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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Mosul’

ISIS Living High Life in Raqqa, Using Yazidi Females as Human Shields

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Terrorists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are preparing to defend areas they captured in northern Iraq after scores were killed last week in U.S. and French air strikes. The group has evacuated command-and-control centers in Mosul, Iraq and in Raqqa, Syria, according to a report posted by The Telegraph. They have also begun to use Yazidi women captives as human shields in other places, according to the report.

Raqqa is the informal “capital” of the ISIS “caliphate” and the site where the group has carried out three high-profile beheadings in recent weeks.

But it also turns out that in Raqqa, ISIS terrorists are still pretty much living the high life, when they are not busy with mass beheadings and capturing territory. It’s not a privilege they share with the locals, however.

The terrorists have taken over the governor’s ornate palace, and they are enjoying Western comforts brought to the palace by foreign fighters.

“Although there is a war on, Swiss chocolate is very popular with them,” one resident observed. “And you see some shops reserving Western food for the jihadists. I know that one of them asked a store to get an iPhone 6 for him. It cost $2,500 and was brought in from dealers in Turkey.”

Meanwhile, up to 100,000 Kurds and other local residents in the northern city of Kobane have fled to the Turkish border, where at least 70,000 had made it across by Monday morning in advance of a takeover of the city by ISIS.

Kurds who were moving in the other direction, however, to fight against ISIS, were equally concerned about the air strikes – not wanting to become targets themselves.

Abu Mohammed, a local activist quoted by the National Post and who runs the “Raqqa is being slaughtered silently” website, said, “People are afraid of the air strikes, that they might be used as human shields or be bombed.

“Many people fled to the countryside or to Turkey… When small planes for reconnaissance appear, the jihadists hide. They even lock the doors of their headquarters. They also moved their families, their women and children, outside Raqqa.”

Abu Mohammed added that locals don’t trust America any more than they trust ISIS. “If the U.S. is really against ISIS why did they leave them all that time, and why did they turna blind eye to Bashar al-Assad? He is a terrorist who is bombing us,” he asked.

Report: ISIS Shoots Down Syrian Regime Plane

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

ISIS shot down a Syrian regime’s warplane on Tuesday, Sept. 16, according to a report based on information from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The Syrian plane was engaged in attacking the ISIS base in Raqqa when it was shot down. Raqqa, used as the headquarters by ISIS,  is a city in north central Syria, on the north bank of the Euphrates River, approximately 100 miles east of Aleppo.

After being shot down, the plane crashed into a house. Rami Abdul Rahman, the SOHR director, said there were casualties on the ground. Other reports claimed there were eight casualties following the crash.

“It is the first aircraft shot down since the regime launched air strikes against the jihadists in July following their declaration of a caliphate in late June,” according to an SOHR statement.

Another account of the downed Syrian war plane declined to confirm whether ISIS was responsible for the crash. The Syrian air force has been bombing ISIS controlled territory continually since the group seized control of  Mosul, a city in Iraq near the Syrian border, when the group declared a caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.

A Syrian air strike on an ISIS training camp killed more than a dozen terrorists on Saturday.

The U.S. is assembling a coalition to fight against the ISIS terrorists. Syria allegedly offered to join the coalition but the offer was rebuffed. Syria is fighting against ISIS and a US-assembled coalition which has only been operating in Iraq is expected to take the fight to Syria as well.

With the fight against ISIS taking place within the same relatively small geographic region, the potential for perceived interference either by the western-backed coalition or by Syria poses additional problems or, perhaps, opportunities.

Obama Authorizes Targeted Air Strikes Against ISIL

Friday, August 8th, 2014

For the first time since December 2011, US President Barack Obama has authorized targeted air strikes against Al Qaeda-linked ISIL (Islamic State in the Levant) terrorists in Iraq.

“When we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye,” Obama told a news briefing Thursday. “Today, America is coming to help.”

However, White House spokesman later added a blunt clarification for reporters: “No combat boots on the ground.” The US would support Iraqi and Kurdish fighters in their efforts to beat back the Islamic State, but no American soldiers would pay the price in their stead.

Secretary of State John Kerry added that “ISIL’s campaign of terror against the innocent, including Yezedi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide. For anyone who needed a wake-up call, this is it.”

It is not really clear how the Islamic State’s “campaign of terror against the innocent” in Iraq differs from Palestinian Arab terrorist rocket attacks raining down on southern and central Israel, and their stabbing and rock attacks against civilians on the roads and within Israeli communities.

U.S. military aircraft dropped humanitarian aid to Iraqi refugees who have been trapped in the north of the country for some time, officials said, including 16 bundles containing 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 “meals ready-to-eat” or MREs, near Sinjar. Thousands are trapped on a mountaintop near Sinjar, Defense One reported, trying to flee the Islamic State terrorists.

The terror organization launched a coordinated attack spanning “hundreds of miles” in northern Iraq, administration officials said, leading to fears of “genocide.”

ISIS Kidnaps 10-year-olds for Army, Ultimate Aim: Jerusalem

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

In Syria and Iraq, the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) is now kidnapping boys as young as 10 years old to “recruit” them for a Shari’a (Islamic law) army whose ultimate goal is to “liberate” Jerusalem.

