IRAQ TRACKER 9 JUL: 3 IS car bombs & 50 militia-executed bodies in Babil;

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.

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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 2 JUL: ISF fight followers of rogue Shi’a cleric in Karbala; continued Hawija backlash against IS

In Karbala–a normally placid area–supporters of rogue Sadrist Shi’a cleric Sheikh Mahmoud al-Hassani al-Sarkhi clashed with IA and SWAT forces in the Saif Saeed district of the city. ISF immediately imposed a curfew and cut comms and internet in the province, signaling their worry of metastasizing protests. ISF had surrounded Sarkhi’s home in preparation for an arrest when fighting broke out that left 4 IA soldiers dead and another 12 wounded, with 14 Sarkhi followers dead and another 25 wounded. 10 Sarkhi followers were subsequently arrested. Later, the IA pulled out and was replaced by CTS forces while negotiations continued with Sarkhi himself.

Several policeman were wounded in clashes in Diwaniyah (Qadisiyah) province to the east while preventing Sarkhi supporters from reinforcing their leader. Basra Governor Majid Nasrawi made similar pronouncements about the stability of his territory. Authorities claimed to have arrested 30 Sarkhi followers attempting to enter Karbala, too.

In Salah ad-Din, IA Aviation helicopters struck Islamic State (IS) fuel reservoirs and tankers stationed at the Tikrit Teaching Hospital, a compound just south of the Presidential Palace in the city center, an indication of improved ISF targeting capability. ISF is staging, with Shi’a militia support, at the former 4th Division HQ in Awja, just south of the city.

SimultaneouslyIA Aviation birds bombarded Sharqat, reportedly killing 18 and wounding 18, mostly civilians. One step forward, two steps back. Jelam, the area northeast of Tikrit, is still inhabited by insurgents, as evidenced by continued IA Aviation airstrikes there. 20km north of Hawija, tribal forces, likely operating under the banner of the Hawija Liberation Brigades, retook the Mahouz IP station from IS elements in continued tribal backlash in Hawija’s outlying areas.

 

Further south, an ISIS raid from the lawless area of Nebai, southwest of Samarra, was repelled by ISF and Sadrist Saraya al-Salam elements. That corridor continues to be a crucial link for the Islamic State from Salah ad-Din down to Fallujah and Ramadi.

In Anbar, rare positive news: tribal forces are patrolling from the Turaibil border crossing with Jordan to 125km NE on the international highway, hoping to facilitate trade. They’re also patrolling south from the international highway to Nukhaib, still the forward point of ISF in the province. Another 9 civilians were killed by IA artillery fire in Fallujah.

In Diyala, insurgents began targeting electricity infrastructure, which they recently began in the Fallujah area, as well.

In Babil, the governor’s office claimed that IA Aviation struck an IS gathering in Abd al-Wayis, a village in northwest Jurf al-Sakhar, which left 60 dead and 9 vehicles destroyed. Given the fact that the same office pronounced these areas cleared yesterday, such figures should be heavily discounted.

Basra’s 3 volunteering training centers produced another battalion of fighters, sent north to fight IS.

politics: The Sadrist Trend continues to militate against Maliki’s nomination within INA, with MP Rafi abd al-Jabbar spinning the narrative that makes it seem like the Sadrists are simply being mindful of Sunni and Kurdish distaste for a third Maliki term. Reidar Visser hits back at facile media narratives about the Iraqi political process, noting again that the Shi’a coalition has not lost any ground since the beginning of the government formation process.

DOD announced that the latest contingent of 200 embassy protection soldiers will bring with them RQ-7 tactical Shadow UAVs and AH-64(? model) Apache attack helicopters to protect American personnel. The Department of State gave notice that the U.S. plans to sell 4,000 AGM-144K/R Hellfire missiles to Iraq, a vast improvement over previous tranche sizes. I do not expect Congressional opposition to this sale, though a Senator or two might make noise about Maliki. 

