Nonc Hilaire wrote:Parodite wrote:Nonc Hilaire wrote:Parodite wrote:Opposing Israel and supporting the Palestinians... are Islamic statements?
Yes, but not exclusively Islamic statements. This weekend Jewish protests in Tel Aviv, NY and London showed many Jews and others oppose the current Israeli government and support a free Palestine.
You consider Hamas Islamic?Genital mutilation appears to be done by families upon their own daughters. I'm not an expert, but I have never heard of it being forced upon non-family members or by a government or by religious decree.
Habits die hard.
You are drifting off point. Doc's post is about ISIL and Iraq. This group is obviously not following with what we have seen from Salafi/Al Qaeda type terrorists in the past. They do not even look Middle Eastern. Other than the fact that Al Bagdadi was a participant in Obama's terrorist catch and release program we don't know much about them.
What is ISIS? A poseur caliphate that only wants to kill other Muslims? Why the pseudo-religious bloviating about forcing the African practice of maiming young girls while avoiding a public position on Israel/Palestine? Makes no sense to me.
Islamic State grabs Iraqi dam and oilfield in victory over Kurds
By Ahmed Rasheed and Raheem Salman
BAGHDAD Sun Aug 3, 2014 1:34pm EDT
(Reuters) - Islamic State fighters seized control of Iraq's biggest dam, an oilfield and three more towns on Sunday after inflicting their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since sweeping across much of northern Iraq in June.
Capture of the electricity-generating Mosul Dam, after an offensive of barely 24 hours, could give the Sunni militants the ability to flood major Iraqi cities or withhold water from farms, raising the stakes in their bid to topple Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government.
"The terrorist gangs of the Islamic State have taken control of Mosul Dam after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces without a fight," said Iraqi state television.
The swift withdrawal of Kurdish "peshmerga" troops was an apparent severe blow to one of the only forces in Iraq that until now had stood firm against the Sunni Islamist fighters who aim to redraw the borders of the Middle East.
The Islamic State, which sees Iraq's majority Shi'ites as apostates who deserve to be killed, also seized the Ain Zalah oil field - adding to four others already under its control that provide funding for operations - and three towns.
Initially strong Kurdish resistance evaporated after the start of an offensive to take the town of Zumar. The Islamists then hoisted their black flags there, a ritual that has often preceded mass executions of their captured opponents and the imposition of an ideology even al-Qaeda finds excessive.
The group, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria to rule over all Muslims, poses the biggest challenge to the stability of OPEC member Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
FIGHTING FOR TOWNS
On Sunday its members were also involved in fighting in a border town far away in Lebanon, a sign of its ambitions across the frontiers of the Middle East.
It controls cities in Iraq's Tigris and Euphrates valleys north and west of Baghdad, and a swathe of Syria stretching from the Iraqi border in the east to Aleppo in the northwest.
Iraq's Kurds, who rule themselves in a northern enclave guarded by the "peshmerga" units, had expanded areas under their control in recent weeks while avoiding direct confrontation with the Islamic State, even as Iraqi central government troops fled.
But the towns lost on Sunday were in territory the Kurds had held for many years, undermining suggestions that the Islamic State's advance has helped the Kurdish cause.
Witnesses said Islamic State fighters were also trying to take control of the town of Rabia near the Syrian border and were engaged in clashes with Syrian Kurds who had crossed the frontier after Iraqi Kurds withdrew.
The latest gains have placed Islamic State fighters near Dohuk Province, one of three in the autonomous Kurdish region, which has been spared any serious threat to its security while war raged throughout the rest of Iraq.
Since thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers fled the Islamic State offensive, the Kurdish fighters were seen alongside Shi'ite militia to the south as the main lines of defense against the militants, who vow to march on Baghdad.
By calling into question the effectiveness of the Kurdish fighters, Sunday's advances may increase pressure on bickering Iraqi leaders to form a power-sharing government capable of countering the Islamic State.
Two people who live near Mosul Dam told Reuters Kurdish troops had loaded their vehicles with belongings including air conditioners and fled.
Islamic State fighters attacked Zumar from three directions in pick-up trucks mounted with weapons, defeating Kurdish forces that had poured reinforcements into the town, witnesses said.
The Islamic State later also seized the town of Sinjar, where witnesses said residents had fled after Kurdish fighters put up little resistance. It was not immediately clear why the Kurds, usually known as formidable fighters, pulled back without a fight.
On its Twitter site, the Islamic State posted a picture of one of its masked fighters holding up a pistol and sitting at the abandoned desk of the mayor of Sinjar. Behind him was the image of a famous Kurdish guerrilla leader.
In a statement on its website, the Islamic State said it had killed scores of peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters whose name means "those who confront death". Those deaths could not be independently verified. "Hundreds fled leaving vehicles and a huge number of weapons and munitions and the brothers control many areas," the Islamic State statement said. "The fighters arrived in the border triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey."
The Islamic State has systematically blown up Shi'ite mosques and shrines in territory it has seized, fuelling levels of sectarian violence unseen since the very worst weeks of Iraq's 2006-2007 civil war.
The group, which shortened its name after June's offensive from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has stalled in its drive to reach Baghdad, halting just before the town of Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of the capital.
ISLAMIC STATE ADVANCES
The Islamic State has been trying to consolidate its gains, setting its sights on strategic towns near oil fields, as well as border crossings with Syria, so that it can move easily back and forth and transport supplies.
So far, the Islamic State is not near the major oil fields of the northern city of Kirkuk, which were seized by the Kurds in the chaos that followed the Islamic State's advance. It controls part of a pipeline from Kirkuk to Turkey which has been idle for months because of its attacks in the area.
The Islamic State has capitalized on Sunni disenchantment with Maliki by winning support or at least tolerance from some more moderate Sunni communities in Iraq that had fought against al Qaeda during the U.S. "surge" offensive of 2006-2007.
