MESOPOTAMIA NEWS :  DEEP WORDS BY OUR FRIEND OMAR SHEIKHMOUS

 

Omar Sheikhmous –  1 Std – 5 April 2018

Ironically, by the time the Kurds achieve their nation-state, it would have already become obsolete.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : PUK ACCUSED PKK FOR BAD RELATIONS WITH ERDOGAN

PUK wants to restore diplomatic relations with Turkey

By Hawkar Yasin 2 hours ago – 5 April 2018 – SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – In its recent politburo meeting, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) discussed the party’s relations with Turkey and Ankara’s ban on flights to and from Sulaimani international airport.

“We remain neighbors with Turkey. We will execute our neighborly duties according to international laws, although we have notes on their stances,” Saadi Pira, a PUK politburo member, said after the meeting.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS SURVEY : March 2018 The Return Of The Islamic State Insurgency / IRAQ

 02 Apr 2018 09:43 AM PDT  By Joel Wing -Musingson Iraq
In October 2017, the Islamic State’s Al-Naba newspaper calledon its followers to switch to an insurgency like it did after the Surge. Faced with offensives by the Iraqi government backed by the U.S. led Coalition, the militants could no longer hold ground and suffer such heavy losses at the same time. As a result, the operations to free the last pieces of territory that IS held in Iraq were met with little resistance as Islamic State fighters fell back to regroup. Five months later and the insurgency has finally re-emerged. The number of incidents is still relatively flat since Al Naba’s announcement in October, but the type of attacks has definitively changed with bolder operations and an attempt to gain control of rural areas across the center of Iraq.

The Islamic State is rebuilding in specific areas. Those include western Anbar along the Syrian border with networks that reach into the central Fallujah-Ramadi corridor all the way to Amiriya Fallujah in the east. That is reportedly where attacks into northwest Babil stretching from Iskandiriya to Jurf al-Sakhr are allegedly coming from. In Baghdad, the southern and northern towns such as Yusifiya, Madain, Mahmudiya and Tarmiya continue to be hotbeds. The militants are active in nearly all the rural areas of Diyala from the Hamrin Mountains in the northeast to Qara Tappa in the north to Sadiya in the center to Mandali in the east to Abu Saida in the west. The Islamic State never left Hawija in southwest Kirkuk, and has cells within Kirkuk city as well. Western and southern Ninewa also have active insurgent elements, and in Salahaddin, IS is working in the northern district of Shirqat and in the Hamrin and Makhoul Mountains in the east.

There was a decided escalation in the types of attacks IS launched in March. That included more gun fights and ambushes of the security forces in Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahaddin. There were also more deadly and sophisticated operations such as an attack upon a parliamentarian’s motorcade in Baghdad where two bodyguards were taken away. Police and Hashd were kidnapped and often killed in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahaddin in eight separate incidents. The Islamic State also began setting up four fake checkpoints to kidnap and executed civilians and members of the security forces in Anbar, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salahaddin. IS is also attempting to intimidate and eliminate local officials and members of the security forces as seen by the assassination of 2 mayors in Diyala, burning tribal Hashd homes in Kirkuk, and kidnapping sheikhs in southern Ninewa. These were all tactics the militants utilized before in its comeback after the Surge.

These operations do not mean that there will suddenly be a huge surge in attacks. Those have been stable since the October shift to an insurgency. In that month, there were an average of 9.2 incidents per day, followed by 9.8 in November, 8.4 in December, 9.6 in January, 8.7 in February, and 9.9 in March. Anbar saw a sharp decline in attacks starting in December 2017, but have recently gone up from 0.3 per day in January to 0.4 in February, to 0.8 in March. Baghdad saw a large jump from 2.1 incident per day in December up to 3.3 in January and 3.1 in February. In March however, those suddenly dropped to just 2.2. Violence in Diyala and Salahaddin continues to fluctuate up and down with increases in March. After the federal forces took over security in Kirkuk there has been a steady increase in attacks. Ninewa is the exact opposite where violence has gone down continuously since 2017. What this change does point to is deadlier attacks occurring more often. If IS stays to form that will be followed by car and suicide bombs, which have been drastically down since the start of the year. Finally, if the insurgents can consolidate in the rural areas they will move into the cities.

This rebirth is being facilitated by shortcomings of the Iraqi forces. In rural areas, the ISF has little presence, and there have been repeated reports that they withdraw during the night out of fear of the insurgents. In those same areas, Iraqi intelligence is also said to be failing to collect information. In Kirkuk and parts of Salahaddin, there are gaps between the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga and no cooperation, which has opened space for IS. Finally, the repeated security sweeps, 23 during March alone, are accomplishing little. Stashes of weapons are found, some arrests are made, there are occasional confrontations with militants, but as soon as they are over the Iraqi forces withdraw and IS moves back in. There are not enough security forces to be everywhere all the time, but the Iraqi government needs to forge a strategy where they build up local neighborhood watch groups that can call in the security forces for assistance when confronted by the Islamic State. Iraq intelligence needs to spread out to those same rural areas to detect IS cells and eliminate them. Finally, there needs to be cooperation between the federal and Kurdish governments to help secure Kirkuk. The United States is said to be attempted to achieve that through meetings, and the Peshmerga may be able to return to some areas they were pushed out of by Baghdad. If the Iraqi government has any hope of retarding this process it has to act now while the insurgency is still in its infancy of re-emerging.