Conversely, the Russians delivered 4 Mi-35 Hind E assault helos and 3 Mi-28NE attack helos today, part of the October 2012 deal, which is nearly complete now. The Russian Su-25 delivery seems to have been misrepresented by the Iraqi MoD–the Su-25s flying over Bghdad yesterday were IRGC-operated Iranian copies, according to IISS analysis.

—– writing on iraq —–

Bassem Mroue, writing for AP, captures the rise of IS Syrian military commander Omar al-Shishani following his role in the seizure of Managh AB in August 2013. Interestingly, Mroue posits that Shishani could grab the top IS military command spot, following the death of former Iraqi military commander Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Bilawi al-Anbari in June 2014’s Mosul clashes–a change that would further, concomitant with the caliphate announcement, tie the two theaters together.

IRAQ TRACKER 26 JUN: ISIS fights Badr + ISF in Mansuriyah; ISF staging at Ishaqi; ISOF airborne assault @ Tikrit uni; Syria hit Rabiaa?

In Salah ad-Din, sources reported a military buildup of IA and CTS forces near Ishaqi, ostensibly in preparation for the retaking of Tikrit, which ISOF commander Fadhil Barwari has also announced. While IA Aviation has been striking Tikrit for a week now, their softening attempt is not likely to have significantly degraded the militant posture in Tikrit itself, while ISIS robbed the Agricultural Bank of Tikrit last night, leaving with around $6m USD.

      ISOF claims to have carried out a successful airborne assault (with 3 helos) on Tikrit University, which would be a heartening indication that someone in the ISF command structure appreciates initiative in warfare. If the three birds were unaccompanied, IA Aviation probably used Mi-35 Hind Es–which can protect themselves–indicating an assault force of platoon size. As yet, the situation remains unclear as does a similar assault in Sharqat district; though Salah ad-Din governor Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri has now confirmed it.  Further south, ISF reported that a contingent of IA M1A1 Abrams MBTs destroyed 4 ISIS vehicles and killed 28 fighters in the Rafiyat area south of Balad, which also indicates continued insurgent freedom of movement in the Balad sub-district.  

      ISF also caught 3 ISIS snipers crossing the river north of Samarra–continued indication of ISIS’s extensive usage of waterways that has included boat-borne explosive attacks on bridges and the employment of mobile pontoon bridges for movement. IA Aviation claimed to have destroyed an ISIS convoy consisting of 4 fuel tankers and 3 arms/ammunition trucks south of Siniyah, a possible indication of resupply by ISIS to its forward operating areas. North of Tikrit, in Sharqat district, ISIS reportedly executed 7 IA soldiers.

In Kirkuk, the contested town of Bashir saw ISIS mortar fire killed three Kurdish peshmerga soldiers and wound two more. North of Kirkuk, in the KRG capital of Irbil, the brother of contorversial Sunni politican Mishan al-Jubouri was assassinated in a hotel by men using silenced pistols. Waiting for more information on that one. Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani today visits, Kirkuk–will be inflammatory, for sure. ISIS also held a military parade in Hawija, reportedly consisting of 300 military and civilian vehicles in total.

In Diyala, an ISIS assault using ISF military vehicles hit a security checkpoint in Deli Abbas (Mansouriyah), a large village just northwest of Muqdadiyah–an area that has been heavily contested over the past week. ISIS elements executed a policeman before engaging with ISF backed by tribal fighters, who killed 5 ISIS fighters and destroyed three vehicles. Diyala police chief later cited higher numbers of KIA and alluded to the capture of an ISIS safe house in the village, though conflicting reports mentioned ISIS’s capture of an IA barracks on the town’s outskirts. The counterattack was reportedly led by Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri–who also led the attack on Udhaim–and indicates the increasingly active participation of the Badr Organization, led by Amiri, which currently provides security across large swathes of Diyala. Fighting continues, with Iraq Oil Report stating that the advance threatens the Mansouriyah gas field.

