Tuesday, 30 May 2017

ISIS uses remittance companies to obtain money, says Iraqi judicial council

ISIS uses remittance companies to obtain money, says Iraqi judicial council

 
SULAIMANI – The Iraqi Higher Judicial Council released a report on Wednesday (May 10) saying that the Islamic State (ISIS) is using remittance companies and selling goods to the Iraqi market in order to create funds.

The judicial council report also said security forces had detained a number of ISIS militants who were responsible for ISIS finances in the country. A number of investigative prosecutors told the judicial council that a number of the detainees worked in the group finding methods to receive money. The judicial council said ISIS receives money from rich people in neighboring countries through remittance companies.

“A large amount of the money which is sent through remittance companies is transmitted to Baghdad,” the report added. “A person who receives the money says the money has been transferred to him to buy houses, cars or refineries. It is repeated twice a month.”
The report also stated that ISIS is receiving money through indirect ways such as selling goods to the Iraqi market to obtain money. The goods are traded cheaply so as to be sold rapidly.

The report comes after ISIS loses territories it captured in the country during its swift advance in 2014. The militant group is now facing a big loss after Iraqi forces liberated the eastern side of Mosul in February. ISIS militants captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, when they swept across the country's north in the summer of 2014. Iraqi forces have gradually clawed back territory since then, and launched a massive operation to retake Mosul in October last year.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Jihadists snaring starving civilians in Mosul death trap

Jihadists snaring starving civilians in Mosul death trap

May 11, 2017 (Yahoo News)


Baghdad (AFP) - Jihadists preparing for a desperate last stand in Mosul are booby-trapping homes with civilians inside and welding doors shut on starving families to prevent the population from fleeing, residents say. Iraqi forces are closing in fast on the Old City and its narrow streets, where the Islamic State group is expected to focus its significantly depleted military capabilities.
The most violent group in modern jihad has repeatedly resorted to human shields to cover its movements but in Mosul the jihadists appear to be taking the tactic to new levels.

"Daesh came to our house and welded the door. They gave us a small amount of water and a white cloth and said: 'Here's a shroud for you'," said one resident of Zinjili neighbourhood.
The woman sent a voice message to a relative living in the "liberated" eastern side of Mosul and said she was now trapped in her own house with her husband, her four children and no food.
Resources were already scarce when the huge government offensive to wrest back Mosul from IS was launched in October last year. After more than six months of fighting, the living conditions of residents of the last neighbourhoods IS still holds are beyond dire. A 35-year-old man who gave his name as Abu Rami and lives in the Old City of west Mosul said IS was desperate to keep the population from running away.

"They have been doing this lately. When they suspect a family of intending to escape to the security forces, they lock them in," he told AFP by phone.

- Hunger the biggest killer -

"They have detained several families like this here, and in some cases they weld the doors to be sure," he said. Houses in Mosul often have barred windows or are built around walled courtyards with a single door onto the street.

"Those families have a choice of dying of hunger, disease or shelling."
Abdulkarim al-Obeidi, a civil activist from Mosul, said an estimated 250,000 people were still trapped in the Old City and the handful of other areas that remain under IS control.
"Daesh is locking doors on families inside those areas that have not yet been liberated. They are detaining people," he said.

He put the number of IS fighters defending their last redoubts in west Mosul at around 600, meaning that the jihadists are massively outnumbered and making the resort to human shields an increasingly important part of their defence strategy.
"Daesh members have everything they need because they raided people's homes and took their food stockpiles," Obeidi said, advocating airdrops to save thousands from starving to death.
"Daesh wants to sow terror among civilians with this filthy tactic of welding doors shut on people," said Hossameddin al-Abbar, a councillor for Nineveh, the province of which Mosul is the capital.
"There are people dying of hunger and disease now, especially children and elderly people," he said, adding that it was impossible to know exactly how many.
"At this stage, hunger is killing more than shelling and fighting."