Casualties In Iraq By Province Feb-Mar 2018

Province Feb 2018 Mar 2018
Anbar 51 (14 K, 37 W) 122 (53 K, 69 W)
Babil 6 (6 W) 15 (1 K, 14 W)
Baghdad 195 (49 K, 146 W) 128 (36 K, 92 W)
Basra 1 (1 W)
Dhi Qar 2 (1 K, 1 W)
Diyala 43 (24 K, 19 W) 88 (50 K, 38 W)
Dohuk 3 (3K)
Irbil 156 (154 K, 2 W)
Kirkuk 70 (50 K, 20 W) 103 (53 K, 50W)
KRG 53 (51 K, 2 W) 21 (20 K, 1 W)
Ninewa 427 (418 K, 9 W) 211 (188 K, 23 W)
Salahaddin 76 (42 K, 34 W) 103 (53 K, 50 W)
Sulaymaniya

Security Incidents In Iraq By Province Feb-Mar 2018

Province Feb Mar
Anbar 12 25
Babil 2 7
Baghdad 88 70
Basra 1
Dhi Qar 1
Diyala 28 58
Dohuk 3
Irbil 13
Karbala
Kirkuk 49 49
KRG 2 7
Ninewa 42 39
Salahaddin 19 36
Sulaymaniya 1

Security In Iraq 2017-18

Week Security

Incidents

Dead Wounded
JAN 2017 719 1,923 4,374
FEB 628 1,891 + 399 2,511 + 1,634
MAR 720 3,504 + 278 3,302 + 2,925
APR 578 2,933 1,955
MAY 528 2,038 1,563
JUN 534 2,038 1,563
JUL 478 1,490 650
AUG 359 1,949 584
SEP 306 728 549
OCT 286 913 865 + 1,700
NOV 296 1,282 425
DEC 261 763 300
Jan 1-7 71 50 66
Jan 8-14 64 62 70
Jan 15-21 68 156 151
Jan 22-28 68 148 66
Jan 29-31 27 23 22
JAN 2018 298 439 375
Feb 1-7 66 196 67
Feb 8-14 65 63 93
Feb 15-21 59 346 43
Feb 22-28 55 44 72
FEB 245 649 275
Mar 1-7 78 120 84
Mar 8-14 60 84 61
Mar 15-21 67 168 98
Mar 22-28 81 213 61
Mar 29-31 21 26 35
MAR 307 611 339

