Iraq Theater

Security Council adopts resolution to fight ISIS

The United Nations Security Council on Nov. 20 unanimously adopted a new resolution (PDF) calling on all member states to fight to eradicate ISIS. Introduced by France in the wake of the Paris attacks that claimed 129 lives, the resolution asks states to do what they can to destroy ISIS safe havens in Syria and Iraq. Characterizing ISIS as "a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security," the Security Council warned that further attacks are expected, given recent ISIS attacks in Tunisia, Turkey, over Egypt with the downing of a Russian plane, and in Beirut and Paris. By a 15-0 vote in favor, the Security Council pledged to attack all terror organizations in the Iraq and Syria region, including Nusrah Front, both with physical force and by working to crack down on foreign fighters joining the cause and by blocking financing.

Contradictions of post-Paris anti-ISIS convergence

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the centripetal tendency in world affairs seems to hold sway—a further Great Power convergence against ISIS. When the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle reaches its position off Syria's coast, it joins a Russian guided missile cruiser already there—and cooperation between the two powers appears imminent. "Under the Russian president's decree, the General Staff is working out joint anti-terrorism operations with the French Navy," said Col-Gen. Andrey Kartapolov, deputy chief of staff, according to Moscow's state news agency Tass. "With the arrival of the Charles de Gaulle warship to the Syrian shore we will organize joint military operations." Citing Kartapolov, Tass also claimed, "Russian warplanes have destroyed about 500 fuel tank trucks that were illegally transporting oil from Syria to Iraq for refining." While not explicitly stated, this presumably means ISIS oil. (NPR)

Kurdish forces liberate Sinjar from ISIS

On the same day as the Paris attacks, a serious blow was dealt against ISIS in Iraq, as the town of Sinjar was liberated from the jihadists by a mixed force led by Kurdish Peshmerga troops. Sinjar has a special symbolic significance, as it was the main town of Iraq's Yazidi minority, which ISIS is bent on exterminating. Thousands of Yazidis were massacred or enslaved by ISIS after they took the town during their surge into northern Iraq last year. The anti-ISIS offensive, Operation Free Sinjar, was backed up by US air-strikes and coordinated forces of the Peshmerga, PKK-aligned Kurdish fighters, and a Yazidi militia. Another 28 villages were liberated in the two-day sweep. The Kurdistan Regional Government claimed that 200 square kilometers were taken in the operation, and some 300 ISIS fighters killed. (BBC News; Rudaw) A Facebook video showed Yazidis celebrating the liberation of their town.

Iran behind attack on Mujahedeen Khalq camp?

Some 15 rockets hit the outskirts of Camp Liberty (Camp Hurriya) near Baghdad's airport, home to exiled followers of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI, also rendered Mujahedin-e-Khalq or MEK), killing 23. (Reuters, Rudaw, Oct. 30) The rockets were fired from the Bakriya district, six kilometers northeast of the airport. In Paris, the MEK's civilian leadership, the National Council of Rsistance of Iran (NCRI), issued a statement noting three previous attacks on the camp, leading to the death of 14 residents, adding: "We were promised proper investigation in all those attacks but the UN and the U.S. government have failed to live up to their promises. And when the perpetrators of such heinous acts were not held responsible, further attacks were certain to happen." NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi charged: "The Iranian regime's agents in the government of Iraq are responsible for this attack and the United States and the United Nations are well aware of this fact."

US ground troops to Iraq, Syria: Pentagon

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Oct. 27 that the US will begin ground operations against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. "We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," Carter said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee. (NBC, Oct. 27)

Iraq: sectarian terror in battle for Baiji

The oil refinery city of Baiji was taken from ISIS Oct. 21 by Iraqi security forces and their Shi'ite militia allies. Key to the fighting was the Popular Mobilization Units or Hashid al-Shaabi militia. (Long War Journal, Oct. 19) After driving ISIS forces from the city, the PMU reported the discovery of at least 19 mass graves containing "365 bodies of Daesh terrorists"—the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. It was not clear how long the bodies had been buried there or how they were identified as ISIS fighters. (AFP, Oct. 21)

Iraq: Yazidis urge ICC genocide investigation

Members of Iraq's Yazidi minority on Sept. 24 submitted a report to the International Criminal Court  detailing the crimes committed against their community by militants of the Islamic State (IS) and urged the court to open an investigation. The Yazidi group met with chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Hague and said the actions taken by IS since August 2014 in Northern Iraq constituted religious genocide against their people. The report includes statements made by human rights organizations which have concluded that IS targets Yazidi people on religious grounds and the UN statement  that IS attacks on the Yazidi group may amount to genocide. Former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the court should open preliminary examinations. Although Iraq is not a party to the ICC Rome Statute (PDF), the court could prosecute IS members who are nationals of signatory states.

Sectarian massacres continue in Syria and Iraq

Insurgents fired nearly 400 rockets at the two Shi'ite (presumably Alawite) villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in northwestern Syria's Idlib governorate Sept. 18, and detonated at least seven car bombs, opening a new assault on besieged government-held areas. The attacks were carried out by the "Army of Conquest," a coalition that includes the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham. (Reuters) Meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for two suicide bombs in Baghdad that killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 60. The attacks targeted police checkpoints in the Wathba and Haraj markets during morning rush-hour—both in mostly Shi'ite areas. Another bomber (not yet claimed by ISIS) struck in the city's Bab al-Sharji area, killing eight civilians and a police officer. (BBC News)

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