- Booby traps -
Another method residents say IS has used to prevent a civilian exodus is booby-trapping, a weapon the jihadists had previously used mainly to kill or maim the advancing government forces.
A senior officer of the interior ministry's elite Rapid Response forces said they had found several families stuck in booby-trapped homes since the launch last week of an operation in northwestern Mosul.

"The Daesh gangs are booby-trapping houses with people inside them," Major General Thamer Abu Turab told an AFP reporter in west Mosul.

"We found eight such houses, where our EOD (ordnance disposal) teams were able to defuse the devices and get the families out," he said.
The jihadists' deterrence seems effective as cases of families attempting to flee IS-held areas before the arrival of the federal security forces are relatively rare.
Many of the civilians who are not locked in by IS essentially do it themselves and hunker down in basements with whatever food supplies they still have.
Abu Imad, a middle-aged former restaurant employee who lives with his family of five in the Zinjili neighbourhood, said the population was terrified.
"Behind the walls on the streets, there are rooms and cellars packed with people too scared to move. And hunger is killing people now," he told AFP by phone.
"I know some people have started eating plants and are boiling paper. At this rate you will soon see people eating cats and dogs."
AFP

Bibliotheca Alexandrina launches campaign to provide Mosul University library with 100,000 books

Bibliotheca Alexandrina launches campaign to provide Mosul University library with 100,000 books




(IraqiNews.com) The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt has launched an international campaign to provide Ashurbanipal Library of the Mosul University with 100,000 books, within efforts to revive the library destroyed by the Islamic State militants in 2015.

“The first amount of books offered to Ashurbanipal reaches 1,500 titles of books offered from Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the Egyptian national committee for museums and the French institute for documents and social studies,” according to Khaled Azab, head of the BA Central Projects and Services Sector.

“The Bibliotheca Alexandrina leads an international campaign to provide Ashurbanipal with 100,000 books,” he added.

The Egyptian Library offered Mosul University around 5,000 books before IS burnt the Mosul Library after taking over the city. Ashurbanipal Library, named after the last ancient Assyrian king, is one of the oldest libraries in the world. The group, which considered sculptures as symbols of infidelity, posted videos showing its members axing down priceless monuments in Mosul, drawing international condemnation. Reports later showed that some antiquities were sold out in online auctions.

Eastern Mosul was retaken by government troops in January after three months of battles. Another major offensive was launched in February to retake the western side of the city.

VIDEO: Thousands Flee Mosul As End Nears For Islamic State

Thousands Flee Mosul As End Nears For Islamic State

5/10/2017 (MSN)


As Iraqi security forces enter their final phase of the Mosul campaign, thousands of residents continue to flee the northern city. According to the United Nations, 22,000 people have fled Mosul in the last week. Citing figures from the Iraqi government, the UN added that over 11,000 people passed through a screening site south of Mosul over two days. Those fleeing the city stated the harrowing escape was fraught with danger, because Islamic State militants shot at them. Over the last seven months, an estimated 600,000 people have fled the city. The mass exodus has coincided with the government's campaign to liberate the northern Iraqi city.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

VIDEO: The girl whose school was run by so-called Islamic State

The girl whose school was run by so-called Islamic State

10 May 2017 (BBC)

Eight-year-old Shifa'a went to school in Mosul, the Iraqi city controlled by so-called Islamic State for the last two years. She says she was beaten on her first day for not wearing a headscarf or niqab.

Her family risked their lives to flee the war-torn city and take refuge in a camp outside Mosul, where she dreams of one day becoming a doctor, a teacher or a journalist.

Young, pregnant and running from ISIS

Young, pregnant and running from ISIS

May 9, 2017 (Rescue)

Ihab was born as his mother fled the battle for Mosul. His father was killed in the early days of the fighting.