Weekly Violence By Province In Iraq, March 2018

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Anbar 7 Incidents

1 Killed

1 ISF

11 Wounded

3 Hashd

8 ISF

2 Shootings

3 IEDs

1 Suicide Car

Bomb

Destroyed

3 Incidents

4 Wounded

2 Civilians

2 ISF

1 IED

1 Grenade

1 Car Bomb

Destroyed

5 Incidents

28 Killed

11 ISF

17 Civilians

43 Wounded

11 ISF

32 Civilians

2 Shootings

3 IEDs

7 Incidents

14 Killed

1 Civilian

13 ISF

9 Wounded

2 Civilians

7 ISF

2 Shootings

5 IEDs

1 Rocket

3 Incidents

10 Killed

4 ISF

6 Civilians

2 Wounded

2 ISF

3 IEDs

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Babil 1 Incident

1 Killed

1 Hashd

4 Wounded

4 Hashd

1 Shooting

2 Suicide

Bombers

Killed

1 Incident

4 Wounded

4 Hashd

1 IED

4 Incidents

2 Wounded

2 Hashd

1 Shooting

1 IED

1 Incident

4 Wounded

4 Hashd

1 IED

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Baghdad 24 Incidents

12 Killed

1 ISF

11 Civilians

33 Wounded

33 Civilians

6 Shootings

11 IEDs

3 Sticky Bombs

2 Grenades

17 Incidents

11 Killed

11 Civilians

28 Wounded

28 Civilians

5 Shootings

8 IEDs

1 Grenade

14 Incidents

6 Killed

1 Hashd

5 Civilians

15 Wounded

1 Hashd

14 Civilians

4 Shootings

6 IEDs

1 Sticky Bomb

1 Grenade

2 Suicide

Bombers

Killed

11 Incidents

6 Killed

6 Civilians

12 Wounded

12 Civilians

4 Shootings

4 IEDs

4 Incidents

1 Killed

1 Civilian

4 Wounded

4 Civilians

2 Shootings

1 IED

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Diyala 12 Incidents

3 Killed

3 Civilians

11 Wounded

2 ISF

3 Hashd

3 Civilians

7 Shootings

1 IED

2 Suicide

Bombers

Killed

7 Incidents

4 Killed

1 Civilian

3 ISF

2 Wounded

2 Civilians

5 Shootings

5 IEDs

9 Incidents

7 Killed

2 Civilians

5 ISF

4 Wounded

1 ISF

3 Civilians

4 Shootings

4 IEDs

1 Sticky Bomb

2 Mortars

25 Incidents

36 Killed

5 Hashd

14 ISF

17 Civilians

16 Wounded

5 Civilians

11 Hashd

9 Shootings

9 IEDs

3 Mortars

1 Rocket

5 Incidents

5 Wounded

1 Hashd

4 ISF

4 Shootings

1 IED

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Dohuk 1 Incident

1 Killed

1 Civilian

1 Turkish

Shelling

1 Incident

1 Killed

1 Civilian

1 Turkish Air

Strike

1 Incident

1 Killed

1 Civilian

1 Turkish Air

Strike

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Irbil 2 Incidents

2 Killed

1 Civilian

1 KDPI

2 Wounded

2 KDPI

1 Shooting

1 Sticky Bomb

4 Incidents

45 Killed

20 Turkish

Soldiers

25 PKK

2 Shootings

1 Turkish Air

Strike

6 Incidents

106 Killed

2 Civilians

2 Peshmerga

102 PKK

4 Turkish Air

Strikes

1 Incident

1 Killed

1 KDPI

1 Shooting

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Kirkuk 12 Incidents

11 Killed

1 Civilian

2 Hashd

7 ISF

7 Wounded

7 ISF

8 Shootings

1 IED

1 Mortar

1 Grenade

1 Suicide

Bomber

Killed

16 Incidents

17 Killed

3 Hashd

14 Civilians

19 Wounded

3 Civilians

16 Hashd

6 Shootings

4 IEDs

1 Suicide

Motorcycle

Bomber

1 Rocket

5 Suicide

Bombers

Killed

1 Car Bomb

Dismantled

9 Incidents

19 Killed

1 ISF

6 Hashd

12 Civilians

10 Wounded

2 ISF

3 Civilians

5 Hashd

6 Shootings

3 IEDs

11 Incidents

6 Killed

1 Hashd

5 Civilians

12 Wounded

3 Hashd

9 Civilians

2 Shootings

3 IEDs

3 Sound Bombs

2 Mortars

1 Car Bomb

1 Incident

2 Wounded

1 Civilian

1 ISF

1 Sticky Bomb

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
KRG 1 Incident

4 Killed

4 PKK

1 Turkish Air

Strike

6 Incidents

16 Killed

1 Turkish Soldier

3 Civilians

12 PKK

1 Wounded

1 Civilian

5 Turkish Air

Strike

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Ninewa 12 Incidents

81 Killed

13 ISF

68 Civilians

8 Wounded

8 ISF

7 Shootings

2 IEDs

1 Car Bomb

Destroyed

10 Incidents

36 Killed

7 Hashd

29 Civilians

4 Wounded

1 Hashd

3 Civilians

3 Shootings

1 IED

2 Suicide

Bombers

Arrested

10 Incidents

52 Killed

5 ISF

47 Civilians

1 Wounded

1 Civilian

5 Shootings

1 IED

1 Grenade

6 Incidents

14 Killed

2 Hashd

3 ISF
9 Civilians

10 Wounded

10 ISF

4 Shootings

2 IEDs

1 Incident

5 Killed

5 ISF

1 Shooting

Mar 1-7 Mar 8-14 Mar 15-21 Mar 22-28 Mar 29-31
Salahaddin 6 Incidents

4 Killed

1 Civilian

3 ISF

8 Wounded

3 ISF

5 Peshmerga

2 Shootings

2 IEDs

3 Suicide

Bombers

Killed

6 Incidents

16 Killed

1 ISF

15 Civilians

4 Shootings

3 IEDs

11 Incidents

10 Killed

4 ISF

6 Civilians

23 Wounded

8 ISF

15 Civilians

10 Shootings

1 IED

8 Incidents

14 Killed

1 Hashd

2 Civilians

11 ISF

1 Wounded

1 ISF

6 Shootings

1 IED

5 Incidents

9 Killed

9 Hashd

18 Hashd

18 Hashd

1 Shooting

1 IED

1 Suicide

Bomber

2 Suicide

Bombers

Killed

Violence By Province March 2018

Province Violence
Anbar 25 Incidents

53 Killed

24 Civilians

29 ISF

69 Wounded

3 Hashd

30 ISF

36 Civilians

6 Shootings

15 IEDs

1 Rocket

1 Grenade

1 Suicide Car Bomb Destroyed

1 Car Bomb Destroyed

Babil 7 Incidents

1 Killed

1 Hashd

14 Wounded

14 Hashd

2 Shootings

3 IEDs

2 Suicide Bombers Killed

Baghdad 70 Incidents

36 Killed

1 ISF

1 Hashd

34 Civilians

92 Wounded

1 Hashd

91 Civilians

21 Shootings

30 IEDs

4 Sticky Bombs

4 Grenades

2 Suicide Bombers Killed

Diyala 58 Incidents

50 Killed

5 Hashd

22 ISF

23 Civilians

38 Wounded

7 ISF

13 Civilians

15 Hashd

29 Shootings

20 IEDs

1 Sticky Bomb

5 Mortars

1 Rocket

2 Suicide Bombers Killed

Dohuk 3 Incidents

3 Killed

3 Civilians

3 Turkish Air Strikes

Irbil 13 Incidents

154 Killed

2 KDPI

2 Peshmerga

3 Civilians

20 Turkish Soldiers

127 PKK

2 Wounded

2 KDPI

4 Shootings

1 Sticky Bomb

5 Turkish Air Strikes

Kirkuk 49 Incidents

53 Killed

8 ISF

12 Hashd

32 Civilians

50 Wounded

10 ISF

16 Civilians

24 Hashd

2 Shootings

11 IEDs

1 Sticky Bomb

3 Sound Bombs

3 Mortars

1 Rocket

1 Grenade

1 Suicide Motorcycle Bomb

1 Car Bomb

6 Suicide Bombers Killed

1 Car Bomb Dismantled

KRG 7 Incidents

20 Killed

1 Turkish Soldier

3 Civilians

16 PKK

1 Wounded

1 Civilian

6 Turkish Air Strikes

Ninewa 39 Incidents

188 Killed

26 ISF

9 Hashd

153 Civilians

23 Wounded

1 Hashd

4 Civilians

18 ISF

20 Shootings

6 IEDs

1 Grenade

2 Suicide Bombers Killed

1 Car Bomb Dismantled

Salahaddin 36 Incidents

53 Killed

10 Hashd

19 ISF

24 Civilians

50 Wounded

5 Peshmerga

12 ISF

15 Civilians

18 Hashd

23 Shootings

8 IEDs

1 Suicide Bomber

5 Suicide Bombers Killed

SOURCES

Anadolu Agency, “Daesh ambush leaves 8 police officers dead in Iraq,” 3/24/18

Baghdad Post, “Gunmen attack checkpoint in Kirkuk,” 3/10/18

– “IMIS militant killed by ISIS terrorist in eastern Salahuddin,” 3/29/18

Bas News, “Dozens of Hashd al-Shaabi Fighters, IS Militants Killed as Clash Breaks out in Hawija,” 3/6/18

Buratha News, “Security forces foiled an attempt by terrorists to infiltrate Shirqat,” 3/13/18