Maliki's opponents say the prime minister, a Shi'ite Islamist who is negotiating to try to stay in power for a third term after an inconclusive parliamentary election in April, is to blame for galvanizing the insurgency by excluding Sunnis from power. Kurdish leaders have also called for Maliki to step down to create a more inclusive government in Baghdad.
The Kurds have long dreamed of their own independent state, an aspiration that has angered Maliki, who has frequently clashed with the non-Arabs over budgets, land and oil.
In July, the Kurdish political bloc ended participation in Iraq's national government in protest against Maliki's accusation that Kurds were allowing "terrorists" to stay in Arbil, capital of their semi-autonomous region.
In another move certain to infuriate the Baghdad government, the Kurdish region is pressing Washington for sophisticated weapons it says Kurdish fighters need to push back the Islamist militants, Kurdish and U.S. officials said.
Sunday's withdrawal may help them press their case.
Maliki needs the Kurds, who gained experience fighting Saddam Hussein's forces, to help defend his country from the Islamic State, whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head.
The Islamic State's ambitions have alarmed other Arab states who fear their success could embolden militants region-wide.
Islamic State fighters were among militants who clashed with Lebanese forces overnight in and around Lebanon's border town of Arsal. At least 10 Lebanese soldiers and an unknown number of militants and civilians died in the fighting, security officials said.
There has been no indication so far whether the advance in northern Iraq and the fighting in Lebanon were coordinated.
On Friday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah urged regional leaders and religious scholars to prevent Islam from being hijacked by militants.
Sunni Saudi Arabia considers the Islamic State a terrorist organization, but Maliki and other Iraqi Shi'ites blame it for sustaining Sunni militancy by backing other sectarian groups.
Islamic State extends gains in north Iraq, Kirkuk bombed
Reuters) - Islamic State militants extended their gains in northern Iraq on Thursday, seizing more towns and strengthening a foothold near the Kurdish region in an offensive that has alarmed the Baghdad government and regional powers.
The advance forced thousands of residents of Iraq's biggest Christian town to flee, fearing they would be subjected to the same demands the Sunni militants made in other captured areas - leave, convert to Islam or face death.
The Islamic State, which is considered more extreme than al- Qaeda, sees Iraq's majority Shi'ites and minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community, as infidels.
Iraqis displaced by ISIS attacks in Sinjar 'desperate' for aid
Iraqis displaced by fighting in the north-west of the country must be given urgent humanitarian assistance, Amnesty International said after tens of thousands of civilians fled the town of Sinjar and surrounding areas following an attack by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants.
Hundreds of civilians from Sinjar and its environs are missing, feared dead or abducted, while tens of thousands are trapped without basic necessities or vital supplies in the Sinjar Mountain area south of the city. Most of those affected are members of the Yezidi minority.
“The civilians trapped in the mountain area are not only at risk of being killed or abducted by ISIS; they are also suffering from a lack of water, food and medical care. They are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who is currently in northern Iraq.
“We urge the international community to provide humanitarian assistance, while the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities must spare no effort to ensure that much-needed aid is delivered to the displaced civilians and that they are protected from further ISIS attacks on the ground.”
Entire populations of the areas attacked by ISIS from Saturday 2 August have fled to the mountain area, which is surrounded by the armed group.
Hundreds of missing civilians, mainly men but also women and children, are reported to have been killed or abducted. Other civilian males who took up arms in an attempt to fend off ISIS attacks are also reported to have been captured and killed.
ISIS fighters abducted or killed more than 30 members of two families from the village of Khana Sor, north-west of Sinjar close to the Syrian border, one of their relatives told Amnesty International.
“They killed the 15 men and took the women and children and until now we do not know what happened to them, where they are or if they are alive or dead,” he said.
A Yezidi woman who fled to the Sinjar Mountain from Tal al-Banat, a village south of Sinjar, told Amnesty International that she fears her missing son Hsein Buqu -- a 45-year-old father of three -- has been killed or abducted.
“We have had no news of him since we fled three days ago. If he was alive and well he would have contacted us (the family),” she said.
Yezidi communities in Iraq have long suffered persecution because of their religion -- an off-shoot of the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian faith -- and are often referred to by Muslims as “devil worshippers”.
Along with Christians and other minorities in Iraq, they are increasingly vulnerable to attacks since ISIS took control of parts of north-western Iraq in June.
Access is currently impossible to the areas under ISIS control and to surrounding areas where armed confrontations are ongoing between ISIS militants and Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
It is therefore difficult to obtain and verify information about the exact circumstances in which individuals and families have gone missing.
The fact that many are trapped in areas without electricity means those affected are unable to communicate with their relatives and with the outside world.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has also blocked displaced people from seeking refuge in some Iraqi Kurdistan cities under its control, such as Erbil and Dohuk.
“The plight of displaced people caught up in fighting in Iraq is increasingly desperate and all parties to the conflict must do more to ensure their safety,” said Donatella Rovera.
“For one, the Kurdistan Regional Government must immediately allow displaced people unfettered access to all areas under its control and remove restrictions in Erbil, Dohuk and other areas where civilians may seek refuge.”
ISIS militants launch assault on Iraq's largest dam
Published August 07, 2014
This Oct. 31, 2007 file photo, shows a general view of the dam in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.AP/File
ISIS militants mounted a bloody bid to seize Iraq's largest dam Thursday, clashing with Kurds for control of the Mosul’s primary source of fresh water and power.
Residents told The Associated Press that the Islamic State (IS), the militant group formerly known as ISIS, had taken control of the Tigris River facility, but crack Kurdish troops guarding the site claim they repelled the attack, Agence France Press reported.
"The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) launched an attack on Mosul dam but the peshmerga repelled it," Kurdish spokesman Halgurd Hekmat said. "They left at least one body and four destroyed humvees behind in their retreat," he said.
The fight to control the 30-year-old facility once known as Saddam Dam marks a critical point in ISIS’ front with the Kurdish soldiers known as Peshmerga. Seizing the dam would give ISIS the power to control water and electricity in Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, 30 miles downstream.