Almost 17,000 people live in Al Hol camp in northeast Syria, most of them Iraqi refugees fleeing the battle in Mosul, where coalition forces are fighting to retake the city from ISIS.
Among them is 20-year-old Sherine, who left Mosul last November.  Nearly six months pregnant at the time, she, her mother, brother, and five sisters would embark on a journey that found them wandering in desert, fleeing waves of fighting and dodging landmines—searching for a safe haven to give birth to her child.
Escape from Mosul
Like so many expectant parents, Sherine and her husband spent her first trimester dreaming of the future. “In Mosul, we were planning, talking about how to raise the baby, so many things,” she says, staring blankly ahead as she remembers. Then she glances at baby Ihab, her three-week old son, and she smiles. “He looks like his father, but he has my eyes.”
But Ihab’s father is not with her—he died in the early days of fighting in Mosul.
After her son-in-law’s death, Sherine’s mother, Noor, decided it was time for the family to leave the city.
“Life under ISIS was like a prison,” recalls Noor. “It got worse and worse.” Noor, too, had lost her husband, left to raise her seven children alone.
“We heard about Al Hol camp, that life was okay there,” she says. “But the route going west was difficult, and I had no money to pay a smuggler.”

CONTINUE READING

Operating in a war zone: DO volunteers outside Mosul, Iraq

Operating in a war zone: DO volunteers outside Mosul, Iraq



Just after Christmas last year, general surgeon Timothy Burandt, DO, left his Michigan home to volunteer for the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse in northern Iraq, near Mosul. Dr. Burandt spent the month of January operating on patients at the organization’s newly constructed emergency field hospital and returned for another month in April.
Because the field hospital was hours closer to conflict areas than the nearest medical facility, many of his patients would likely have died if their care had been delayed.
Ultimately, Dr. Burandt operated on more than 100 patients during his two months in Iraq. This fall, he’ll receive the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons’ Humanitarian Award for his service. Following is an edited interview.

What surprised you about practicing outside Mosul?

The degree of injury in a war zone is like nothing I’d ever seen before. We saw so much penetrating trauma—land mines, IEDs, snipers, pieces of metal and plastic ripping through bodies. The lethality and the volume of it is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
We took care of civilians as well as Iraqi security forces and ISIS fighters. I learned that many ISIS fighters are not ISIS ideologues. In so many cases, people were coerced into fighting with ISIS. They were kidnapped or ISIS had threatened to kill their families if they didn’t join.
Dr. Burandt (center right with green cap) is in the operating room at the emergency field hospital outside Mosul, Iraq. (Photo provided by Dr. Burandt)

What was a typical day like at the field hospital?

In January, when the hospital was still being set up, it was all emergency surgery and acute injuries, such as those from IEDs and gunshots. There were often mass casualties from people who had been at a market that got mortared or had been shot by snipers. We would have to see all patients in minutes and decide who went first, second, third, and so on.
When I returned in April, we were starting to see more chronic injuries. People would come in who had been hurt for days or weeks but were unable to get medical care because it was unsafe for them to travel.
It was more common for us to have a schedule of surgeries for the day then, though ambulances would show up at any time. We were operating from 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 at night. Afterward, we would do rounds, see how people were progressing, and make decisions about when their next operation would be.

Tell us about a patient who stuck with you.

In January, I operated on a 30-year-old mother who had been holding her baby when an IED exploded outside her house. She had penetrating shrapnel in her chest, arms and abdomen. She lost her left arm and right leg. The baby had been instantly killed, but likely saved his mother’s life by preventing shrapnel from getting near her heart or most vital organs.
She was hanging on by a thread in the intensive care unit, but eventually recovered to the point that she could be discharged. In April, she came back to the hospital and I didn’t recognize her. She was a young, vibrant woman. We taught her then how to stand up using a crutch. We’re hoping that soon, she’ll be able to get a prosthesis and start walking again.
She lived through something horrendous, but is thriving. She left all of us with a sense of hope.

How did you cope with worries about your own safety?

Samaritan’s Purse did an excellent job keeping us safe. I received safety training beforehand—hours of online courses on land mines, IEDs, and so on. When I got there, I was briefed daily on security in and around the hospital. They taught us how to react if there was an attack on the hospital. They had bunkers we could retreat to. Ultimately, you rely on security experts to take care of safety, so you can focus on your patients.

How did you emotionally cope with all the trauma you saw?