– “Terrorist attempt to sneak into Diyala from Salahaddin was thwarted,” 3/16/18

Ebraheem, Mohammed, “Eight Iraqi soldiers killed, injured in Islamic State attack on Anbar roadblock,” Iraqi News, 3/16/18

– “Four Islamic State militants killed in clashes with pro-govt troops in Diyala,” Iraqi News, 3/6/18

– “Four policeman killed in confrontation with Islamic State in Mosul,” Iraqi News, 3/5/18

– “Iraqi troops kill seven Islamic State militants in Nineveh province,” Iraqi News, 3/18/18

– Mohammed, “IS militants kill two people, kidnap three others at fake checkpoint in Kirkuk,” Iraqi News, 3/20/18

Al Forat, “Tamimi calls on Abadi to intervene immediately to stop the deterioration of security in Diyala,” 3/5/18

Al Ghad Press, “Aborted attack on a security checkpoint southeast of Baquba,” 3/16/18

– “The injury of three Daash members and the disappearance of another in an attack northeast Diyala,” 3/1/18

– “The outcome of the clashes between the crowd and Daash in Amiriya Fallujah,” 3/5/18

Goran, Baxtiyar, “IS kills several Iraqi security members in separate attacks in eastern Iraq,” Kurdistan 24, 3/15/18

Hassan, Hassan, “Insurgents Again: The Islamic State’s Calculated Reversion To Attrition In The Syria-Iraq Border Region And Beyond,” CTC Sentinel, 12/21/17

Hath Al-Youm, “Diyala announces a big Daash attack: Village women fought for more than an hour,” 3/30/18

– “Seven policemen from Dhi Qar were killed along with their driver in an ambush near Baquba,” 3/22/18

Iraq Newspaper, “Armed Attack On Patrol In Central Ramadi,” 3/4/18

– “Attack On Road And Killing 5 Members Of The Popular Crowd By Terrorists,” 3/21/18

– “A Battle in Samarra And A Terrorist Explosive Charge In Ishaqi North Baghdad,” 3/17/18

– “A Car Bomb Exploded On Ninety Street In Kirkuk And Two People Were Kidnapped From Mosul,” 3/13/18

– “A Fierce Battle Between The 11th Brigade Of The Popular Crowd And Terrorists In Kirkuk,” 3/5/18

– “The Killing And Wounding Of 5 Of The Popular Crowd In A Terrorist Ambush Near The Iranian Border,” 3/26/18

– “The Killing And Wounding Of A Whole Family In Diyala In A Terrorist Attack,” 3/24/18

– “Security Source: Daash Terrorists Executed 5 Soldiers In Mosul,” 3/30/18

– “Seven Soldiers Were Killed From The 66th Battalion, 20th Brigade Mourns Four Of Its Soldiers In Mosul,” 3/2/18

– “Terrorists Publishing Pictures Of The Burning Of 11 Homes Of The Popular Crowd In Kirkuk On Twitter,” 3/27/18

– “Terrorists Surround The Fifth Brigade In Sinjar, Mosul,” 3/7/18

– “Wounding A Number Of Members Of The Federal Police In A Daash Terrorist Attack Targeting The Abbasi District In The Hawija District Southwest Kirkuk,” 3/3/18

Al Maalomah, “21 civilians, including children, were killed and wounded between Daquq and al-Tuz,” 3/20/18

– “The popular crowd foils the infiltration of criminals near Hamrin,” 3/14/18

– “The popular crowd repulsed an offensive in Metibija east Salahaddin,” 3/27/18

Mostafa, Mohamed, “Iraqi tribal fighter killed in Islamic State attack in Kirkuk,” Iraqi News, 3/27/18

– “Source: Iraqi forces kill 3 Islamic State fighters in Kirkuk,” Iraqi News, 3/6/18

Mostafa, Nehal, “10 police personnel likely to be abducted during clashes against IS, south of Kirkuk: Source,” Iraqi News, 3/21/18

– “Five people killed, injured as Islamic State launches attack, west of Kirkuk,” Iraqi News, 3/19/18

– “Four army personnel wounded in armed attack, south of Salahuddin,” Iraqi News, 3/21/18

– “Iraqi joint troops foil Islamic State attacks, shell militants, south of Salahuddin,” Iraqi News, 3/8/18

– “Paramilitary troops repel two Islamic State attacks, free four abducted personnel in Salahuddin,” Iraqi News, 3/20/18

– “Security personnel killed, two others injured in Islamic State attack, northwest of Kirkuk,” Iraqi News, 3/19/18

NINA, “An Attack To Daesh On A Security Point For The Tribal Mobilization North Of Baquba Foiled,” 3/28/19

-“An attack by Daesh of two axes on a liberated village north of Baquba foiled,” 3/30/18

– “The dead body of a kidnapped paramedic was found northeast of Baquba,” 3/6/18

– “The Federal Police repulsed an attack to Daesh in the district of Makhmour southeast of Mosul,” 3/1/18

– “Foiled two attacks by Daash on two villages north of Baquba,” 3/11/18

– “Four policemen killed, twenty Islamic State State members arrested in Mosul,” Iraqi News, 3/20/18

– “The Popular Crowd repulsed a mobile detachment for Daesh in the border Hill of Safouk,” 3/18/18

– “Six of the tribal crowd killed and wounded west of Kirkuk,” 3/19/18

– “Three members of the popular crowd wounded in an attack in northeastern Baquba,” 3/2/18

Rudaw, “3 Peshmerga wounded after ISIS kills shepherd in Kifri,” 3/2/18

Shafaaq News, “Eight people were killed and wounded in an attack upon the popular crowd near Tuz Kharmato,” 3/11/18