Up in Sadiyah, an area of ISIS control, the group burned three shops after owners refused to pay tribute–the first such behavior in Sadiyah in recent memory. East, across the border in Iran, 3 Iranian border guards were killed by unknown gunmen.

In Ninewa, the Syrian Air Force reportedly struck ISIS positions in the border town of Rabiaa, an odd report given Peshmerga control of the area. ISIS-Peshmerga fighting in Qara Qosh continues; so far, Pesh forces have suffered 1KIA 8WIA, while ISIS suffered 2KIA 18WIA. Despite the Pesh cordon around Bartella, an ISIS suicide car bomber (SVBIED) got through to the Shabak village of Muwafaqiyah, killing and injuring a number of citizens.

In Mosul, 28 bodies showed up at the morgue, many bearing stab wounds. No idea. ISIS today bulldozed the Hadba Police Directorate. IA Aviation struck an ISIS convoy passing through Hammam al-Alil, roughly 15km south of Mosul along the river. Governor Athil al-Nujaifi is attempting to get Baghdad to pay the salaries of Mosul’s administrative employees by transferring funds to Irbil…unlikely to happen.

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In Babil, authorities found 8 more executed bodies in Mahmudiyah. It is unclear where these bodies are from–they could be from a contingent of men kidnapped earlier this week, or recently executed men in response to yesterday’s suicide bombing and mortaring of Mahmudiyah, a Shi’a stronghold just south of Baghdad. ISF continued operations in the Jurf area, citing 15 ISIS fighters KIA.

In Baghdad, an ISIS suicide bomber [SVEST] hit the Quraish gate in the Shi’a neighborhood of Kadhimiyah, leaving seven dead and 34 more wounded. Military leaders began setting up the first joint operations center with U.S. forces. NYT reports on Shi’a militia activities in Baghdad itself, nearing my figure of ~20 executions per week–a far cry from the absolute horror that once was Baghdad, but a telling sign of possibilities to come, should the crisis deepen. Down in Dhi Qar, Maliki replaced MGEN Sadiq al-Zaidi with BGEN Hassan Salman Zaidi.

In Anbar, PM Maliki ostensibly confirmed to BBC that the airstrikes in Rutba and Qaim (and presumably Baaj) were Syrian in origin; Maliki said he had not requested the strikes (doubtful), but welcomed them. ISF’s 1st ISOF Brigade claimed to have cleared Dubbat district in southern Ramadi–unlikely–while dismantling 10 large IEDs that sources reported were “foreign-made;” simultaneously, ISF reportedly lost control of SW Ramadi’s Tamim District and its central strongpoint of the Shaheed IP station. Interestingly, reports from Jordan indicate that the kingdom is in close contact with tribal leaders in western Anbar as a channel of influence that goes beyond their defensive posture on the border. IA + Sahwa are holding the line at Haditha, where fighting continues, as ISF opens 5 sluices of the Haditha dam. Dhi Qar province sent 1,000 members of a Popular Brigade (of volunteers) to the border with Saudi Arabia; many of the Border Enforcement units in that area have been deployed elsewhere.

POLITICS: The first parliamentary meet-up for government formation will occur on July 1st. Al-Hayat cites high-ranking political sources who say that the INA has agreed to dump Maliki, but the source’s report of widespread support for Ahmed Chalabi leaves me suspicious of the origin of the information. Surely Iran and the U.S. do not believe they can pull a PM candidate from outside Dawa? The INA is meeting again today; NYT reports that at least three senior SLC MPs are wavering on Maliki, incl. former NSA Abd al-Karim al-Anzi

While meeting with Kerry in Paris, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman went right after Kerry’s message during his visit to Irbil, wherein he emphasized unity of Iraq. Lieberman said such a move was a “foregone conclusion,” words echoed by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was at the White House on Thursday. Not entirely surprising, given Tel Aviv’s choice to import Kurdish oil in contravention of the U.S. policy of non-sale prior to resolution of the oil-sharing dispute by Irbil and Baghdad. While in Paris, Kerry also met with GCC leaders to push a second Sunni Awakening and remained noncommital on endorsing or dumping PM Maliki.

KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani and Kirkuk governor Najmuddin Karim visited Ankara to meet with Erdogan, Davetoglu, Hakan, and Yildiz; both sides seemed to see eye to eye on the need for an inclusive Iraqi government, though KRG’s words were, of course, far more explicit. KRG President Masoud Barzani, meanwhile, took a morale-boosting tour of Kirkuk.

Elsewhere, Mutahidun lieutenant Mohammed Iqbal criticized yesterday’s decision by Maliki to hold off on paying salaries in contested zones, accusing the PM of sectarian bias, since the decision primarily affects Sunnis. 

writing on iraq

Buzzfeed’s Mike Giglio continues his string of fine reporting, this time following an AAH fighter from Karbala who had been fighting in the Damascus countryside with AAH’s expeditionary groups. He was called back from leave while in Karbala when ISIS overran Mosul; AAH deployed to Mosul, Ramadi, and Diyala (the last two of which have seen low-level, covert Shi’a militia activity for some time). The fighter’s account at the end–of AAH deployments coincident with, but not operating with, Iraqi Army elements–is fascinating, and new evidence of AAH-only operations beyond their normal advisory role. A quote further up is also telling–that many AAH recruits drop out of training because it is so difficult…which speaks to the professionalism of the IRGC-QF and Hizballah training contingents in Iraq, a far cry from the normal ISF training procedures and even further from the one-week course new recruits are now getting.

Plus and interesting report in Newsweek about the capabilities of Iraqi intelligence services. Shane Harris on FPM reports on the difficulties social media companies have in purging their services of jihadi propaganda. WINEP’s Matt Levitt provides a thorough overview of a potential expansion of Lebanese Hezbollah deployments in Iraq–particularly likely if AAH and KH continue to falter in their areas of operations.

Another worrying report from Reuters on ISIS’s C2 abilities w/r/t other Sunni insurgent groups, countered by a fine report by Mushreq Abbas on differing ideologies amongst insurgent actors.

IRAQ DAILY TRACKER 18 JUN: ISIS takes Baiji refinery, 3 IP stations in Anbar; kidnaps 40 Indian workers; Rouhani endorses shrine defense,

At dawn, ISIS launched an attack on the Baiji refinery against the IA airborne battalion stationed there in poor tactical position, as ISIS controls much of the city itself. Thought ISF spokesman Atta denied the fall of the refinery–which shut down operations yesterday–sources from the refinery said that the IA battalion, even with IA Aviation helicopter support, failed to stem the assault. Mass surrender again factored in, with 70 IA soldiers reportedly taken prisoner, and one lieutenant quoted as having fled when the battle was clearly lost. Though the foreign refinery workers had already been evacuated, Iraqi workers who took refuge in underground bunkers could be coerced into operating the refinery for ISIS, should the group retain control of the city. Clashes appear to be ongoing in the refinery area, with ISF’s Counter-terrorism Services (CTS) reportedly still fighting.  BAIJI PIC

Across the border, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani further expanded the extent of the Iranian “shrine defense” narrative, which UMD Shi’a Islamist researcher Phillip Smyth predicted and described in a podcast with Karl Morand earlier this week. On the flip side, American president Barack Obama today ruled out immediate airstrikes on Iraqi insurgents, indicating his preference for ISR support, military partnerships, and regional support. In other international aspects, ISIS reportedly kidnapped 40 Indian nationals working for a Turkish construction company near Mosul. Indian nationals have been kidnapped in Iraq before–rarely–and India now joins Turkey on the list of countries with large numbers of nationals in ISIS custody.

