Sunday, June 25, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was cited in “Competing Interests in Shingal District: Examining the PKK-linked Structures, Defusing Tensions,” by Tomas Kavalek for the Middle East Research Institute, and in "Obstacles To Return In Retaken Areas Of Iraq" by the International Organization For Migration. My interview with journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg on the dispute over Sinjar was republished in eKurd.

Mosul Campaign Day 251 Jun 24 2017

Families fleeing the fighting in west Mosul (AFP)

June 24 was another slow day of advances for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in west Mosul. The Federal Police said it freed Bab al-Baid, one of the entrances to the Old City district. Other Federal Police units were pushing into the center of the district towards Farouq Street and the Omar al-Aswad Mosque. The Golden Division were also on the outskirts of the Nouri Mosque, which the Islamic State recently destroyed. A general from the division claimed that 50% of the Old City was now under government control and would be liberated in 10 days. To the north of the Old City the Rapid Reaction Division was still fighting to take the Republican Hospital and sections of the medical complex in the Shifa neighborhood. The ISF and Iraqi government are being overly optimistic as usual predicting that Mosul would be freed in days and overstating how much was taken from the insurgents. The government’s own maps of the Old City for example do not show half of it freed. There are likely a few more weeks of hard combat left before liberation can be proclaimed.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 250 Jun 23 2017

Movement in west Mosul was slow for the day. The Federal Police freed a church in Bab al-Baid, one of the entrances to the Old City district, and were still working their way through Farouq. There was heavy fighting in Bab al-Lakash, Sargakhana, and a few others areas of the district as well. Shifa, which is north of the Old City along the Tigris River was declared freed two times before, but the Rapid Reaction Division is still struggling to clear some buildings there in the medical complex. Overall, the Iraq authorities are hoping to declare the city freed by Eid, which is only a few days away. That’s probably being overly optimistic as there is still a lot of hard fighting ahead.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 249 Jun 22 2017

What’s left of the Al-Hadbaa minaret west Mosul after IS blew it up (BBC)

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were still pushing into the Old City of Mosul from multiple directions, and struggling over Shifa. The Federal Police were fighting over Bab Lakash and Bab al-Baid, two of the entrances to the district, and received reinforcements as well. The Golden Division held 60% of the Mashdah area, which is where the destroyed Nouri Mosque is located. The Defense Ministry officially declared the Shifa neighborhood north of the Old City freed, but in fact, the Rapid Reaction Division was still attempting to take some buildings in the medical complex. The ISF are always over anxious to publicize its victories, and that also leads to many situations like these where an area is called cleared when it’s not.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 248 Jun 21 2017

(Baghdad Post)
(Ninewa Media Center)

As the battle for Mosul comes to a close the Islamic State destroyed the iconic Nouri Mosque and al-Hadbaa Minaret. IS blew up the historic site, while claiming that an American airstrike was responsible. The destruction of the mosque was due to the rapid advance of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), which were said to be only meters away. The Federal Police were moving from the south on Bab al-Jadid and Ras al-Jada. The Golden Division and the army’s 16th Division were in the northwest in Farouq. The Rapid Reaction Division was coming down from Shifa in the northeast, which was recently freed. The army’s 9th Division was doing clearing duties in that neighborhood, and then will move along the Tigris River. The strategy is to attack upon multiple fronts and converge towards the middle dividing the Old City into several sections, which will then be swept through.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 246-47 Jun 19-20 2017