– “Iraq … Daash kill and burn 25 people in separate attacks,” 3/12/18

Sotaliraq, “Two soldiers killed in a Daesh attack south of Mosul,” 3/27/18

Al Sumaria, “The bodies of two customs agents were found hours after they were kidnapped north Diyala,” 3/8/18

– “Eight Daash members were killed in clashes with the popular crowd in Kirkuk,” 3/9/18

– “Local source: one fighter from the popular crowd wounded in a Daesh attack north-east Diyala,” 3/30/18

– “Local source: Seven soldiers were killed and seven others wounded in an armed attack southeast al-Rutba,” 3/15/18

– “Security forces and Sayara Salam thwart an attack by Daesh southwest of Samarra,” 3/24/18

– “A soldier was wounded by a shooting at a checkpoint northeast of Baquba,” 3/16/18

– “Thwarted an assassination attempt on a deputy in Baghdad and abducted two of his bodyguards,” 3/8/18

– “Two members of Daash were killed in clashes with popular crowd forces southwest Kirkuk,” 3/7/18

Xinhua, “2 soldiers killed in clash with gunmen in central Iraq,” 3/26/18

– “7 IS militants killed in clashes with security forces in central Iraq,” 3/15/18

– “9 killed in insurgent attacks in central Iraq,” 3/25/18

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MESOP NORTH IRAQ (KURDISTAN) : After The Black Flag Of ISIS, Iraq Now Faces The White Flags

The black flag of ISIS may no longer be flying in cities across Iraq, but militant groups are rebuilding and present a very real threat to the country’s stability. One such group — known as the White Flags — has built itself a mountain stronghold from which to launch its attacks. Posted on Borzou Daragahi – BuzzFeed News Reporter

HAMREEN MOUNTAINS, Iraq — Way up in the mountain range that cuts through this volatile region of northern Iraq, a group of ISIS veterans is readying itself to terrorize the country once more. Led by Hiwa Chor, a one-eyed militant in his early forties, they are known as the White Flags.Arriving around mid-November, Chor and his men — said to number anywhere between 500 and 1,100 — are digging into the Hamreen mountains and launching attacks on local security forces. “After ISIS was finished in the area, they began to gather in the mountains,” Maj. Gen. Rasul Omar Latif, commander of the Iraqi Kurdish forces in Sulaymaniyah province, told BuzzFeed News. Latif shared for the first time with a Western journalist intelligence about the group gathered by Kurdish fighters, spies, and their network of informants. “They are ISIS, but they gave themselves a new name.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared ISIS defeated last December, a call likely timed to give his coalition’s reelection prospects a boost ahead of the vote on May 12. US President Donald Trump claimed credit for devising a military strategy that forced ISIS into “giving up” in Mosul. On Thursday he claimed the US was “knocking the hell out of ISIS.” But ISIS persists as an insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria, and some of its remnants, including the White Flags, already appear to be building new militant factions.

“They are ISIS, but they gave themselves a new name.”

Chor and his fighters named themselves the White Flags, perhaps to contrast themselves with the black flag that symbolizes ISIS. Armed with weapons accumulated over the years fighting alongside ISIS, the White Flags ride in four-wheel-drive pickup trucks through the folds of the mountains, finding shelter from patrols, mortars, and airstrikes launched by Iraqi forces. They dig tunnels to scuttle back and forth between nearby Kurdish and Arab areas, firing mortars at Shia militias arrayed along the mountain range. Equipped with night-vision goggles, they operate deep within the mountains, 7 miles from the outskirts of the city of Tuz Khurmatu, along the highway between Baghdad and the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Last week, fighters still loyal to ISIS claimed to have captured and executed eight members of the Iraqi federal police and a pro-government Shia militia, the so-called Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), along the Baghdad–Kirkuk road, the site of another recent ambush.

Though ISIS and its successors no longer control any of Iraq’s cities, they continue to wreak havoc, with a detectable increase in both attacks and propaganda. Suicide bomb attacks attributed to ISIS have struck Baghdad and Kirkuk. In mid-March, militants reportedly killed seven Iraqi soldiers in the country’s far west.

“They move from place to place in the Hamreen mountains,” said Ahmad Sharifi, a former Iraqi intelligence officer who now serves as security adviser to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest-ranking Shia cleric in Iraq. “No one from our units can recognize the paths they take, because they know the geography. They know the caves.”

In one of their most brazen and complex recent attacks, in February ISIS militants lured members of the PMU to a village just outside Hawija in northern Iraq. The ISIS fighters wore military uniforms and pretended to be members of the Iraqi federal police, manning a checkpoint. The subsequent firefight — partially documented in an ISIS video — lasted two hours, leaving 27 Shia militiamen dead. A week later, charred bone fragments and bits of uniforms remained lodged in the soil.

“It was an ambush,” said Ali Hamdani, a Shia militia leader, as he surveyed the deserted and burned-out village. “They have a wide experience and a new level of training.”

 War planners in Washington — after a nearly four-year offensive against ISIS in Iraq and Syria — are closely watching for a potential ISIS resurgence. US-led coalition forces launched an airstrike against a reported ISIS position near the Hamreen mountains on Feb. 21, and claimed to have destroyed ISIS infrastructure in another attack.

“Although ISIS no longer controls any of the population centers in Iraq, there are small ISIS elements still seeking sanctuary in some of the more remote areas in the deserts and in the mountains,” Col. Seth W.B. Folsom, commander of US forces in western Iraq, told reporters on March 20.

“No one from our units can recognize the paths they take, because they know the geography. They know the caves.”

The Hamreen mountains are “a very good area for the insurgents to rebuild,” said Hamdani, who is based in Tuz Khurmatu, a disputed city of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, Shia and Sunni, on the western edge of the mountains. “No one controls the area. They operate like thieves. They block roads. They attack far-off villages. A car passes by, they attack it.”

