Iraq's new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi issued a statement welcoming Barack Obama's announcement of a new campaign against ISIS. On the same day Obama gave his speech, Abadi met in Baghdad with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss international support for Iraqi forces in the drive against ISIS. (BasNews, Sept. 12; Aswat al-Iraq, Sept. 10) While Abadi's government continues to be Shi'ite-dominated, there are signs of success in his efforts to forge a pact with Sunnis to resist ISIS. Sunni tribes in Salaheddin governorate have formed a council to mobilize tribesmen to retake the provincial capital of Tikrit from ISIS in coordination with Iraq's army. Significantly, the new command center established for the effort is in Auja, a district recently retaken from ISIS by Iraqi troops—and the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, who was buried there following his execution in 2006. (Azzaman, Sept. 12)
We've noted reports that Iranian forces have intervened in northern Iraq to help fight ISIS, part of the Great Power convergence against the self-declared "Islamic State." Now Reuters reports that the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, traveled to Baghdad in June to coordinate the military counter-offensive as ISIS seized the north of the country. According to the report, "The plan included the use of thousands of militiamen who were armed and trained by Iran as well as thousands of new recruits who had volunteered after Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued a call to arms against ISIS in June." Iran has always been close to the Shi'ite-led regime in Baghdad, but now there also seems to be a rapprochement between Tehran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), traditionally suspicious of each other. The Kurdish Globe reports that KRG President Masoud Barzani met with the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif in Erbil on Aug. 26 to discuss coordinating the fight against ISIS. The independent Kurdish news site BasNews also reported Sept. 1 that an Iranian drone crashed in a village near the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Darbandikhan close to the Iranian border. Tehran's denials that it has forces fighting in Iraq seem increasingly transparent.
US forces carried out air-strikes against Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, with casualties reported but uncertainty over the fate of the main target, Somali officials said Sept. 2. Godane was traveling in one of two vehicles hit in apparent drone strike, a member of the Islamist group said. The spokesman would not say whether Godane was among the six militants killed. The two vehicles were heading toward the coastal town of Barawe, Shabaab's main base, when they were hit. The Pentagon confirmed the US military carried out an "operation," and that it was "assessing the results." The US has a large drone base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, and also flies surveillance drones over Somalia from a base in Ethiopia. The Pentagon quietly deployed a small team of advisers to Somalia last October to coordinate operations with African troops fighting to wrest control of the country from Shabab.
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)
US jets and drones carried out air-strikes outside Erbil Aug. 8 in an effort to drive back the ISIS advance on the Kurdish regional capital. The targets included ISIS positions in Makhmour, about 60 kilometers southwest of Erbil, and a convoy of seven vehicles headed towards the city. The Pentagon said four aircraft executed two passes over the convoy, dropping a total of eight laser-guided bombs. (IraqNews) Peshmerga forces are delivering aid by helicopter to the besieged Yazidis on Mount Shingal. The aid was provided by Rwanga Foundation, run by Kurdish politician Idris Nechirvan Barzani. The number of those stranded on the mountain has been upped to some 100,000. US aircraft have also dropped supplies to the mountaintop. (Rudaw) Iraqi military planes struck the ISIS-held town of Gwier, outside Mosul, claiming some 130 militants dead and several humvees destroyed. (BasNews)
Days after declaring a new "caliphate" and formally renaming itself simply the "Islamic State," to emphasize its pretensions to world domination, ISIS has claimed possession of at least one Scud ballistic missile. The militant group published photographs of what appeared to be a Scud paraded on the back on a truck surrounded by masked men in the Syrian city of Raqqa—the proclaimed capital of their "caliphate." The missile was presumably seized from either Iraqi or Syrian military forces. In a voice-over with the video message, "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued a worldwide call to jihad, beseeching Muslims to rise up and avenge wrongs committed against their faith from Central African Republic to Burma. (Al Arabiya, July 2)
Six suspected militants were killed in a presumed US drone strike on Miranshah Tehsil in North Waziristan, Pakistan, June 18. This time, the drone attack comes amid Pakistani air-strikes on militant strongholds in the region—causing 150,000 to flee their homes in recent days. A camp for displaced people has been set up near Bannu, on the border with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, but it lacks food, water and electricity. The Pakistan Army has mobilized tanks and troops, in addition to fighter jets, and is expected to begin a new, more intense phase of what has been dubbed "Operation Zarb-e-Azb" after a three-day window to allow civilians to leave the area ends. Chinese authoriites claim that Uighur members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are among the militants killed in the Pakistani air-strikes. (Newsweek Pakistan, June 20; CNN, BBC News, June 19; Xinhua, June 15)
US drone strikes on two targets in North Waziristan June 12, ending a nearly six-month halt in the Pakistan drone campaign. The strikes killed at least 16 presumed militants in the villages of Dargah Mandi and Danda Darpa Khel, both outisde the tribal districts' main town of Miramshah. Dargah Mandi is said to be a stronghold of the Haqqani Network. Four of the six killed there were said to be Uzbeks. The strikes came just days after the Taliban launched a deadly attack on Karachi airport that killed 37 people. That attack ended a tentative peace process with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, who in 2007 launched an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives. (Dawn, June 12; Long War Journal, June 11)