The surgeons try to do as much as they can as a group. Together, we would decide who got surgery first, who got placed on the four ventilators we had at the hospital. This way, no one person bears the weight of making a life-or-death decision.

Will you be returning?

I may be going back this month.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Iraqi forces close in on Mosul with bit-by-bit push

Iraqi forces close in on Mosul with bit-by-bit push

2017-05-09 (Xinhua)


MOSUL, Iraq, May 8 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants on Monday pushed further into northern Mosul on the fifth day of a new push that initiated a new front in the northwestern edge of IS stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The army's 9th Armored Division and elite forces of the federal police, known as Rapid Response, freed the neighborhood of Harmat and raised the Iraqi flag over some of its buildings after heavy clashes against IS militants, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
The troops also recaptured Harmat's residential buildings after heavy clashes against IS militants who were holed up in the buildings, leaving at least 17 militants killed, Qasim Nazzal, commander of the 9th division, told Xinhua in the western side of Mosul.


Nazzal confirmed that the troops are now initiating a new push at the edge of the neighboring July 30 neighborhood, which is one of the main IS redoubts in the northern part of Mosul's western side.
Meanwhile, the federal police forces pushed toward the adjacent neighborhood of al-Iqtisadi and opened a new front in southern July 30 neighborhood amid heavy clashes with the extremist militants, Raid Shakir Jawdat, the commander of federal police, said in a statement.
Also in the day, the commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) made a significant progress in the industrial area of Wadi Ugab in northwestern Mosul and seized most of the vast area, putting the troops at the edge of the IS stronghold in Islah al-Ziraie neighborhood, the JOC said in a separate statement.

The CTS Commander Abdul Ghani al-Asadi told Xinhua that the troops fought fierce street-to-street battles against IS militants, killing at least 13 of them, including three suicide bombers, and destroyed two suicide car bombs. "The CTS forces are also fighting on other fronts; they are fighting alongside the army and the federal police in the neighborhoods of Harmat, July 30 and Zanjily which is adjacent to the old city center," Asadi said.

Early on Thursday, the Iraqi army and Rapid Response special forces pushed on the new front from the northwestern edge of Mosul toward the areas of Mushairfah, Kanisah and Harmat in the northern part of the western side of the city.

The new push would help the special forces of the CTS and the interior ministry federal police, who are making slow progress in the southern part of Mosul's western side because of the stiff resistance of the militants in the densely-populated areas of the old city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.The IS militants are now being surrounded by the troops in the northern part of Mosul's western side, which includes the old city center. Captain Mahmoud, commander of a federal police company fighting IS militants inside the old city center, said the new push in the northwestern part of Mosul's western side has reduced the pressure on the security forces in the old city center.

Observers say the new push was designed to pull some of IS militants from the narrow streets of the densely-populated city center to fight them in less densely-populated neighborhoods with wide streets in northwestern Mosul, in order to reduce the civilian casualties in the city center. The new push would enable the troops to advance deeper inside the city center, in particular toward the old areas around the historical al-Nuri Mosque in the middle of Mosul's old city center. The mosque with its famous leaning minaret, which gave the city its nickname "al-Hadbaa" or "the hunchback," has a symbolic value, as it was where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the cross-border caliphate in large areas in Iraq and Syria in his sole public appearance in July 2014.

Late in January, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, declared the liberation of Mosul's eastern side, or the left bank of Tigris, after over 100 days of fighting IS militants.

On February 19, Abadi announced the start of an offensive to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the city.
However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and heavily populated neighborhoods, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces. Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.


Front Line: Inside Iraqi Soldiers’ Anti-IS War

Front Line: Inside Iraqi Soldiers’ Anti-IS War



Iraqi soldiers waiting to deploy to the front lines take selfies and tell stories, anxious to get back into the action after weeks of waiting, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)


The walkie-talkie in the commander’s hand buzzes and crackles as soldiers line up their humvees and tanks, readying themselves to enter Islamic State territory.

“Tell all the men to put on helmets,” are the orders over the walkie-talkie. “I don’t want to see anyone without a helmet!”