The dam lies on the Tigris River, which runs through Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. It provides electricity to the 1.7 million residents of Mosul and is the fourth-largest dam in the Middle East.
ISIS has fought the local Kurdish peshmerga fighters for control of the dam for nearly one week.
At least three residents who live in the area spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, fearing for their own safety.
The government did not immediately comment on the developments. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency meeting over the situation, according to Reuters.
The Al-Qaeda-breakaway group is calling for the creation of an Islamic state in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, imposing its own harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Iraqi government forces, Kurds and allied Sunni tribal militiamen have been struggling to dislodge the militants with little apparent success.
ISIS posted a statement online Thursday claiming that they had taken control of the dam and vowed to continue "the march in all directions," adding that it not given up the great Caliphate project." The group added that it has seized a total of 17 cities, towns and targets — including the dam — over the past five days. The statement could not be verified but it was posted on a site frequently used by the group.
Mosul fell to the militants on June 10. Fighting intensified in the region Sunday after the nearby towns of Zumar and Sinjar fell to ISIS as well.
The Kurdish peshmerga units had initially managed to stall the militant advances, but their defense waned in recent weeks.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the Iraqi air force to provide aerial support to the Kurds, in a rare show of cooperation between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government that underscored the serious nature of this crisis.
Iraq's second largest dam, Haditha Dam in the western Anbar province, has also been at risk of takeover but remains in the hands of the Iraqi military.
In Baghdad, Iraqi officials say a suicide car bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police checkpoint, killing at least 15 people. A security official said nine civilians were among the dead in Thursday's attack that took place in the predominantly Shiite northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah. He added that 26 other people were wounded.
A medical official confirmed the causality figure. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
In Kirkuk, two car bomb explosions near a Shiite mosque holding displaced people killed 11, security and medical sources told Reuters.
Pope Francis also is calling for world governments to take measures to protect Christians driven from their villages in northern Iraq and provide them with humanitarian aid.
The pope's second appeal in as many weeks came Thursday as militants overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing.
In a statement, Francis appealed to the international community to "put an end to the humanitarian drama underway, adopt measures to protect those who are threatened by violence and assure them necessary aid, especially urgent for those who are homeless and depend on the solidarity of others."
Iraq's largest Christian town abandoned as Isis advance continues
UN officials say an estimated 200,000 new refugees are seeking sanctuary in the Kurdish north from Islamic extremists
theguardian.com, Thursday 7 August 2014 11.58 EDT
Thousands of Yazidi and Christian people flee to Erbil after the latest wave of Isis advances
Thousands of Yazidi and Christian people flee to Erbil after the latest wave of Isis advances. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Iraq's largest Christian city was all but abandoned on Thursday as the jihadist advance through minority communities in the country's north-west rampaged towards the Kurdish stronghold of Erbil.
UN officials said an estimated 200,000 new refugees were seeking sanctuary in the Kurdish north from Islamic extremists who had pursued them since the weekend. The city of Qaraqosh, south-east of Mosul, home to around 50,000 Christians was the latest to fall, with most residents fleeing before dawn as convoys of extremists drew near.
Other Christian towns near Mosul, including Tel Askof, Tel Keif and Qaramless have also largely been emptied. Those who remained behind have reportedly been given the same stark choice given to other minorities, including Yazidis: flee, convert to Islam, or be killed.
Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen have been at the frontlines of Iraq's war with the Islamic State (Isis) ever since the jihadist group stormed into Mosul and Tikrit and mid-June. The Iraqi army capitulated within hours, with at least 60,000 officers and soldiers fleeing on the first day of the assault alone.
Ever since, the jihadists have continued to make advances, while Iraqi troops have concentrated on defending Baghdad and the Shia south, leaving the defence of minorities in the north to the Kurdish peshmurga.
However, even the much vaunted Kurdish forces were no match for the heavy weapons wielded by the jihadists as they advanced in recent days. Peshmurga officers ordered troops to withdraw to areas administered by the Kurdish regional government – a clear sign of priorities and of where the battle lines are being drawn.
Without any protection, Yazidis, Christians and Turkmen are being uprooted from communities they have lived in for millennia and the geo-social fabric of Iraq is being rapidly shredded.
While those who have managed to flee the Christian areas have so far had a relatively safe passage to Erbil, tens of thousands of Yazidis remain besieged on a mountain top near Sinjar, with little food or water.
The UN said on Thursday it was able to get some supplies overland to the stranded hordes – avoiding Isis fighters who have surrounded most of Mount Sinjar. Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that Turkish helicopters had dropped food and water on the mountain top. Iraqi helicopters have also made food drops, but stranded Yazidis say they do not have enough to survive.
The Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Joseph Thomas, described the situation in northern Iraq as "catastrophic, a crisis beyond imagination". He demanded urgent intervention to save what remained of the area's Christian heritage.
Kurdish officials on Thursday demanded more help in catering for refugees. The Kurdish administered areas have seen staggering numbers cross their notional border since the original Isis onslaught two months ago. In the first week alone, some 500,000 people are thought to have fled towards Erbil.
The capital of the Kurdish north is already home to a new Chaldean Christian community, which fled Baghdad in the wake of an Isis-led massacre inside a cathedral in October 2010. Many fleeing Christians have headed for the Ainkawa neighbourhood, which is home to Baghdad's Christian exiles.
The past 11 years of war and insurrection since the US invasion have led to most of Iraq's Christians fleeing. Numbers have plummeted starkly from an estimated one million before 2003 to around 150,000 now. A large number of those who remain are now displaced.
Miriam Dagher, 53, from Qaraqosh, said churches in the city had already been torched and religious insignia smashed. "We stayed as long as we could," she said. "But nothing could save us. This is the end of our community."
Iraq Qaraqosh WEB
Isis has threatened to redraw the unitary borders that were carved out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire. The group's rampant insurgency and the inability of state actors to stop it has rendered the frontier between Iraq and Syria evermore irrelevant.