Iraqi police fighting in west Mosul’s Old City (AFP)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) made another advance, while the Islamic State is down to just one district under its control in Mosul. First, the army’s 9th Division announced that the Shifa neighborhood was finally freed. That allowed the ISF to also take the western end of the Fifth Bridge across the Tigris River. The Federal Police were still fighting for Bab al-Baid, attacked Bab al-Lakash, and advanced 200 meters into the Farouq area all in the Old City. The Golden Division freed Khazraj in that district as well. The insurgents launched another counter attack into Danadan south of the Old City, but was turned back. Shifa was a difficult battle, holding up the Iraqi forces for almost a month. With that finally under control, IS only holds the Old City. It will likely be the hardest part of the entire campaign because the streets are so narrow military vehicles cannot traverse them, the houses are so densely laid out that artillery, mortars and air strikes will likely take a heavy civilian toll, and the militants have nowhere to go, and will fight to the death. There are already signs of that as more than 200 bodies were said to have been pulled out of the rubble caused by ISF air strikes and artillery over the last few days.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sinjar Dispute Between The Hashd and Kurdistan Democratic Party Interview With Journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg


Sinjar in west Ninewa has become a flashpoint between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Hashd (PMU) and Yazidis after the Hashd liberated the remaining villages in the district from the Islamic State starting at the end of May 2017. The KDP immediately condemned the Hashd’s presence leading to a war of words between the two. Journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg recently travelled to the district. Here is an interview about what he saw. He can be followed on Twitter @vvanwilgenburg.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 245 Jun 18 2017

Smoke rising from new assault upon Old City district West Mosul (Bas News)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) finally launched a multi-pronged assault upon the Old City district in west Mosul. The operation started at 6 am. Two brigades from the Golden Division moved into Farouq in the northwest, while the army’s 16th Division advanced from Bab al-Sinjar and Bab al-Lakash in the north. A Federal Police brigade attacked Bab al-Baid in the southwest. They claimed they broke through the first two lines of the Islamic State’s defenses, while the Golden Division said progress was slow due to the dense layout of the streets and houses and the large number of civilians. IS launched four counter attacks consisting of car bombs and suicide bombers, but were turned back. The Iraqis were struggling over the medical complex in Shifa as well. Leaflets were dropped over the city by the Iraqi air force telling people that the ISF was coming, while loudspeakers blasted messages that the insurgents should surrender, and civilians should flee towards the Iraqi forces. Shifa and the Old City are the last two sections of the city still under the militants’ control. The latter was originally attacked in March, and the ISF quickly bogged down, and became a holding force to tie down IS fighters, while others moved up the flank and eventually to the north as well. Shifa was targeted when the latest offensive started at the end of May and the Iraqi forces have been stuck in the medical center that consists of several hospitals. Both are now under attack meaning the Mosul campaign is finally coming to a conclusion.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Musings On Iraq In The News

Mosul Campaign Day 244 Jun 17 2017

Father and his brother search dead bodies in west Mosul looking for his son (Voice of America)

There was fighting across the two remaining areas in west Mosul under Islamic State control. First, the Golden Division had to call off an attack upon Shifa due to heavy fire from IS, especially snipers in hospital buildings and the use of human shields. The Federal Police claimed to have taken Hospital Street in the neighborhood. Unofficially, a Federal Police Captain told Bas News they were in control of 70% of the neighborhood, while another police officer went further saying all of Shifa was freed. June 16, the police were only supposed to have 30-35% of the area, which was below the 60% mentioned on June 11. The Rapid Reaction Division assaulted Tal Zalat, which is one of the entrances to the Old City. Police reinforcements also arrived outside Bab al-Jadid and in Bab al-Sinjar two other ways into the Old City. When the new offensive started at the end of May the Iraqi forces (ISF) moved into the Shifa medical complex and immediately got ambushed by the insurgents and had to retreat. They have been struggling over the area ever since. That hasn’t stopped the Iraqis from claiming they controlled a varying amount of the neighborhood. The actual figure is impossible to say since it keeps going up and down. The Old City on the other hand, will be the last neighborhood taken on by the ISF. It has held up the police for four months or more now. It has a large civilian population, and the IS fighters have been able to successfully exploit the dense layout where armored vehicles are too large to traverse the streets to build formidable defense. The district will eventually fall, but it will be a bloody battle.  

Musings On Iraq In The News

I was cited in “Competing Interests in Shingal District: Examining the PKK-linked Structures, Defusing Tensions,” by Tomas Kavalek for t...