A few minutes later, many of the soldiers still don’t have helmets, including the commander with the walkie-talkie, who wears a camouflage cap.

Five full Iraqi divisions are fighting in the latest offensive to re-take IS-controlled northwestern Mosul, including the Army, Federal Police and Special Forces known as the Golden Division and the Emergency Response Division.

A few kilometers from the battle the Iraqi Army’s 16th division’ appears gleeful as they get out of their vehicles to wait on the dusty once-residential street for the next order to move forward. Some men tease each other and take selfies.

Gunner Ali el-Babli shows a photo of himself after a recent battle, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)



Only the gunners perched inside humvees with their heads and weapons exposed on the top appear to remain on high alert as we wait. If the battle goes wrong, they are in the most danger. Most of them wear helmets.

“I was scared at first,” says gunner Ali el-Babli, in a rare admission in this world of bravura. “But after two years I’m used to it.”

Five Iraqi divisions are now deployed in northwestern Mosul, fighting to retake the bulk of the city and surround the densely populated Old City, which has stalled the battle for weeks, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

The clamor from the nearby IS-controlled neighborhoods is constant. Airstrikes crash into buildings and militants fire machine guns at helicopters overhead. Plumes of smoke shoot hundreds of feet into the air as car bombs explode. An IS mortar lobbed clear over Iraqi front lines falls in the field across the street.

The 16th Division has not seen action in weeks, and soldiers tell us the long days and nights spent in crowded make-shift bases while airstrikes and mortars pound the militants nearby has taken its toll. The waiting, soldiers say, is harder than the fighting.

“Just five or 10 minutes,” Lt. Col. Amar Younis tells us as he whips out of his commander’s office, a card-table set up inside an abandoned home. “And you will see us beating IS with your own eyes.”

The wait

Around 5 a.m. that morning, more than an hour before the units began lining up for battle, Salim, a cook at one of the 16th’s bases, had rattled a spoon in a metal can, shouting at the men to get up.

Most bounded out of bed, bypassing breakfast to grab their gear. But as the cool morning fades into glaring noon sun, so does the excitement. The militants’ defense has proven fierce, and a long night of air attacks has not broken their lines.

An Iraqi soldier points his gun at a Mosul suburb fiercely held by IS militants, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

IS heat-seeking missiles are threatening Iraqi tanks, the first line of Iraqi ground forces, and drone cameras show cars patrolling IS-controlled areas. In IS neighborhoods these days civilians don’t drive cars. They are either car bombs, or gunmen, or both.

Still waiting on the street to deploy, many soldiers crouch along a wall to stay out of the sun. Body armor leans against the concrete and higher-ranking officers have returned to the base.

Orders come to move out, and the men race into their vehicles, engines rattle and the line pulls out. After traveling a block closer to the battle, they pull over again. Men get out of their humvees, some looking deflated. Someone brings lunch, plastic bags full of the usual meal of rice-and-beans and small chunks of meat in white styrofoam containers.

Chatter turns away from battle and some men show pictures of their children on their mobile phones. Others show videos of themselves fishing by throwing grenades into small ponds.

El-Babli, the gunner, shares his biscuits and tells stories of recent victories. “We took the last area in record time,” he says. "I killed two IS militants when we liberated the shopping mall. My commander gave me two days off for that.”

Battle begins

Some men are still eating when the orders finally come in the early afternoon. Styrofoam trays are cast aside and the row of vehicles dissipates in a matter of minutes. They head for the fields surrounding an isolated suburban neighborhood on a hill. Parked at the base of the hill are cars and trucks that may or may not be laden with explosives.

After taking back this field from IS, trucks plow down IS barriers to allow humvees to move into the fight, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

A technical team of about five men enter the field on foot, searching for IEDs among the weeds. Tanks rumble to the front, parking in a row a couple of hundred meters from the IS-held neighborhood. The cacophony of battle sounds continues, as black smoke from another division’s battle streams into the sky.