In the absence of central government authority, Shia militias are taking dominant roles, amplifying sectarian enmity between Islam's two most dominant sects.
Iraq's beleaguered prime minister, Nour al-Maliki, no longer has the authority to unite the country's disparate sects. Maliki, a Shia Muslim, had disenfranchised much of the country's Sunni community over the past three years, some of whom have turned to Isis as a means of reasserting themselves.
After digging in for the past two months, Maliki now faces a desperate battle to form a government, with his key backer Iran understood to have told him that it no longer supports his bid to lead the country for a third term.
Kurdish leader, Massoud Barazani, has said he is moving towards holding a referendum that could pave the way for an independence bid, a move that could spell the end of Iraq, and unsettle surrounding countries, including Syria, Turkey and Iran.
“We have reached the conclusion that Maliki cannot preserve the unity of Iraq anymore, but Ayatollah [Ali] Sistani still has hopes,” said the Iranian official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, referring to Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric.
“Now, Ayatollah Sistani also backs our view on Maliki.”
The official said Tehran's Iranian ambassador in Baghdad had held consultations with political factions and some potential candidates on the subject, but acknowledged that finding a suitable replacement for Maliki was difficult.
“There are not many candidates who can and have the capability to preserve the unity of Iraq,” the official said.
Rebels Capture Iraq’s Largest Dam
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and TIM ARANGOAUG. 7, 2014
ERBIL, Iraq — Sunni militants captured the Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, on Thursday as their advances in the country’s north created an onslaught of refugees and set off fearful rumors in Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital.
Residents near the dam and officials in the region confirmed that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, held the dam, a potentially catastrophic development for Iraq’s civilian population.
The dam, which sits on the Tigris River and is about 30 miles northwest of the city of Mosul, provides electricity to Mosul and controls the water supply for a large amount of territory. A report published in 2007 by the United States government, which had been involved with work on the dam, warned that should it fail, a 65-foot wave of water could be unleashed across areas of northern Iraq.
Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh Province, whose capital is Mosul, said in a telephone interview from northern Iraq, where he has fled, that ISIS had secured the dam after what he called an “organized retreat” of Kurdish security forces, known as pesh merga.
ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, on June 10, and began its latest offensive this week. In a statement issued on a social media account believed to belong to the group, it claimed that it had captured the dam and vowed to continue its offensive northward as it consolidates control and continues to realize its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate that bridges the borders of Syria and Iraq.
“Our Islamic State forces are still fighting in all directions and we will not step down until the project of the caliphate is established, with the will of God,” the statement said.
ISIS continued on Thursday to battle pesh merga forces for control of towns east of Mosul, in the direction of Erbil, and civilians hoping to flee the fighting flooded the Erbil airport and swamped the Iraqi Airways office in a futile attempt to get tickets to Baghdad.
In the early hours of Thursday, forces from the Kurdish pesh merga left checkpoints guarding several largely Christian settlements east of Mosul because they had been called to defend Kurdish towns closer to Erbil, according to a colonel in the Kurdish Defense Ministry.
By late Wednesday, Kurdish television was reporting that Mahmour and Gwar, two Kurdish settlements less than 20 miles west of Erbil, had fallen to ISIS. By Thursday morning, a colonel in the pesh merga said that Mahmour had been retaken, while militants remained in control of Gwar.
The latest ISIS push followed its pattern of exploratory attacks on the outskirts of an area it wants to take. On Wednesday, it repelled Kurdish efforts east of Mosul and shelled Qaraqosh, which is one of several largely Christian settlements in the area between Mosul and Erbil, 60 miles to the east. As plumes of smoke drifted across the plains of Nineveh between Mosul and Erbil, panicked residents fled from the settlements there in cars and pickup trucks piled with belongings, creating lines more than half a mile long at checkpoints guarded by the pesh merga.
On Thursday, many villagers who had not already left departed hurriedly, throwing just a few items in suitcases, said Father Amar, a Syrian Catholic priest from Bartella, one of the largely Christian settlements, who had left with them. Shortly afterward, he said, he spoke to some who had decided to remain, and they reported that ISIS had taken the town.
Father Amar said that there were “thousands” of Christian and Arab families marooned at the main pesh merga checkpoint trying to enter the Kurdish region on Thursday morning. No one was being allowed to pass, he said.
West of Mosul, some of the thousands of Iraqi civilians who fled into the mountains around the town of Sinjar have been rescued, United Nations officials said Thursday, but details of the operation remained sketchy.
Will Parks, the United Nations Children’s Fund chief field officer in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, discussed the crisis in Sinjar, where 50,000 people are still stuck in the mountains.
Publish Date August 7, 2014. Image CreditAdam Ferguson for The New York Times
“Some people have been extracted over the past 24 hours,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman in Geneva for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but he could not confirm how many had left or where they had been taken.
United Nations officials have estimated that 10,000 to 40,000 were trapped in the mountains after ISIS defeated Kurdish forces in the area and attacked Sinjar three days ago.
Most of the civilians are believed to be members of the Yazidi minority, which, like other ethnic and religious minorities in the area, has already been the target of abductions by ISIS forces, according to the United Nations. Reports had reached Erbil that more than 200,000 Yazidis had left Sinjar with nothing except what they were wearing. Yazidis had asked the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to airdrop supplies to them because they could not leave the mountains without being intercepted by ISIS forces.
As the fighting expanded in the north, violence also unfolded elsewhere. In Kirkuk, a northern city long divided between Arabs and Kurds that is now under Kurdish control, two explosions struck near a Shiite mosque, killing 11 people and wounding more than 50 others. In Baghdad, a suicide car bomber struck in Kadhimiya, a Shiite district that is home to an important shrine, killing 15 and wounding 25 others, according to a hospital official and the local police.
Is this the end for the Yazidis of Iraq?