Tuz Khurmatu mayor Shalal Abdul–normally a fairly reputable source–announced that ISIS took control of three villages between Tuz and Amerli (85km south) after fighting with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that left 20 dead in total, though the Tuz area itself remains in Peshmerga control. In the same area, ISIS kidnapped three Turkish engineers and their Iraqi driver near the Hamrin Mountains, continuing their trend of kidnapping Turkish citizens begun with the seizure of the Turkish consulate in Mosul.

In Mosul, Al Mada quoted citizens who reported that ISIS withdrew its foreign fighters from the area, citing their inability to manage effective governance programs (though whomever is administrating doesn’t seem to be doing any better, with basic conditions of life inside the city deteriorating rapidly). This is the second report to identify such behavior, and while it is unlikely to be wholly true, it speaks to the group’s grasp of economy of force: remove a possible irritant to the population and deploy them where they are most effective–the battlefield. ISIS also reportedly set up a city council, which began reaching out to nearby tribes for support. The citizens also reported that all government institutions have closed, save for the municipal and health ministries, with private banks and government buildings now left unguarded. Niqash interviewed Ninewa Provincial Council head Bashar al-Kikhi in Qara Qosh, who had a number of interesting tidbits, including that no churches or Christians were killed (but that they had all fled), and that he considers Shabak and Yezidi citizens are at risk. He said that ISIS allocated one mosque for repentance ceremonies, and said ISIS exercises full control over what he believed were four other insurgent groups, including preventing JRTN from appointing a new governor.  He puts the original attacking force of ISIS at 200, but said many locals had been previously recruited by ISIS, a credible theory given the longstanding ISIS chokehold over the city.

The battle for Tal Afar continues, with ISF reportedly consolidated at Tal Afar airport and receiving reinforcements from the Shammar tribe of Rabia.

In western Anbar, ISIS attacked and took three police stations–Hamdan, Abu Taliban, and Jazira–in Hit district. Government forces stationed in the outposts fled, and ISIS now controls all three, a significant win in their continued push against overextended ISF in western Anbar. Eastward, a rare bright spot in Anbar theater, where ISF reportedly repelled an ISIS assault on an IA headquarters near the Rawoud Bridge NW of Baghdad. Nine ISIS fighters were killed in the attack, including three foreign fighters. RAWOUD BRIDGEAnbar police announced plans to recruit and deploy three new emergency police battalions to western Anbar and the Iraq-Syria border, the latter of which enjoys increasingly little control by government forces, given recent incursions by ISIS, the Free Syrian Army, and Jabhat al-Nusra. A claim that Sahwa forces are ill-equipped and haven’t been paid in months could be problematic for the Anbar effort, if confirmed. Alter in the day, ISF lost more territory in Anbar, incl. in Albu Dhiab, N of Ramadi, where insurgents still control the highway through the city.

Elsewhere, ISIS mortared an unknown target 10km east of Tikrit, where tribal Sahwa are reportedly deployed, a rather precarious tactical situation for those contingents. ISF spokesman GEN Atta announced the death of another 42 ISIS fighters in the Lakes Region of northern Babil, a regular occurrence as a result of the clearing operations underway there for months. Yet at least ISF do not seem to be suffering serious operational setbacks in that area, a direct result of the number and quality of ISF deployed in northern Babil to prevent insurgent advances toward the Shi’a heartland, beginning with Hilla and Mussayib. Still, the slow pace of advances has led the government to deploy 1500 “volunteers” (possibly/probably Shi’a militia contingents) to Jurf al-Sakhar.

In Diyala. A small clash broke out in Abu Itamur, near Khalis, indicating ISIS presence in the area. One of the four militants killed was Chechnyan, a rarity for the Iraq side of ISIS operations. Further north along the highway, IA Aviation allegedly hit an ISIS meeting in the Udhaim area, leaving 15 militants dead. As an indicator of position, Peshmerga clashed with ISIS near the Jalula Bridge, leaving 2 ISIS dead and 6 Pesh soldiers wounded.