Peshmerga drive back ISIS; Baghdad divided

Kurdish Peshmerga forces claimed Aug. 10 to have liberated the towns of Makhmur and Gwer, some 80 kilometers south of Erbil, and surrounding areas that had been occupied by ISIS. (BasNews) ISIS militants have blown up the bridge on the Khazir River between Erbil and Mosul to slow Peshmerga progress. (BasNews) US air-strikes destroyed several ISIS armed vehicles outside Erbil, while Halgord Hikmat of the Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga Ministry said: "The US airstrikes against IS positions are done with the coordination of Peshmerga forces." He added that there are a number of US military advisers working with Peshmerga forces on the ground. (AP, BasNews) Iraqi parliamentarians from Mosul held a press conference in Baghdad to praise the Peshmerga offensive, while berating the central government for its failure to respond to the crisis. "The Iraqi government has been silent since the first day regarding the situation in Mosul and only watches the developments," said the angry MPs. (BasNews)

The independent Erbil-based BasNews reports that Arab tribes on the border the Kurdistan Region are collaborating with ISIS, especially in the areas of Jalula (Diyala governorate) and Daquq (Kirkuk governorate). (BasNews) Both these towns were occupied by Peshmerga forces when they seized Kirkuk city to prevent it from falling to ISIS in June. (ABC, June 21)

Surprisingly, Mariwan Naqishbandi, spokesman for Kurdistan's Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, told BasNews that that some 400 Kurdish youths have joined ISIS. Some 200 had joined over the past year to fight in Syria, but that number again have enlisted with the jihadists since the fall of Mosul in June. (BasNews)

In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Shi'ite-dominated regime has obviously driven Sunnis into the arms of ISIS, angrily refused calls for him to step down. In a speech, he accused newly elected President Fuad Masoum, a longitime leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), of "violating the constitution for political reasons" by failing to name a prime minister from the country's largest parliamentary faction, Maliki's own "State of Law" bloc. (Rudaw, CTV) The US State Department issued a statement expressing support for Masoum. President Obama called on Maliki to form a "more inclusive" government, while stopping short of demanding his resignation. (Bloomberg, Reuters)