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


(Wikipedia)



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.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Musings On Iraq 9 Year Anniversary


Back in 2001 on September 11 I was watching CBS news with Dan Rather to catch upon the day’s terrorist attack. One of the guests was former CIA director James Woolsey who was part of the neoconservative movement in the United States. Woolsey spent his entire interview talking about how it was time for the United States to strike Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein even if he had nothing to do with the Al Qaeda attack. For whatever reason this stuck in my head as a very odd thing to say. By the end of the year I began to notice a growing number of reports in the press about the United States considering Iraq in the new war on terror. I decided then that I would find out why the Bush administration was going to war. By 2002 I was reading everything I could read about Iraq and posting long posts on message boards about the coming conflict. In 2008 I decided I should publish some of these thoughts and started this blog Musings On Iraq. Since then I have expanded my research to reading around 45 papers a day, reading all the reports and think tank pieces that come out about Iraq, networked with dozens of people who are involved in the country, and done 120 interviews. I would like to thank all those people who have helped me along the way and all the readers. In 9 years my site has gotten over 5.3 million hits. That wouldn’t be possible without all of you.

Mosul Campaign Day 243 Jun 16 2017


Picture of destruction in Rifai neighborhood west Mosul freed on May 17, 2017 (Baghdad Post)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) continued to have problems with their reporting. First, Bab al-Sinjar one of the northern entrances to the Old City district was officially declared freed yesterday. On June 16 however, three brigades from the army’s 9th Division seized a market there. To the north, the Federal Police said they held 30-35% of the Shifa neighborhood. This was despite the fact that the police have been fighting over the same area of Shifa since the end of May, and claimed that it held 60% back on June 11. The Rapid Reaction Division was still struggling over the Old City as well. The pressure from Baghdad to have daily reports of progress and victories is what leads to these contradictory stories and exaggerations.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 242 Jun 15 2017


Only two neighborhoods remain under Islamic State control in Mosul the Old City (large section in white) and Shifa (small section in white)

The Iraqi forces (ISF) were taking on one of the last two neighborhoods in Mosul under Islamic State control, while they officially announced another under government control. The Joint Operations Command officially declared Bab al-Sinjar one of the northern entrances to the Old City district freed. The Rapid Reaction Division and 9th Division were still attacking the medical center in Shifa. That area was originally entered at the end of May, but the Iraqi forces got ambushed by IS and driven off. Some reports have the ISF holding up to 60% of the neighborhood, while others have them stuck in the medical center with little other progress, so that figure may be an exaggeration. Shifa and the Old City are the last two sections of the city under insurgent control. The latter will be the last to be taken, and will likely be the most difficult due to its dense layout and the fact that the insurgents have nowhere to go but die fighting.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mosul Campaign Day 241 Jun 14 2017


A force of at least 100 Islamic State fighters moved from the Old City district (Sheik Abu Al Ula on map) down the Tigris River and attacked Danadan and Dawasa neighborhoods (bottom right of map) forcing police to temporarily retreat to the Mosul International Airport (bottom of map). Zinjali (top left corner) was finally freed by Iraqi forces on June 13. Iraqis are now trying to free Shifa (Shafaa on map) and its host of hospitals before attacking the Old City the last major section of Mosul under IS control. (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

The Islamic State launched a surprise attack upon the Iraqi forces in two neighborhoods in southern west Mosul. Starting at 3 am around 100 Islamic State fighters attacked the Danadan neighborhood coming out of the Old City district. The fighters moved along the Tigris River and opened with 7 car bombs from the front and 25 suicide bombers that hit the Federal Police from the rear. One police commander told the press there might have been up to 50 suicide bombers, but that figure might have just come from the heat of the battle with so many explosions going off. The Federal Police claimed that IS sleeper cells were responsible for the attacks from behind. The insurgents set fire to buildings to create smoke to try to prevent air strikes, took over a mosque to announce their presence, and executed 6 people. They were able to expand the attack into Dawasa and Nabi Sheet as well. The police were temporarily forced back to the Mosul airport outside of the city. By the afternoon, the Iraqi forces (ISF) and a spokesman for the U.S. led Coalition claimed that all the lost territory was re-captured. That was contradicted by a man who talked with the Washington Post who said there were still IS fighters on his block, and a Federal Police officer who told Reuters clashes continued. Throughout the Mosul battle the insurgents have been able to occasionally launch these large attacks and throw the ISF back on their heels.

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 t...