A video posted by ISIS Aug. 28 purports to show militants beheading a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter in Mosul. The video, posted to YouTube, says the killing is a warning to the Kurdistan Regional Government to end its alliance with the United States. In the footage, 14 other Peshmerga fighters are shown wearing orange prison suits, urging Kurds to reject their pact with the US against the Islamic State. Three armed militants stand behind one alleged Peshmerga captive near Mosul's iconic mosque, one of them brandishing a knife as he threatens that the rest of the Peshmerga troops will die if the KRG-US alliance does not come to an end. YouTube immediately removed the video. The video release comes as Peshmerga forces have taken several villages from ISIS in the Zumar area (Nineveh). (Rudaw)
ISIS supporters posted photos to Twitter of fighters from the militant group in control of Russian Sukhoi warplanes, as well as missiles and tanks seized after the jihadists overran the Syrian air base of Tabaqa. The fall of the base gives ISIS full control over Raqqa governorate. Syrian government forces withdrew from the base after a battle that lasted five days, leaving 195 government troops and 346 ISIS fighters dead. The images appear to contradict the Damascus governemnt's claim that all aircraft had been evacuated form the base before it fell. (IraqiNews.com, Aug. 28; AP, Aug. 25)
A suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a husseiniya, or Shi'ite mosque, in central Baghdad on Aug. 25, leaving at least 13 dead. Three were killed and several wounded in two other car bombings elsewhere in Baghdad. Another 23 were killed in car bombings at the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala and nearby al-Hilla. (IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, BBC News, NYT) A Kurdish MP in Iraq's parliament called on new Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to either arm the Kurdistan Regional Government or permit it to seek arms elsewhere. "It is crucial for the new government of Baghdad to give weapons to Peshmerga forces and train them as part of the Iraqi army or allow the Kurdistan Region to be able to buy weapons from other countries," said MP Shwan Mohammed Taha. "Today, Peshmerga forces protect 20% of Iraq's border and our demands are not unconstitutional. Putting Peshmerga forces in the security system of Iraq is a constitutional demand." (BasNews) Iranian Kurdish guerilla fighters that crossed the border to fight ISIS in the Jalawla and Khanaqen areas were prevented by the continued presence of Iranian government forces, according to the BasNews independent new agency. Tehran denies reports that Iranian forces are fighting in Iraq. (BasNews)
Iraqi government forces say they have driven back an ISIS advance on the country's largest oil refinery, killing several insurgents. The Baiji refinery (Salaheddin [Salah ad Din] governorate) has been the site of several battles between government forces and militants over the past months. (BBC News) A 2,000-strong militia has been raised to relieve the 18,000 Turkmen at the ISIS-besieged village of Amerli, also in Salaheddin. The force is commanded by Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri, a former commander of the Badr militia. (Azzaman) A group of PKK-affiliated HPG-YJA STAR fighters has reached the Duhok (also rendered Dahouk) area and taken up positions in the mountains around the city to defend it from an ISIS advance. (ANF)
Aug. 21 marked the one-year anniversary of the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, found by international investigations to have been the work of the Bashar Assad regime. The Syrian diaspora around the world held protests and vigils marking the event, the one in New York's Times Square the evening of Aug. 22 drawing some 200 wearing matching t-shirts reading "CHEMICAL MASSACRE IN SYRIA: WE WILL NEVER FORGET." Amid Syrian flags (the pre-Assad version used by the rebel forces), protesters laid white-shrouded effigies representing the dead, and as the sun set lit rows of small candles that formed the number 1,476—the sum of those killed in the attack. At the climax of the ceremony, hundreds of the victims' names were read aloud. The protest, co-organized by Save Syrian Children, was dubbed One Year of Breathing Death, in recognition of the fact that chemical attacks in Syria have continued. Organizers said activists have confirmed 27 separate cases of chemical gas use since the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 2118, calling for the destruction of all chemical weapons and chemical weapons facilities in Syria. (WW4R on the scene)
Boy, did we ever call this one. Contrary to the prevailing leftist conspiracy theory that the US was backing ISIS against Assad, we predicted earlier this year that the US would soon intervene in Syria against al-Qaeda and its offshoots such as ISIS. Today, the New York Times reports the comments of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that ISIS cannot be defeated unless the US or its partners take them on in Syria. "This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated," Dempsey said. "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no." Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who both spoke at a Pentagon press conference, stopped short of saying air-strikes on Syria are planned, but the comments were obviously intended to float the idea.
The taking of the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River from ISIS by Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by US air power highlights the strategic nature of water in the multi-sided Iraq conflict. Even before ISIS seized the giant dam in early August, the militants were taking advantage of the country's drought, cutting off the flow of water from the dam to Baghdad through territory under their control. "ISIS is starting to use dams as weapon of war," wrote meteorologist Eric Holthaus, Slate's Future Tense blog. "So they've made [it] high on their list to take over those dams and control the water downstream." July saw battles between ISIS militants and government troops over the Haditha Dam and its hydroelectric works on the Euphrates. The fall of the complex to ISIS would have given the rebels control over Baghdad's electricity source. But the most grave danger has not passed: ongoing fighting and air-strikes in the area of the Mosul Dam could lead to the dam being breached, which would flood Mosul and other downstream cities, possibly even affecting Baghdad.
ISIS fighters shot and beheaded some 700 members of the Shueitat tribe in eastern Syria over the past two weeks, crushing a local uprising against the jihadi forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports. Tribesmen expelled ISIS fighters from the villages of Kishkiyeh, Abu Hamam and Granij in Deir el-Zour governorate earlier this month before the jihadists launched their counter-offensive. "They considered all members of the Shueitat tribe apostates because they rose against them," said a Turkey-based activist who is from the region and in touch with residents there. "Some men were taken out in the fields and beheaded while others were shot in the head." Syrian warplanes are bombing ISIS positions in an attempt to halt the militants' advance on an army base in the area. (AP, Aug. 18)