About 20 civilians attempt to escape the hill, fleeing with a white flag in front of them.
"See those buildings over there?” says Lt. Col. Younis after firing a machine gun. “We are going to take those buildings and we are going to sleep there tonight.”

The hours that follow are painstaking, with tanks and other vehicles re-positioning themselves closer to the militants meter by meter. Soldiers say the pace of the fight varies as much as the terrain they fight in. Victory for them will mean reaching the next line on the map where they again wait for orders.

For politicians, a victory in Mosul will be a defining moment in the battle with IS. But for the army, it will just mean re-deploying resources to Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still entirely controlled by IS or other areas, like Ramadi, where sporadic fighting continues.

“After this fight there will be more wars to win,” says Major Abass Aziz.

Opinion: Whatever Happened to the Plan to Defeat ISIS?

Whatever Happened to the Plan to Defeat ISIS?

May 8 2017 (Slate)


On Jan. 28, President Trump ordered Secretary of Defense James Mattis to devise a plan, within 30 days, on how to defeat ISIS. Mattis turned in his report on Feb. 27, and, according to senior officials, it is still sitting in the White House. In the 70 days since it landed on his desk, Trump has not responded to it, modified it, or approved it as policy.

In other words, despite Trump’s claim during the election campaign that he had a plan for beating ISIS, and his later claim that he would ask the generals if they had a better idea and act on it quickly if they did, the administration has no plan—no overarching strategy—for defeating the fighters and propagandists of the Islamic State.
Mattis’ plan, according to officials who have seen it, is a “whole-of-government effort,” addressing not just the battle in Syria and Iraq but also the need for political stability after ISIS is defeated and a diplomatic settlement, including humanitarian assistance, throughout the entire region.
The absence of a presidential decision on the plan weighs heavily as the combatants slog through the final—in some ways, most brutal—round of fighting in Mosul. Even before Mattis finished his report, Trump loosened controls on U.S. commanders in the field, letting them decide on their own whether to drop bombs on targets in populated areas. The “rules of engagement” weren’t changed, nor did commanders start ignoring the laws of warfare. But whereas President Obama would often rule on whether to bomb or refrain if there was some chance that an airstrike would kill civilians, Trump has let the officer in the field calculate the probabilities and decide whether they’re too high, or low enough, to order an attack.
 
This may be one reason for the recent surge of civilian casualties in Mosul. In this latest phase of fighting, ISIS militiamen have often herded residents—those who have stayed—into a building, then put a sniper up on the roof. The idea is either to deter Iraqi soldiers and U.S. fighter planes from bombing the building, knowing that dozens of civilians would die—or to lure them to destroy the building, in the hope that the survivors and the relatives of those killed will blame the Iraqis and the Americans for the carnage, thus reigniting opposition to the Baghdad government and the U.S. military.
The ISIS commanders seem on the verge of defeat in Iraq; the battle for Mosul is their last stand. But they also understand that the war is shifting to a new phase—to the struggle for who controls Iraq (and Syria) even after they’re diminished or defeated on the battlefield. And they are fighting in a way that has the best chance of sustaining the chaos and instability—conditions on which their rebellion thrives.
In fact, all the local combatants are positioning themselves for the next phase. The fighting in Mosul is so intense, in good part, because one of the leaders in the anti–ISIS coalition, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), wants it to be intense. On paper, the PMF—which comprises more than one-third of the allied fighters in Mosul—has been incorporated into the Iraqi army, but in fact, it remains true to its origins as a Shiite militia, backed by—and loyal to—Iran.
During the run-up to the battle for Mosul, U.S. military advisers wanted to keep a route clear, so that ISIS militias could evacuate the city. First, it would be easier to pummel the militias out in the open than to engage them in door-to-door urban combat. Second, fewer civilians trapped in the city would be killed, and fewer homes would be destroyed.
But, according to a senior officer involved in these discussions, the PMF leaders rejected the advice. Their goal, all along, has been to establish Shiite dominance throughout Iraq—especially in the province of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital. They want to punish Mosul, a majority Sunni city. And they want to weaken the Iraqi Security Forces, the country’s established army, which has taken the brunt of casualties in the urban war of attrition, thus leaving the PMF as Iraq’s dominant military force.
So the noose was wrapped entirely around Mosul, with no escape routes, and ISIS dug in to fight. The Iraqi army’s approach to this sort of battle plays right into the PMF’s desire for maximum destruction. As they have shown in previous battles over the years—Ramadi, Fallujah, Bayii, and Sinjar—Iraqi officers don’t bother with the delicate task of clearing buildings that the enemy occupies. Instead, they flatten the buildings, then occupy the rubble. That’s what has happened in Mosul; it has made the fighting more intense, and it will make the recovery more prolonged and difficult.
The combatants’ rush to position themselves for the era after the fall of ISIS—whether the era is one of negotiations or further conflict—also explains Turkey’s recent airstrikes against the Kurdish militias that have been the United States’ most effective allies in the fight against Islamic State on the Syrian side of the border.
The Turks see ISIS as a foe, but they regard the Kurds as an existential threat. This is the biggest thing that Trump doesn’t understand and that few Western leaders grasp until they look at this conflict up close. “To everybody but us,” one senior military officer told me, “the defeat of ISIS is the least important goal.”
This is why, as the defeat of ISIS draws near, the lack of a coherent U.S. strategy—or, more precisely, Trump’s hesitation or refusal to accept, adapt, or do something with Mattis’ plan—is such a source of anxiety. All the other players in this politico-military fight—the leaders of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Gulf States, the Sunni powers (especially Saudi Arabia), and the various militias, whether jihadist or anti-jihadist—know what their interests are and how they want the game to play out.
 