Though they have to yet to engage in suicide bombings or the multipronged attacks that distinguish militant groups throughout the world, the White Flags have menaced Shia militiamen to the southwest of the Hamreen mountains with mortar fire, clashed with Kurdish peshmerga to the northeast, and launched a rocket against a coalition aircraft, according to Latif. They have also begun to spread out toward Hawija, a former ISIS holdout in the south of Kirkuk, and in the direction of Baghdad.

Security officials, analysts, and locals say the group is collecting recruits, stockpiling weapons, and seeking to build goodwill among the farmers and shepherds who eke out lives in the sparsely populated terrain. “They tell them, ‘We are here to protect you. We are here to liberate you,’” Jamal Warani, a Kurdish peshmerga commander, told BuzzFeed News during a visit to the front line.

“There is something going on,” said Hassan Ali Achoub, a 52-year-old farmer living in the foothills of the Hamreen mountains. Going from farm to farm among several properties he oversees, he has spotted suspicious vehicles and sensed a nervousness among security officials who have begun to designate certain towns and wooded stretches as no-go areas. “People are talking about clashes, in the woods at the edge of the mountains. They are not that big of numbers, but I’m afraid for my children.”

 Chor and his men may well be the future of violent extremism in the Middle East but he’s the product of Iraq’s past turmoil. He hails from Kifri, a region of northern Iraq claimed by both ethnic Kurds and Turkmens, which has violently changed hands over the decades.Chor first came to the attention of local security forces in late 2002 after he had joined a militant group called Ansar al-Islam, which menaced locals in northern Iraq with assassinations and bombings. The group scattered from its stronghold after it was hit by US airstrikes just before the US invasion in 2003. Ansar al-Islam veterans served as foot soldiers and leaders for the kaleidoscope of Sunni insurgent groups feeding off anger at the US occupation and the dominance of Shia politicians and Iranian-backed Shia militia in the new Iraq.

Chor eventually wound up in al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamist group founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who became infamous around the world for dressing up kidnap victims in orange jumpsuits and beheading them on video. Zarqawi was killed in a 2006 US airstrike, but the group he founded endured, eventually mutating into ISIS, run by the even more brutal Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“No one controls the area. They operate like thieves.”

Chor stayed close to home, rarely straying far from the Hamreen mountains. From the start he chafed at some aspects of Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate, especially its global ambitions, and was eager to break out on his own. He found a like-minded militant in Khaled al-Moradi, a Turkmen from the ethnically and religiously mixed region of Iraq north of Diyala province. After Baghdadi’s men lost control of territory late last year, the two decided to leverage their experience, launching the White Flags. Its flag shows the head of a lion, a representation that would be considered haram or sinful by the most extreme fundamentalists who prohibit the depiction of any living thing.

“Khaled and Hiwa [Chor] always had problems with ISIS — in its ideas and visions,” said Latif, the peshmerga commander.

The new group likely began to form after ISIS’s defeat in Mosul last July, but found a foothold after much of the north of Iraq fell into disarray because of the country’s internal political rifts. A controversial referendum on Kurdish independence enraged Arab Iraqis and prompted Baghdad’s armed forces to seize swaths of disputed territory the Kurds had controlled since the 2003 US invasion.

Kurdish fighters used to patrol the mountains, but fled rather than fight Iraqi government forces. That created an opening for insurgents. Kurdish and Arab forces surround the mountain range and could besiege the militants if they worked together, but they refuse to communicate and blame each other for arming the White Flags and giving them safe passage. In separate interviews, both Iraqi forces and Kurdish officials suggested the creation of a joint operations room in Tuz Khurmatu to coordinate efforts against the White Flags or any other insurgent groups taking up residence in the mountains, but no one has taken such an initiative.

 “There’s no official communications between us and them,” said Latif, the peshmerga commander, speaking of the Shia militiamen and Iraqi soldiers and federal police on the other side of the Hamreen mountains.

The UN’s mission to Iraq reported this month that civilian deaths due to political violence have fallen in recent months to their lowest number in years. But over the last 15 years, Iraq’s political leaders have repeatedly squandered such lulls, and each low tends to be followed by a dramatic spike. The upcoming elections will more likely exacerbate Iraq’s intercommunal tensions rather than ease them.

What happens in Iraq reverberates beyond its borders. Iraq spawned both the radical Sunni groups that morphed into ISIS and the Iranian-backed Shia militias that fight alongside Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and now threaten Iraq’s sovereignty and democratic gains. Conditions that fuel political and sectarian violence in Iraq — from a lack of reconstruction and rampant corruption to cleavages between political, ethnic, and ideological factions, and hostility between regional powers — have deteriorated in the four years since the arrival of ISIS.

Disputes between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Kurds, the governments in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan, the Assad regime and Syrian rebels have only worsened. Sunni cities like Mosul, Ramadi, and Fallujah have all been devastated by the ISIS war.

 Since ISIS lost its territory, what cooperation there was between Iraq’s Shia, Sunni, and Kurds has all but ended. Like their precursors in al-Qaeda and ISIS, the White Flags have managed to home in on the country’s festering sectarian, ethnic, and ideological wounds. They direct attacks against Shia militias, especially ones composed of ethnic Turkmens. Each attack exacerbates suspicions among the Kurds, Turkmens, Arabs, Sunnis, and Shia vying for the region’s limited water, agriculture, and oil resources.

“There’s this boiling pot of anger and it’s affecting the youth in the Sunni areas,” said Anne Speckhard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism in Washington, who travels frequently to Iraq to interview jailed ISIS members. “It’s the same issues all over again. They are feeling disenchanted and angry and looking for solutions.”

Kilometer 18 is a place marker on the highway west of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. It is here, on this barren stretch of flat desert, that the Iraqi army, federal police, and Sunni tribal militias hold the line against ISIS. The militants are massed to the north near the Syrian border and to the south near the Saudi border, biding their time.