Some of the boys are joining up voluntarily, according to a report posted on the RT website. But many more are being conscripted against their will, and forced to fight in a jihad (Islamist holy war) they barely understand.

The two terrorists killed last Friday in Gaza in a surgical air strike by Israeli fighter pilots were both members of ISIS who had infiltrated the region. The terrorist group has begun to make its way towards Israel via the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Hamas-ruled Gaza. It has already seized control of the sole border crossing between Jordan and Iraq — a victory that prompted the United States to send troops overseas to “advise” officials in the Iraqi army, and quietly assist its ally, Jordan.

The report in RT quoted The Daily Beast, which described the youngest known ISIS fighter, 10-year-old ‘Abdullah,’ fighting with the group in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

The report described the young boy – who in this case joined up voluntarily, following his father and brother — as being masked and toting a heavy machine gun that was “about as big as him.”

But equally disturbing was the declaration by a gunman with the boy who told the news outlet, “We believe they will conquer all of Iraq and Persia and that they will liberate Jerusalem.

“They have a dream and their dream is to establish an Islamic state.”

Children in the ISIS bases undergo a 25-day course in which they are taught an extremist form of Islam and Shari’a law in daily classes, as well as the principles of jihad ideology. In addition, they are given field and combat training and are taught to use weapons, ITV reported.

The United Nations has apparently confirmed at least some of the above, noting in its annual report published in May, “children fighting in Syria with ISIS are reportedly paid like adults (35,000 Syrian pounds, approx. $200) and undergo both weapons and jihadist indoctrination training.”

Some of the children are subsequently sent on suicide bombing missions, according to a report published on June 24 by the Human Rights Watch organization.

The ISIS force currently fighting in Iraq is comprised of some 7,000 to 10,000 guerrillas.

ISIS in Iraq: the Pause IS the Assault on Baghdad

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The media refrain from the last 24 hours has been that ISIS is pausing in its sweep to the south toward Baghdad.  At least some of the mobile forces that entered Mosul the weekend of 7-8 June took off again at a trot, heading south through the Tigris River corridor and seizing Tikrit by Tuesday, scattering terrified Iraqis and foreign workers in their path.  But since then, ISIS hasn’t made further southerly progress through the Tigris corridor toward Baghdad.

The media have half-heartedly attributed this slowdown to force deployments by the Iraqi government, which have been accompanied by a few attacks on ISIS from the air.  But I think the journalists know this doesn’t really explain the slowdown, even if they can’t articulate why.

For one thing, ISIS doesn’t have to fight anywhere it doesn’t want to.  It’s waging a sort of guerrilla blitzkrieg right now, but unlike a massive armor and mechanized infantry force, it leaves no deployed men and equipment around, grouped in large formations that make attractive military targets.  Indeed, worse than not presenting a conventional military profile, ISIS seizes control of urban enclaves and forces the opponent to attack the people’s homes and businesses, if he wants to attack ISIS.

But I believe the important thing about the “pause” we’re seeing on the path to Baghdad is that it’s what we would expect ISIS to do, because it is the inauguration of the assault on Baghdad.  Some observers have already noted that ISIS is now consolidating positions outside of Baghdad.  That matters, but the more significant point is that ISIS was never going to attack Baghdad by entering it in force:  rolling through the streets in Humvees for a photo op.  When we see “random” explosions and assassinations proliferating inside Baghdad, that’s how we’ll know the assault is peaking.

ISIS has to soften Baghdad up first, because it is a much bigger objective than any city ISIS has taken up to now.  The map progression shows its geographic size relative to other key cities like Ramadi, Falluja, and Mosul.  Mosul has a substantially larger population than the Anbar Province cities, but it’s still smaller than Baghdad by an order of magnitude, at least in terms of military planning.

Relative size of cities taken by ISIS

Relative size of cities taken by ISIS

Baghdad’s population is about 3.8 million.  And its geo-ethnic conditions are particularly challenging, with the city’s big majority of Shias, and the Shias’ stronghold to the south, which will be – in my estimate – too tough a nut for ISIS to crack simultaneously with a campaign in Baghdad itself.

ISIS has no intention of “marching on” Baghdad.  The Sunni affiliates of ISIS are going to disrupt life in the city – government security, police, public services – so that Baghdad will be pinned down and tortured, unable to restore order or impose a unified political will.  This will take some time; the point is that the campaign will be underway, even though the ISIS shock troops we saw in Mosul are not careering through the city in a visible and identifiable manner.

ISIS modus operandi

Consider just two pieces of information (although there is a much more extensive narrative to pick from).  One is the backstory on today’s bit of news that ISIS has “captured” two villages in Diyala Province – between Baghdad and the border of Iran – and is menacing the key Diyala city of Baquba.

ISIS hasn’t just now moved into Diyala Province.  This territorial maneuver has been underway for some time, as recounted in a report published in April by the Institute for the Study of War.  Diyala Province has been a favorite haunt of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) for nearly a decade, but the last two years (2012-13) saw a significant increase in attacks there on Iraqi national forces, alongside the establishment of a permanent presence by ISIS and affiliated groups.

