IRAQ TRACKER 6/7 JUL: 6ID commander KIA in Garma; IS suicide bombings in Kadhimiayh, Washash; CoR delay

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.

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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.

IRAQ TRACKER 1 JULY: Parliament adjourns til 8 JUL following Kurdish walkout; backlash against ISIS in Mosul and Hajjaj;

BLUF: Parliament convened, but failed to make any progress after a Sunni and Kurdish walkout. JRTN attacked the Islamic State (IS) in two provinces. Russian pilots will soon arrive to fly the Su-25s in combat; 3 are already airborne. IS moved into a village south of Baiji, but was expelled by the Jibouri tribe.

255 out of 328 MPs attended today’s parliamentary session, but the meeting–intended to see discussion of possible leadership candidates–quickly devolved into bickering and was postponed for a week after Allawi’s bloc and then the Kurdish contingent walked out. The Kurdish boycott was prompted by State of Law Coalition MP Kadhim al-Sayadi interrupting a Kurd who had the floor to accuse the Kurds as a whole of collaborating with the Islamic State.

In parliament, the Shi’a MPs present did not make an attempt to maintain quorum by themselves, and the entirety of the parliament essentially ignored Sistani’s call for adherence to the constitutional schedule last week. KRG President Masoud Barzani has announced a press conference for Thursday, where he intends to set a date for a Kurdish referendum on independence, another tactic to push parliament toward swift resolution of the government formation process. In an interview with BBC, Barzani put the timeline at “months” for a referendum, but threw the initiative to Kurdish parliament.

In Ninewa, unidentified gunmen attacked and killed three ISIS members–including a foreign fighter–in the Mosul al-Jadida (New Mosul) neighborhood in the city’s western sector. As Mosul had previously not experienced overt tension between insurgent groups, this activity could represent the initiation of pushback by the Baathist group JRTN or others against the announcement of a caliphate by the Islamic State. The Iraqi Air Force claimed to have struck an IS gathering at the University of Mosul.

An overt JRTN mortar attack on IS positions took place in the IS-controlled town Sadiyah in northern Diyala province; subsequent clashes left 1 JRTN and 3 IS members dead. This area, with its insurgent redoubts in the Hamrin Mountains to the west, has seen fighting between insurgent groups before, including months-long run of tit-for-tat kidnappings and assassination between IS and JRTN recently. Additionally, reports claimed that IS members were burning cigarettes in the town center of Sadiyah, an IS stronghold just northeast of Muqdadiyah. Recent similar behavior–flogging citizens in Sadiyah and other enforcement measures in Qara Tapah–were not seen as often prior to the caliphate announcement. IS continues to exert control over Qara Tapah, today detonating IEDs to destroy 3 houses belonging to Turkmen policemen.

In Salah ad-Din, Islamic State (IS) elements took over a school in Hajjaj village, just south of Baiji, before being expelled from the area by Jubouri tribal elements. This expulsion follows the mediated withdrawal of IS men from Alam just a few days ago, a second sign of wider Jubouri tribal distaste for Caliph Ibrahim. Fighting continues in Tikrit, with 100 vehicles of reinforcements for ISF and associated Shi’a militias rolling through Samarra on their way north today.

In Anbar, IA artillery continued indiscriminate shelling on Fallujah, killing another 9 civilians and destroying the electricity station to the northwest of the city. The ISF can no longer be considered to have operational direction in the Fallujah theater. Anonymous reports claim that the attacking alliance, which contains IS, JRTN, IAI, and Jaish al-Rashideen, is negotiating with Jughaifi and Albu Salman tribal leaders for the safe exit of remaining ISF units in the city.

In Baghdad, low-level sectarian activities continued, with a Ministry of Commerce employee shot and killed in western Baghdad’s Iskan neighborhood and two more people were killed in a home attack in the NW Baghdad area of Rahminiyah. Police found two executed bodies in W Baghdad’s Hurriya area, with another two executed men found in Sadr City’s northernmost reaches.  A clash erupted between Iraqi Army “volunteers” and IS elements in Mashadah, just north of the city, indicating further IS presence in the area following yesterday’s raid on an IA convoy just north in Tarmiyah.

Babil province continues to see massive bouts of recruitment for the ISF, with Governor Sadiq al-Madloul today announcing two new brigades: the 1st Lion of Babil Brigade and the 2nd Aquilah Brigade; the naming of the latter suggests that the brigade is at least comprised of Shi’a partisans, if not militiamembers themselves. Maliki replaced the Babil Operations Command leader [BabOC] for the fourth time in six months. New commander MGEN Abdul Hussein al-Baidhani was fired in 2006 for allowing widespread looting when his unit took over from the British at Camp Abu Naji in Amara, Maysan.

Outside of Iraq, President Obama sent 300 more U.S. troops to the country, ostensibly for further embassy defense, while the Saudi king announced $500m in “aid” for Iraq, which will likely flow to Iraqi Sunnis exclusively.

–writing on iraq—-

Rod Nordland writes another bizarre piece for the NYT on Chalabi’s path to prime minister. I continue to refuse to take this suggestion seriously.