A shifting cast of soldiers, federal police, and local militias in mismatched uniforms — some wearing running shoes and others in boots — are arrayed along the desert in trenches and at checkpoints. Two days earlier a Toyota pickup truck loaded with explosives drove up to a nearby checkpoint, said local security forces. The driver hesitated for a moment, and an alert police officer discerned something was wrong. The men opened fire, killing him on the spot before he could detonate the car.

“The threat comes from the desert,” Lt. Col. Omar Abbas Hamid, a federal police commander who helps oversee Kilometer 18, said one afternoon in March. “ISIS comes from the desert, usually at night. That’s when the ambushes take place.”

“There’s this boiling pot of anger and it’s affecting the youth in the Sunni areas.”

But the greatest challenge posed by ISIS may lie within the front line, in the homes and minds of Iraqis. ISIS continues to pay fighters, according to Iraqi officials in Anbar province, where ISIS first arrived in Iraq in early 2014 and nearly took over before it was beaten back to the country’s far western borders over four years of grueling air and land war that decimated the province’s cities and towns.

“Until this moment they are providing salaries,” said Mohammad Shabaan, a leader of a Sunni tribal militia and a candidate for parliament in upcoming elections, who led his men against ISIS in the city of Khalidiya. “They are still cooperating with people and maintaining their networks, providing $500-per-month salaries,” he said. “If someone is ill they will give money to help. They show people they’re still around and have a presence.”

Another top Iraqi security official in Anbar province, speaking on condition of anonymity to voice criticism of Iraq’s political class and neighboring countries, said the country’s factional strife, the instability in Syria, and tensions between Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the US would guarantee a continued space for ISIS or other groups to operate.

“Maybe in the coming period there will be new groups,” he said. “The jihadis are rebuilding themselves. They lost a lot in terms of personnel, equipment, and weapons. They are trying to reemerge, to reassert themselves, and to reorganize. When their capability becomes better, they will launch more attacks.”

“For sure, they will come back,” he said.

Many ISIS loyalists, as well as veterans of other insurgent groups, never left. They remain in Anbar, able to live their lives while under surveillance by the security forces. “We have an agreement with them,” said Shabaan, who fought against ISIS’s predecessors a decade ago. “If they want to live with us, they can, but if they raise their head we will cut it off.”

 Shabaan and others worry about young Sunni men whose psyches are tangled up in an Iraqi version of toxic masculinity. They are naturally drawn to ISIS because the group gives them status and identity. Speckhard, the American scholar, has interviewed dozens of ISIS prisoners and warns that the mentality that drew young men to ISIS persists, feeding off continued resentment.

“The ideology is not destroyed,” she said. “ISIS is selling a dream of dignity, purpose, significance, prosperity, and justice. And if people face injustice, economic marginalization, and insignificance they think, ‘Okay, we didn’t get it right last time but we have to fight for it because this is our dream, this is our religion.’ That’s powerful.”

 Until a few months ago, Ahmed Dahan used to run a shop in al-Qaim, in far western Iraq. He earned enough to support his wife and kids, owned his own house and a car. But they were forced to flee as fighting between US-backed Iraqi forces and ISIS engulfed their city last year, losing everything. Dahan now makes do with handouts in a displaced persons camp carved out along a hill in eastern Anbar province.

Dahan said neither he nor his relatives had anything to do with ISIS, but managed to live under their rule. Now he fears both the militants and pro-government forces. In hushed tones away from the ears of the camp’s guards, he described what is happening in his hometown, which lacks electricity, water, any hospitals or schools. “I’m afraid of oppression,” he said. “Bad things are happening in al-Qaim. People come and say, ‘You are ISIS,’ or ‘You supported ISIS’ and they take you away. I don’t know who they are. Police? Army? Militias? They come for you at night. And they kill you.”

Pockets of fear and discontent are not hard to find in Anbar province, which remains largely in ruins, even as the cash-strapped central government struggles to rebuild roads, water pipes, and electricity lines destroyed during the ISIS war. Many of those who returned home make do with little. Fifty-year-old shopkeeper Abdul-Razzaq Awad Samir used to be solidly middle class. He, his wife Suham, and their eight children fled to Erbil when the war caught up to their Khalidiyah neighborhood, spending much of their savings on rent. When they finally returned several weeks ago, they discovered their house was a pile of rubble.

Samir borrowed $20,000 from relatives, fixed up the house and the shops. Five of his kids remain in school but he’s forlorn that they fell behind a year because of the war. They’re now trying to resume their education. “They need money for school,” he said. “They need support.”

 Security officials in Anbar say that the most effective way to prevent ISIS’s return is to restore ordinary life to the cities, bringing back displaced families and getting the economy going. Jobs, jobs, jobs, they repeat again and again. Get the people out of displaced persons camps and back to their homes. Get agriculture back on track. Reopen the glass factory in Ramadi, the tourism sites at Lake Habbaniyah and Thiqar. Get the phosphate mines going. Give the people some hope and they will turn away from the allure of militant groups, they say.

But few believe change is coming. Iraq’s political class remains as corrupt as ever, divvying up the country’s spoils. The general perception is that Iraq’s political leaders have spent the last 15 years fighting among themselves, rather than serving the people.

“The upcoming elections really highlight Iraq’s problems,” said Speckhard. “If you get the same old crowd and they’re not even saying change or reform then what do you have to look forward to? People are frustrated, disappointed.”

“If they want to live with us, they can, but if they raise their head we will cut it off.”

Even those fighting on behalf of the central government in Baghdad acknowledge this deep disappointment. Security forces at checkpoints regularly voice disgust at their leaders. “We are victims of the elites and the politicians,” said Hamdani, the Shia militia leader. “We need to have an uprising against the politicians the same way we had an uprising against ISIS.”