In northern Iraq, followers of one of the world’s most colourful religions are in danger of being wiped out by Islamic State jihadists – and now the whole of Kurdistan is at risk, too
A Yazidi family who fled the violence in Sinjar takes shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohu Photo: AFP/Getty Images
By Richard Spencer, and Justin Huggler
10:00PM BST 07 Aug 2014
The followers of the Peacock Angel believe they are facing their 73rd genocide. Many are already scattered across the corners of the earth, more are fleeing for their lives from their latest persecutors, and some are dying of thirst on a scorching desert mountainside. The Yazidis have run out of places to call home.
It is not often you can record the moment when an ancient religion’s home is finally wiped out. It is like the death of the last speaker of some rare language. But this week might mark that moment for the Yazidis, one of the most colourful bands of worshippers in the Middle East, a region not lacking in colourful worshippers.
Above all other inhabitants of the fragmented, violent mess that is modern Iraq, they had reason to fear the jihadists of the Islamic State, who term them devil‑worshippers. They thought they were safe in an enclave in the north of the country, where they were protected by Kurdish forces, even when Islamic State’s Toyota truck-mounted warriors came sweeping through Iraq from the south-west.
But then, on Saturday, a second wave attacked, and overwhelmed their biggest town, Sinjar, driving them out and into the desert. About 100,000 are thought to have made it to camps and other places of refuge further north, inside the Kurdish Autonomous Region itself. But thousands more – estimates range from 10,000 to 40,000 people – are now surrounded in the fierce July heat of the Iraqi desert, all exit routes cut off.
Some are preparing to stand and fight, others are simply hiding out in caves in the desert hills. Some are already burying their children, as they succumb to dehydration and the hostile conditions. It is an extraordinary failure to protect a vulnerable community – though whose failure it was will be subject to much debate, particularly if Islamic State cannot be dislodged and the last Iraqi Yazidis’ exile becomes permanent.
The exiles, of course, will be luckier than many of those stuck behind. Bloody pictures of those killed in the fighting, or executed subsequently, have already been posted on social media by the jihadists. The aggressors have so far waged a successful campaign of persuading their next opponents to run away by showing off graphically what happened to those who fell into their clutches before.
Iraqis people from the Yazidi community arriving in Irbil in northern Iraq after Islamic militants attacked the towns of Sinjar and Zunmar (AP)
But no one will be able to say it could not have been foreseen. The more prejudiced of their Sunni Muslim neighbours always despised the Yazidis, using them as bogeymen to frighten their children. There is reason for their association with devil-worshippers, though hardly a good one. The semi-deity worshipped by the Yazidis, known as Malek Tawwus, or the Peacock Angel, can easily be identified with Satan – the Peacock Angel, like Lucifer, fell from grace, but in the Yazidis’ eyes was pardoned and restored to glory. And so, to the Yazidis’ enemies, Malek Tawwus really is Satan, and, if you are a jihadist of the Islamic State variety, that means they can be killed with impunity. The threats have already been circulating on jihadi internet forums.
The truth, of course, is somewhat different. While many in the Middle East see Yazidism as a breakaway sect from Islam or Christianity, it is in fact an entirely separate, pre-existing religion with its own belief system. Yazidis do not believe in heaven or hell, but in reincarnation, which they call the soul “changing its clothes”. Their religious practices certainly mark them out. They never wear the colour blue. They are not allowed to eat lettuce. Many of the men wear their hair in long plaits that make them resemble nothing so much as Asterix and Obelix, while others keep wildly thick, untrimmed moustaches.
They practise a form of institutionalised elopement, where a man must “kidnap” his bride with her own consent, but without her parents’ knowledge. They believe one of their holy books, the Black Book, was stolen by the British in colonial times and is kept somewhere in London. While the origins of their beliefs are shrouded in mystery, they have kept their religion alive through the Talkers – Yazidi men who are taught the entire text of the missing book by heart as children and pass it on to their own sons in turn. Far from being devil‑worshippers, they find even the mention of the word “Satan” so profoundly offensive that Iraqis used to warn visitors to their villages in the Sinjar region not to say it.
Less mysterious is the history of persecution to which they have been subject. It is not just for religion; ethnically Kurdish, they are a minority within a minority, in a tough region. In Turkey, they were once forced to carry identity cards that listed their religion as “XXX”, as if it was too unspeakable even to write, until almost the entire community fled to Europe. In Georgia and Armenia, they were forced out by nationalist movements after the fall of the Soviet Union, while in Syria most fled religious persecution.
In Iraq alone they survived, though their situation has been precarious, particularly since the rise of Sunni extremist groups in the region around them during Iraq’s civil war. In 2007, 23 Yazidis were taken from a bus and shot dead in a sectarian killing, and there have been individual murders since then. The Yazidis are not without their own darker side, and the 2007 shootings were thought to be a reprisal after a Yazidi woman was allegedly stoned to death for converting to Islam and marrying a Muslim man.
Now there are fears for their continued existence in their homelands. “We are calling for the outside world to send military assistance,” says Telim Tolan of Denge Ezidiyan, a Yazidi expat organisation in Germany. “We are calling for the Kurdish government to send its army.”
More than 10,000 Yazidis are among those stranded on the Sinjar mountain, according to Mr Tolan. On the plains below, Yazidis have barricaded themselves in their villages and are preparing to defend them against Islamic State fighters. The roads are controlled by Islamic State and there is no route for the Yazidis to flee to safety. Many Yazidi women have already been raped, and forced to convert and marry Muslim men. “If help doesn’t come soon, I’m not afraid a genocide will start,” says Mr Tolan. “I’m afraid it will already be finished.”
They are not the only victims, or even, so far, the most numerous of those killed by Islamic State as they surge through the country. Hundreds if not thousands of Shia, the jihadists’ greatest enemy, have been killed, callously murdered by rampaging attackers, or rounded up, in the case of battalions of captive soldiers from the Iraqi army, lined up by open graves and shot through the head.
