cities more difficult by the day. Government employees are still working without pay in Mosul, and Baghdad today announced that salaries would only be paid in areas of government control, a product of both security concerns and an effort to showcase the ineffective governance capabilities of ISIS and its temporary allies. In Babil, ISF reportedly arrested 3 “Baath Party members” [read: JRTN] in Diriyah, a town just south of Madain. JRTN does not maintain a strong presence in Babil, where a heavy mix of Shi’a militias proliferate, with ISIS operating solo in the northwestern areas of the province that abut Anbar Province. Continued reports of these kind could indicate an extension of JRTN operational presence. ISF’s announcement of 24 ISIS KIA by IA 31/8Bde in northern Babil operations continues a months-long trend of announcing successful advances in Jurf al-Sakhar, an ISIS stronghold. Additional details include that 5 of the 24KIA were Qatari or Syrian, and ISIS reportedly used civilian shields in the fighting. In reality, that area of operations remains a stalemate. In Baghdad, Masalah is reporting that gunmen executed a hit-and-run attack on the Kirkuk Provincial Council chairman. I’m waiting for independent confirmation on this, but it could be any number of actor. In Salah ad-Din, Sammara Operations Command Iraqi Army elements reportedly clashed with ISIS in the Jelam desert area northeast of the city, claiming 40 ISIS KIA and 8 technicals destroyed. At the same time, 50 families (~200 people) fled from Yathrib, just north of Balad AB, across the Tigris into a village in Dhuluiya, which the ISF recently cleared, to a certain degree. Beating back insurgent advances in Yathrib–today ISF claimed to have killed 12 ISIS fighters–remains critical for ISF in terms of providing force protection to Balad AB. Reports coming out of Baiji refinery are near-unbelievable (40 ISIS KIA, etc) but fighting does appear to continue in the center of the complex; outside, IA Aviation claims to have killed 19 insurgents in airstrikes today, while PM Maliki announced his promotion of all ISF members fighting at the refinery. A Shi’a militia group entitled “Popular Defense Brigades” (still unclear who) met up with IA units on the Baghdad-Samarra roadway. The continued emphasis by government figures on volunteers joining up through official ISF channels serves as a decent indicator that much of the extant recruitment is occurring outside that framework into full-blown Iranian proxies or organic Shi’a militias unanswerable to ISF. ISF spokesman GEN Atta continues to stretch credulity with today’s announcement of the retaking of Waleed and Turaibil border crossings. These reports are no longer solid indicators of ISF operational presence or intent; rather, they are interesting markers of PM Maliki’s strategic communications plan. Indeed, a corroborating Anbar Operations Command announcement of a military offensive in western Anbar does nothing to reinforce Atta’s claims. In Anbar, Outside of Fallujah, in the still-under-construction University of Fallujah grounds to the south and in Sejar to the northeast, ISF Golden Division counter-terrorist elements killed 9 ISIS snipers. Finally, ISF reinforced Nukhaib, replacing local Iraqi Police with Federal Police–the town remains extremely vulnerable, especially to a basic siege. ISIS in Ramadi used a suicide car bomb [SVBIED] to hit a funeral for IA colonel Majeed Mohammed, who was recently killed in Rawa while leading the 28th Brigade. Prominent tribal leaders in Anbar–many of whom are anti-Maliki–announced that they will defend Haditha and its hydroelectric dam with the Iraq Army against an impending ISIS assault, a welcome development for Baghdad, which desperately needs tribal support to hold territory in Anbar. Over in Diyala, fighting continues in Udhaim, with ISF claiming 21 ISIS KIA and 2 vehicles destroyed–ISF have reportedly stood up popular committees of local tribal fighters to hold gains in Udhaim. ISF and tribal fighters continue to skirmish with ISIS on the outskirts of Sadiyah, an ISIS stronghold northeast of Muqdadiyah. Families in northern Sadiyah are leaving for Khanaqin as Peshmerga and tribal fighters battle ISIS there. In Kirkuk, WaPo’s Abigail Hauslohner delivers a fine report with the most granular detail yet on the ISIS massacres carried out upon seizure of Bashir and its associated farming villages. Such behavior further alienates local communities, which were already fairly anti-ISIS, given the massive response to an ISF recruitment drive initiated by the 12th Infantry Division carried out in March. other news NYT’s Tom Erdbrink reports on the intra-Shi’a divisions, emphasizing return of spat between Sistani and Sadr. McClatchy’s Hannah Allam has an incredible scoop from captured DOD documents analyzed by RAND that put ISIS’s outside funding at 5-10%, showing a tiered organization that requires each level to kick back 20% of income to the next higher level, where Mosul would funnel money back out to areas of fighting; also, martyr payments were the group’s largest expense; further, ISIS soldiers made only $40/mo in the period surveyed, highlighting the ideological sway of the group. Concomitantly, WINEP’s Lori Plotkin Boghardt also swats down the “outside funding” narrative, highlighting Saudi counter-financing efforts and the pervasive push by militant groups to get their donors to push money through Kuwait, a more permissive environment–or using cash transfers to avoid authorities in Riyadh.