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.

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IRAQ TRACKER 27 JUN: ISIS withdraws from Aalam to Tikrit; 10,000 displaced in Qara Qosh; U.S. mission expands

In Salah ad-Din, intensified IA Aviation airstrike on Tikrit reportedly forced ISIS to withdraw around 50 wounded fighters from the hospital in Tikrit. They were moved to an unknown location. Additionally, locals reported that ISIS withdrew from the nearby town of Alam, seized three days ago, after tribal mediation. They said fighters headed back to Tikrit. More reporting will help conclude whether ISIS withdrew primarily at the behest of tribal leaders it wishes to work with, or because it needs the military power in Tikrit. Federal Police subsequently re-occupied Aalam. IA Aviation airstrikes continue in Tikrit in support of the airborne assault, which began yesterday at the university stadium and saw one helicopter crash after being hit by insurgent fire. It remains unclear how much progress ISOF has made; a video purportedly from the fight showing about a dozen ISIS KIA and 4-5 captured ISIS fighters was released today. Preliminary indications from the Jabour tribe in Salah ad-Din presage further fighting between tribal elements and ISIS in the province.

Peshmerga stationed in Tuz Khurmatu reported that only 500m separates their lines from those of ISIS, which resides in Salman Beg, The Pesh sources added that they had received reinforcements and heavy weaponry as a precaution against a militant assault on the primarily Iraqi Turkmen town.

Just NE of Baiji refinery, the ISF reported that IA Aviation struck an ISIS checkpoint near the village of Adhirban, killing eight civilians, five ISIS fighters, and two vehicles. ISF claimed that ISIS used the civilians as human shields.

The U.S. quietly disclosed that it is now flying Hellfire-armed Predators over Baghdad as a force protection measure for the 140 newly arrived military advisers; the UAVs reportedly fly from Kuwait. U.S. (un)manned ISR flights are up to 40/day.

In Ninewa, displacement of Christian families continues from Qara Qosh and associated areas, following fighting between ISIS and Peshmerga forces there. 10,000 people have reportedly fled so far, says UNHCR. Unconfirmed reports state that ISIS distributed recruitment forms for men aged 18-50.

In Diyala, ISF emphasized their cordon around Muqdadiyah, saying heightened security procedures accompanied patrols by ISF and Sahwa fighters around the city, fearing militant targeting of Shi’a mosques. Up in Sadiyah, tribal fighters ambushed and killed two militants driving from the ISIS-controlled town to the Hamrin Mountains, an historic refuge for insurgents. Unconfirmed reports state that ISIS has banned representation of any other armed groups in Sadiyah. Two other ISIS members died while planting an IED on the outskirts of Sadiyah. In the southern suburbs of Jalula, ISF and Peshmerga forces repelled an ISIS attack on a Pesh barracks, killing three. Clashes continue in Mansouriyah, N of Muqdadiyah, where the IA lost 4 members and, along with tribal fighters, suffered 14 wounded.

In Anbar, gunmen prevented worshipers from attending Friday prayers in Rawa, fearing airstrikes by the Syrian government. ISF reportedly lost control of Tamim district in southwest Ramadi, allowing 12 HMMWVs, 2 tanks, 4 APCs, and a large amount of materiel to be captured. IA Aviation is now carrying out airstrikes on Tamim. Down south in the desert, militias of unclear origin were deployed in Nukhaib. ISIS released a video purporting to show captured ISF members in Rutba.

Fallujah General Hospital educational director Dr. Ahmed al-Shani says that 488 civilians have been killed and 1719 more wounded since fighting in Fallujah began in December 2013. Many of these casualties are as a result of the indiscriminate shelling of the city by Iraqi Army artillery elements.

In Babil, mortars landed on the 38th Brigade base in Jurf, indicating continued lack of security in the area, despite repeated ISF announcements that the area had been cleared.

In Kirkuk, Jaysh al-Mujahideen released a video claiming presence on the road between Kirkuk and Riyadh, and purportedly got one of the captured T-55 MBTs to work.

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In Baghdad, the Supreme Court surprisingly decided to punt on KRG’s independent oil exports, stating that they wouldn’t prevent exports while the case is being studied. Kurdistan continues to feel the effects of the oil crisis, as it relied on Baiji Refinery for 40% of its needs; plus, one of the two refineries in KRG has diverted flows to Kirkuk, which KRG is now supporting.

 

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Elsewhere, ISF evacuated 1,500 Chinese nationals from Salah ad-Din to Baghdad…surprising it took this long.