Christians, largely spared the beheader’s knife, have been forced to leave, even from the plain of Ninevah. At first they were told to pay a “jizya tax” or convert, and were then simply told to get out. In some senses, the Christians here are older than Christianity itself: a good proportion ethnically are Assyrians, descendants of the race that in biblical times ruled over much of the region. Two months ago, in a visit to some of their last towns, north and east of Mosul, again under Kurdish protection, a few ragtag Dad’s Armies defiantly told reporters they would hold out against the Islamic State forces facing them less than a mile away. Now, in the last 48 hours those remaining towns, Qaraqosh, Tel Kayf and Bartella, have also fallen to the jihadists.
“The USA and Europe are silent, as if what’s going on to entire communities, Christians, Yazidis, is normal,” Father Yousef Benjamin, coadjutor bishop of Tel Kayf and priest in charge of Al-Mashriq Assyrian Church, told The Daily Telegraph last night. “The international community doesn’t care, they care only about Gaza, and even the Islamic leaders don’t even condemn what’s happening.”
The question now, for the first time, is whether even Kurdistan is safe. Since 1991, when we last saw columns of refugees heading over the mountains of northern Iraq, this time running from the army of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds have carved out a semi-state under the moral protection of Britain and America, in the wake of the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait. In recent years, the Kurdistan Autonomous Region, as it became, has been a beacon of prosperity and stability, ruled over by two clans, the Talabanis and Barzanis, in a quasi-democratic system, both more or less friendly to both the West and Iran.
Their defence forces, the Peshmerga, had a reputation for being the only efficient fighters in the country. Even they, though, have proved less of a match for Islamic State than promised. They held the line for a while, but they are poorly armed and some of the recent losses are due to the fact that they ran out of ammunition. Ironically, despite being friends with the West and recipients of much Western investment, the Peshmerga have not been supplied with the West’s weaponry, which we say must go through Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. The central government naturally does not like the Kurds’ undisguised ambition for independence.
So the force with the best access to American armoured vehicles, Humvees and arms is Islamic State, which was able simply to drive up to the abandoned Iraqi army’s bases and seize them. Will that change? President Barack Obama has shown no sign that he is prepared to get back into the maelstrom of Iraq, from where he withdrew American forces, perhaps precipitously, as many now claim, in 2011. He has sent surveillance and armed drones, and military advisers: none seem to have made much difference so far.
Will Kurdistan be a new “red line” for Washington? There is no sign it will be. The Christians, with their history and Western ties, the Yazidis with their Peacock Angel – none of these have been a red line. The Kurds may have to defend themselves. One hopes they will do better than they did for Iraq’s frightened minorities.
Obama authorises Iraq strikes
Dow Jones newswires
August 08, 2014 1:30PM
President Barack Obama authorized the US military to make targeted strikes against Islamist militants in northern Iraq, and began an emergency airdrop of water and food to members of a religious minority trapped in the mountains by advancing Islamist militants, US officials said.
"I authorized targeted airstrikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq," Mr Obama said in an national address at the White House.
"There is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force."
Mr Obama, acknowledging the war-wary public, said the US will not deploy any American ground troops or be drawn into another Iraq war.
A US official said roughly 70 pallets of water and ready-to-eat meals were dropped into the mountains were the Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish religious minority, were taking refuge. Pentagon officials watched video the airdrops, conducted by both C-17 and C-130 cargo planes, recorded from an overhead surveillance plane. The cargo planes were escorted by American fighter jets, officials said.
The sudden acceleration of US military activity reflected White House concern over a burgeoning crisis in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq as the militant group calling itself Islamic State closed in on the area and pressed an offensive against local forces, seizing areas long considered safe. Militants on Thursday took over the Mosul Dam, the country's largest, according to a local resident.
The US strategy was intended to protect US military and diplomatic personnel working in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.
Pentagon officials said no US strikes had begun by Thursday evening. An Iraqi military official said the Iraqi air force conducted some airstrikes Thursday.
The US troops in Erbil are part of a force of planners and advisers working in joint US-Iraqi centers.
Washington has held off on any direct military involvement as the Obama administration pressures Iraqi lawmakers to form a new, more inclusive government. The U.S. rush to aid Kurdish areas of the country, long close to the US, sent an implicit US suggestion that it might do more for the central government in Baghdad once it has a new government.
"We are sending a clear message to the Iraqi government," said a US official.
The United Nations Security Council met in an emergency session on the Iraq crisis and expressed "deep outrage" about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis--especially those from vulnerable minorities--who have been displaced and persecuted by Islamic State militants.
The US has considered airstrikes before in Iraq, but backed down as the advance by Sunni militants slowed and the threat against Baghdad seemed to diminish. But the extremists have renewed their push in recent days, this time against Kurdish controlled territories.
At the same time, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled an advance by Islamic State militants into the country's Christian heartland in the north. It appears to be a strategic push by Islamic State toward the semiautonomous Kurdish region, so far insulated from the militant takeover of parts of Iraq and a haven for people displaced from other parts of the country.
The latest rapid advance by Islamic State on the Christian area and the crisis involving the Yazidis are both taking place in the same northern province, Nineveh, where the militant group took the provincial capital Mosul on June 10 and sent Iraq into its worst crisis in years.
An Iraqi military official said the Iraqi air force conducted strikes Thursday in Nineveh on the city of Mosul and closer to Erbil province, and on Tikrit in Salaheddine province. The air force has bombed insurgent positions in Mosul and in Tikrit--which Islamic State took on June 11, the day after it seized Mosul--and its surroundings as part of a counteroffensive, Iraqi officials say.
The Kurdish foreign minister welcomed Washington's aid pledge but stressed that no commitments had been given to provide Kurdish fighters with weapons or ammunition to repel Islamic State advances.
In a telephone interview from Erbil, Falah Mustafa Bakir said Peshmerga retreats in recent days were calculated to protect civilians from indiscriminate attacks and didn't represent a military collapse along the lines of the Iraqi army earlier this summer.