A number of Iraqi security officials and analysts argue that Sunnis by and large have given up on the idea of violent conflict against the central government and are ready to join the political process, traumatized by the experience of having ISIS ravage their cities and towns. “What happened to Sunnis in 2014 when ISIS came never happened to them before,” said Sajad Jiyad, an analyst at al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies, a think tank in Baghdad. “They were displaced from their homes. They were forced into camps. For the first time ever, Sunnis have gone through the holocaust that Shia and Kurds have gone through. They will never want to go through that again. They don’t have the stomach.”

But Sunnis continue to lack credible political leaders and are frequently subjected to abuse and discrimination. Hundreds of thousands remain displaced, and though many have returned, they often find little but rubble, as the shopkeeper Samir’s family discovered. Many are too afraid to return to areas where they worry they could be accused of being ISIS sympathizers and disappear at the hands of security forces or rival tribes seeking retribution. It remains unclear how displaced people inform themselves about the candidates and their issues, let alone vote.

Dahan, the displaced shopkeeper at the camp, smiled when asked whether he would vote in the elections. He said he had lost any faith he ever had in Iraqi politicians, and he was sure ISIS or some other insurgent group such as the White Flags would return. “Do you know how?” he said. “By the lack of cooperation between Iraqis.” ●


Khalid Ali contributed additional reporting to this story.

 

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : HUMAN WIGHTS WATCH – PKK CONSCRIPTS YEZIDI CHILD SOLDIERS

“Before leaving , the PKK had its own militia in Sinjar, the People’s Defence Forces. The PKK-affiliated Yazidi militia, Sinjar Resistance Units, whose salaries, arms and training used to come from Baghdad as it became included under the PMF umbrella, remained in the area because it is made up of locals.!

Iraq Reassures Turkey on PKK Threat But Challenges Remain

By Mamoon Alabbasi –  THE ARAB WEEKLY –  2018-04-01 18:43 GMT

LONDON — Top Iraqi officials pledged to prevent attacks against Turkey by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants inside Iraq but reining in the activities of the terror-designated group remains difficult as it is often out of the reach of security forces.

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How Washington Learned to Love Haider al-Abadi

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS EXCLUSIV ANALYSIS

March 29, 2018 —  BY ARON LUND –  THE CENTURY FOUNDATION

Contents  – 1The Centrality of Iraq

  1. 2The Centrality of Abadi
  2. 3Abadi as the Anti-Maliki
  3. 4The Hashd Dilemma
  4. 5Four More Years, Say Washington and Riyadh—and Maybe Iran?
  5. 6The Kurdistan Crisis
  6. 7The January Surprise
  7. 8Government Formation, Iraq’s “Second Election”
  8. 9Tough Times Ahead
  9. 10No Plan B

What You Should Know

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAY : KURDS WILL LOSE ! – Kurds will lose at least 13 seats, retain presidency in Iraq elections: official

SOUTH KURDISTAN (IRAQ) –  RUDAW 2 April 2018 – PARIS, France – Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the Kurdistan Region presidency, predicts Kurds will lose 13-14 seats in the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a result of losing the disputed areas.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : DER DEUTSCHE SOLI-IDIOT IN VOLLENDETER GESTALT IN DER FACON DER III. INTERNATIONALE / Ein caput mortuum

„Es lebe der Grosse Führer &All-Ideengeber Abdullah Öcalan im Kaff Makhmour (Süd Irak)“

Kerem Schamberger‏ @KeremSchamberg 31 März 2018 – Makhmur – ein Ort der Revolution, ein Ort der gesellschaftlichen Emanzipation PS: auch dieses… https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg_utuwnNNn/ 

Kerem Schamberger‏ @KeremSchamberg  31 März 2018  – In Makhmur bereitet sich gerade die ganze Stadt auf den 4. April vor. Dann wird der 69. Geburtstag von Abdullah Öcalan gefeiert. Er ist der Ideengeber und Mitbegründer der kurdischen Freiheitsbewegung. An… https://www.facebook.com/kerem.schamberger/videos/10212050083832787/ …

 

www.mesop.de

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : BOMBING PKK HEADQUARTERS – Turkish Warplanes Bombard Qandil Mountains – South Kurdistan-Iraq

BasNews – 29/03/2018 – 10:56 ERBIL – The Turkish warplanes have again bombarded the mountainous areas in the Kurdistan Region overnight on Wednesday with no immediate casualties reported due to heavy strikes.

According to local sources, the Turkish jets have carried out airstrikes on Qandil mount and a number of villages in Rawandz area.Turkey has a three decade long conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which are believed to have their headquarters mainly in Qandil mountains.However, Ankara has already threatened several times to follow the armed group wherever it is present, including Qandil and Sinjar city in northern Iraq.

Earlier last week, four civilians lost their lives due to the Turkish attacks in the mountainous areas of Choman district, northwest Erbil province, who were camping as part of Nawroz (Kurdish New Year) celebrations. Read more www.mesop.de

 

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : WHO OWNS KURDISTAN ? PUTIN SOON ?

ROSNEFT : The Energy Giant Taking Over Kurdistan

By Viktor Katona – Mar 27, 2018, 5:00 PM CDT – After the steady buildup of a burgeoning strategic partnership between the Russian national oil company and Kurdistan’s Regional Government (KRG), the year 2018 threw cold water on the ambitious plans of the two sides. Having signed an oil supply contract in February 2017 and an oil and gas infrastructure ownership takeover deal in September, Rosneft seemed to become Kurdistan’s key partner in marketing its hydrocarbon resources. However, after the failed independence referendum in late September, Baghdad’s recapturing of the Kirkuk oil hub and its successful drive to stamp out any possibility of a Kurdish secession, bad news started to pile up for the Rosneft-KRG axis.

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