Team Obama: ‘Too Politically Sensitive’ to Evacuate US Personnel in Iraq

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Astounding words are being reported out of the Obama administration.  It is possible to frame them in a larger context of geopolitical and philosophical analysis about the current situation.  But it isn’t actually necessary.  What makes them astounding comes as much from their “first-order” meaning as from anything deeper or more deductive.

All we need to know is the basic facts.  The consortium of jihadists fighting under the ISIS banner in northern and western Iraq has taken over the city of Mosul and started a drive to the south toward Baghdad.  As of this writing, the advancing force is reportedly some 50-60 miles north of Baghdad.

Although Iraqi government forces fled precipitately from the ISIS attackers in Mosul, government troops are said to be mustering in Samarra – along the avenue of approach from Mosul to Baghdad on the Tigris River – and in Baghdad itself.

In case it’s not clear, this doesn’t mean the Iraqi army will probably protect Baghdad.  It means there will probably be a big, bloody fight of some kind in Baghdad – and that its outcome will be uncertain.

Baghdad is really too much for ISIS to bite off all at once, if the government troops perform even just a little better than they did in Mosul.  ISIS won’t fling itself uselessly into whatever counts as the Iraqi forces’ position of strength.  What ISIS may well have in mind is positioning forces on the outskirts of Baghdad, ready to pounce, and softening the city up with days of disruptive asymmetric attacks, on civilians, police and security leaders, and infrastructure, such as water and power.  Taking over microwave towers and power stations is a likely tactic.  Vicious, brutal intimidation of the populace will be the mode of advance.  (See here – strong warning; graphic – to view recent images posted by ISIS jihadis of “population intimidation” in the Mosul area.)

It doesn’t take brilliant insight or analysis to see this coming.  It may not, strictly speaking, be inevitable.  But there is literally nothing being prepared or put in place that would reliably prevent it.

Even the introduction of Iranian troops into Iraq, confirmed in the last 24 hours, is not necessarily a measure to decisively protect Baghdad or the Maliki government.  The force level described so far, perhaps between 2,000-3,000, would be inadequate to that task.  The Iranians themselves have emphasized the goal of protecting the Shia holy sites at Karbala and An Najaf, which lie south of Baghdad.

ISIS closing in on Baghdad.

ISIS closing in on Baghdad.

That may or may not be a downpayment on a bigger commitment.  It’s very possible the Iranians are hedging their bets, determined ultimately to preserve their political connection with the Iraqi Shias, even if the Maliki government itself doesn’t survive.  I wouldn’t predict with certainty right now how much the mullahs will risk on Maliki.  Reports suggest their forces have crossed into Iraq in at least two places, including central Iraq; their machinations behind the scenes are assuredly more robust and extensive than what they’re advertising in public.

Iraqi Kurds in the north, meanwhile have already taken over the city of Kirkuk.  The Iraqi central government’s authority in northern Iraq has basically collapsed.

In this situation, there is no possible explanation for not evacuating at least the non-essential personnel from the U.S. embassy and consulates in Iraq.  It is understandable and appropriate for the ambassador and a skeleton staff to remain, at least as conditions have unfolded up until now.  And it would have been conventional for the embassy and consulate staffs to keep enough personnel on the job over the last week to deal with American civilians in Iraq who are suddenly concerned about getting out of the country.

But a normal diplomatic profile in the face of the upheavals in Iraq would look very different from what we seem to be seeing, which is a complete absence of special preparations – in particular, preparations involving the U.S. military – to get our people safely out.

Given this background, two videos posted in the last 24 hours are informative, and alarming.  The first is from Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show on Friday, 13 June.  In it, she talks with retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, a Fox military analyst.

Al Qaeda Eyes Baghdad After Taking Northern Iraq

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The Al Qaeda-linked terror organization that earlier this week captured northern Iraq is now eyeing Baghdad.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known in Syria as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), earlier this week captured the major northern Iraqi city of Mosul – and then took Tikrit, the hometown of former dictator Sadaam Hussein.

The forces also control a large swathe of territory in the western and central regions of the country, and in eastern Syria — leading to wide speculation about whether an emirate may soon follow. Iraq’s lucrative oil fields in the north are especially vulnerable — and profitable.

Now, the group is vowing to march on Baghdad, as the country’s parliament meets in an emergency session to vote on a request by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to declare a state of emergency.

Up to half a million residents so far have fled Mosul, according to the BBC.

The UN Security Council said in a statement, meanwhile, that it “deplores in the strongest terms the recent events in the city of Mosul” and expressed concern for the hundreds of thousands who have since fled their homes. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on “the international community to unite in showing solidarity with Iraq as it confronts this serious security challenge”.

Faith in any help from the international community, however, is probably about as strong as that in help from America, which promised when it pulled out two and a half years ago to help Iraqi leaders “help push back against this aggression.” And then left them to twist in the wind.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/al-qaeda-eyes-baghdad-after-taking-northern-iraq/2014/06/12/

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