"President Obama considering the airdrop and other military options will be an important show of support," he said. "This is what is needed, especially for people stranded in Sinjar. These people are in dire need of whatever assistance is possible and an airdrop is the only way. We also welcome airstrikes," Mr. Bakir said.
Airstrikes, Sure; but What About a Strategy in Iraq?
Kiron Skinner was a member of the U.S. Defense Department’s defense policy board as an adviser on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and has served on the chief of naval operations’ executive panel since 2004. She is the director of the Center for International Relations and Politics at Carnegie Mellon University and a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
Updated August 8, 2014, 4:54 PM
It has been a tragically spectacular year for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has taken control of numerous towns in Iraq and Syria, seized energy assets, targeted religious minorities, unleashed murderous rampages against those who do not subscribe to its tenets, and declared a caliphate.
So it is no surprise that the United States has accelerated its sales of military equipment to Iraq in the past eight months. During his speech at West Point on May 28, President Obama announced the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund to reflect a greater commitment to help the Iraqi government curb terrorism. The next month, the administration announced that several hundred U.S. servicemembers would be sent to Iraq to advise security forces, secure U.S. personnel, and assess the intelligence, security needs, and performance of the Iraqi military.
Despite the administration’s repeated assurances that the U.S. would not return to Iraq in a military capacity, President Obama put the United States on the path to greater military involvement on Aug. 7. Many Americans will support the president’s humanitarian mission to save starving Yazidis being persecuted by ISIS. They may also support his decision to launch airstrikes if ISIS advances toward Irbil, regional capital of Kurdish Iraq, where U.S. military advisers are stationed.
But will limited airstrikes be sufficient to decapitate ISIS? At a time when 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. should devote less attention to international crises and the president’s approval rating is at 40 percent, the administration may find it difficult to muster support for its current Iraq policy.
The White House may find widespread domestic support hard to come by if it extends its bombing campaign in the face of a resilient ISIS. As soon as U.S. fighter jets dropped laser-guided bombs outside of Irbil on Aug. 8, discussions were under way about additional targets. Such actions will be troubling because they are tactical moves devoid of a larger strategy.
The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review gives scant attention to the growing insurgency in Iraq and the potential for that country to be a battleground for which the U.S. must be engaged. The reality was not lost on the bipartisan response to the Defense Department's strategic-guidance document: “The capabilities and capacities rightly called for in the Quadrennial Defense Review ... clearly exceed the budget resources made available to the Defense Department." This is a serious concern given the insurgency in Iraq and civil strife throughout the Middle East and Africa. War without strategy is fraught with danger.
But the problems go deeper than coordination, particularly with the Iraqi army.
"They are very weak and if it’s left up to them, it’s over," a source who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and has continued to work there as a contractor told ABC News.
ISIS Beating Iraqis and Kurds As One Lacks 'Heart' and the Other Ammo
Aug 9, 2014, 6:30 AM ET
By LEE FERRAN, JAMES MEEK and MEGHAN KENEALLY
Lee Ferran More from Lee »
The Islamic militia ISIS has been able to roll back both the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga force because one lacks the "heart" for a fight while the other lacks the firepower, according to Americans familiar with both forces.
ISIS has easily swept the Iraqi army from Anbar province in the southwest of Iraq as well as much of northern Iraq and then blunted attempts by the Iraqi government to retake cities.
The Kurdish peshmerga was expected to be a more formidable force, but they have also lost ground to ISIS, including the vital Mosul dam, in recent days.
"It is not clear whether either the peshmerga or the ISF (Iraq Security Force) can prevent ISIS from seizing villages and outlying infrastructure that ISIS desires to control,” said Jessica Lewis, the research director at the Institute of the Study of War.
US Carries Out More Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq
How Iraq Spiraled Out Of Control
On paper, ISIS should be no match for the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The ISF had more than 270,000 troops and about 340 tanks, while a conservative estimate of the peshmerga force is 80,000.
"ISIS is strategically dividing the military forces of the ISF and the peshmerga in order to compromise their defenses and prevent them from mounting effective offensive campaigns,” Lewis told ABC News.
But the problems go deeper than coordination, particularly with the Iraqi army.
"They are very weak and if it’s left up to them, it’s over," a source who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and has continued to work there as a contractor told ABC News.
He said that he has found the Iraqi people to be more dedicated to their ancestral ties as opposed to their national identity, saying they "are loyal to their tribes, not their country.”
The army's problems are compounded by the practice of appointing officers based largely on their Shiite backgrounds and their political ties instead of competence.
"They've been a checkpoint army," Lt. Gen. Mike Barbero, the former deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq, told ABC News in June. "If you're not training all the time or maintaining your equipment, you're not going to be effective. Counter-insurgency requires very active and targetable intelligence, which they didn't have, and the skills to go in there and attack the network."
"An army runs on skill and will, and they didn't have the will," Barbero said.
Barbero said that the peshmerga, which roughly translates to mean "those who face death," have the "guts" to fight, but they have very little ammunition. Barbero speaks with Kurdish officials regularly and said that he was told they lost control of the Mosul dam because they ran out of bullets.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday, "The Kurdish forces have played a critical role in addressing this threat. We understand their need for additional arms and equipment, and are working to provide those as well so they are reinforced. So we are bringing a lot of firepower to bear against this threat, mainly by helping the Iraqis."
The former military source told ABC that the Peshmerga are strengthened by their dedication to their cause.
"They are the kind of guys you want having your back. They are battle-hardened... and mostly U.S. trained. They are actually loyal to their country, unlike regular Iraqi troops," the former military source told ABC. "They are solid. They have been fighting since Saddam era and they have one interest – to have Kurdistan left alone."
The U.S. State Department said Friday that they have been "advising and assisting" both the Iraqi security forces and the peshmerga.
Harf said that the Iraqi army and the peshmerga are working together "in an unprecedented way... to counter this threat together."
Obama Leaves DC for Massachusetts Island Vacation
AIR STATION CAPE COD, Mass. — Aug 9, 2014, 12:34 PM ET
By JULIE PACE AP White House Correspondent
President Barack Obama has arrived in Massachusetts for his two-week summer vacation, which comes as the U.S. is engaged in airstrikes against Islamic militant targets in Iraq.