Only the United States doesn’t know, or hasn’t clearly expressed, its interests and desires. One senior official put it to me bluntly: “There is no clearly articulated end-point.” Yet this is what strategy is about: aligning a nation-state’s interests with the resources it wants to commit to fulfilling those interests. Trump is escalating U.S.–military involvement in all the battles of the region, but without a strategy—without an “articulated end-point”—escalation is senseless.
As Trump has discovered about health care and every other issue that he takes a look at, the fight against ISIS is a lot more complicated than he’d thought. Mattis has ideas, but neither he nor anyone else in the administration can put them in motion until the president decides just what it is he wants to do. We may be waiting a long time for that to happen, as the chaos continues to spiral and the bombs continue to fall.
 
 

PHOTOS: Youngsters enjoy Mosul's reopened cafes and game rooms

Youngsters enjoy Mosul's reopened cafes and game rooms

8/5/2017 (Rudaw)


After closing down for three years, billiard, dominoes and shisha halls are open to the youth of Mosul.

Such places of relaxation and fun were deemed by ISIS as 'haram.'
Four months after retaking it from ISIS, life is getting back to normal in the eastern half of Mosul.

Islamic State execute 47 multinationals in Hawija, including members

Islamic State execute 47 multinationals in Hawija, including members



Kirkuk (IraqiNew.com) Islamic State members executed 47 of their prisoners in Kirkuk’s Hawija on Monday, including 12 of their comrades, according to local sources in the province.
Those executed were of several Arab nationalities, according to the source, who added that the sentence was applied as per an order from the group’s so-called wali( mayor) of Hawija at al-Bakara airbase. Militants filmed the execution, according to the source who did not explain the method of the execution.

IS members have been in control over Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk since 2014, when the group came to the scene, took over several Iraqi regions and proclaimed an Islamic “caliphate”. Iraqi government forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition and paramilitary troops, launched an offensive in October to retake the city of Mosul, Islamic State’s largest urban stronghold in Iraq. The Iraqi government is planning to aim at other IS havens across Iraq after Mosul. Iraqi generals have said Islamic State currently controls only less that seven percent of Iraq’s territories.

Since taking over Iraqi regions, Islamic State members have executed civilians, security personnel and many of its own members for various reasons ranging from collaboration with security forces to attempting to flee areas under the group’s control, poor performance in combat against Iraqi troops and violating the group’s extreme religious rules.