Obama and his family landed at a Coast Guard station on Cape Cod before heading to their final destination — Martha's Vineyard.
Before leaving the White House, he told reporters that he was ready "to not have a suit on for a while."
Obama is breaking up his vacation with a two-day return to Washington midway through the trip.
The president typically keeps a low-profile on his annual summer vacations. But he will headline a Democratic fundraiser on the island Monday night.
The president and his family are staying in a rented vacation house in the town of Chilmark.
For Refugees on Mountain, ‘No Water, Nothing’
By ALISSA J. RUBINAUG. 9, 2014
After Flight, a Fight to Survive in Iraq
FISHKHABOUR, Iraq — They ran from the sound of the Sunni militants’ guns in the night last weekend. Carrying almost nothing with them, thousands of Yazidis fled miles on foot to their holy sites on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, then collapsed amid the rocks and low scrub.
Now they face a different danger.
“There is no water, nothing to eat, there is nowhere to sit, there is not even a shadow,” said one refugee, Jalal Shoraf Din.
Suleiman Ilyas Aslan, who fled with his wife and their three children, said makeshift funeral processions into the scrub wasteland on the mountainside have become ever more common. “We couldn’t count them, there were so many,” said Mr. Aslan, who said he looked away when the grieving families walked by.
The Yazidis are a tiny religious minority, following a faith that is neither Muslim nor Christian. That makes them apostates in the eyes of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which is sweeping through their villages in northern Iraq.
Some of those who ran to the mountain did not make it, and no one yet has calculated how many were executed by ISIS fighters over the past week. But interviews with a half-dozen Yazidi families who had made their way down from Mount Sinjar found that almost everyone had lost someone in their extended family. Some were killed; others were abducted and faced an unknown fate. Hundreds of women and young girls were taken away as brides for jihadis and given the choice of conversion or death, according to the refugees, several of whom said they had received phone calls from their daughters or sisters, before their cellphone batteries and credit ran out.
Continue reading the main story
The Iraq-ISIS Conflict in Maps, Photos and Video
A visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria.
For those still on the mountain, things are dire in a different way.
Airdrops by the Iraqi government and by the Americans have reached a number of the refugees, but the scale of the mountain, with its many folds and crevasses, means that the refugees are scattered across miles of scrabble wastes.
The Aslan family was one of four interviewed who never received water or food from the airdrops although its members sometimes heard about the packages from other families who were passing by and had managed to receive some of the aid.
“These people urgently need lifesaving assistance,” said David Swanson, a spokesman for the United Nations’ Office of Coordination and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq. “If we don’t get it up to them, the more people will die; the more we wait, the more they die.”
The atmosphere now on the mountain is one of desperation and exhaustion, said those who were coming off it, dehydrated and confused. Many of those who have made it down have bloodied and blistered feet and can barely speak, not least because of all they have lost.
“I don’t remember anything,” said Ilyas Haku Namo, 64, who was wearing traditional Kurdish clothes, a turban and wide-legged pants that narrowed at the ankle. He arrived in the city of Dohuk in Kurdistan on Friday morning and was sitting under a highway bridge. He had lost most of his family and feared they had been abducted by ISIS or were dead.
Continue reading the main story
“At first we were running together, me and my first wife and my second wife and my three children, two boys and a girl,” he said. “But then when we got higher on the mountain, my three children and my first wife were gone.
“I did nothing in my life except work and have this family,” he added, despairing. “I just want to die.”
On Saturday, the trickle of those coming down the mountain became a flood. Refugees described how Kurdish pesh merga fighters from Syria, along with some Yazidi fighters, had cleared a new path down to the Syrian border, leading to a rush of thousands. The Yazidis reported running low on ammunition, even as ISIS fighters were said to be advancing quickly up the other side of the mountain.
The Yazidis are caught up in a larger disaster occurring across Iraq, but one that is hitting Kurdistan, once the most stable part of the country, especially hard.
There, a mass migration is underway, precipitated by increasingly widespread fears that the Sunni militants are about to take one village after another across northern Iraq. Some 580,000 refugees have poured into the Kurdistan region, about 200,000 since Monday, when ISIS took Sinjar and its surrounding villages, according to Mr. Swanson of the U.N.’s humanitarian assistance office. They are there on top of another 230,000 Syrian refugees.
As ISIS has moved steadily through the disputed areas along the border of Iraqi Kurdistan that the Kurds are attempting to claim, civilians have fled into the region. In village after village, town after town, people were running ahead of rumors that ISIS was coming. The Kurdish forces offered to help people leave, piling them into huge open trucks and handing out water before they set out for the east or west with their tottering loads. Individuals in cars, pickup trucks and farm vehicles with mattresses strapped on with old twine hobbled along the bumpy roads just trying to get away. The old road to Dohuk, which runs across Kurdistan, was filled with cars heading to larger cities.
This most recent exodus has involved primarily the minority Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen Shiites and Shabaks, another Muslim sect, all of whom the Sunni militants view as heretics, as they do all Shiites.
The particular fear for the Yazidis is that ISIS appears not only to be displacing them and forcing conversions, but also is killing a number of them, much as they have Shiites in other parts of Iraq.
At Mount Sinjar, some people are getting down with the help of the Syrian Kurdish pesh merga who have been trying to lead people to safety. Late Saturday, thousands were reported to have come down with the help of the pesh merga, fleeing into Syria with the hope of making their way back into Iraq.
Others made their way down on their own, relying on their sense of the mountain from years of worshiping on its slopes or in some cases herding sheep and goats there. In some cases, groups of women have come with their children, while their men stayed on the mountain.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Mr. Aslan and his family debated with several other families whether to risk going down the mountain. They were not sure how far they would have to walk or whether, when they reached the foot of the mountain, the gunmen they were fleeing would be there, waiting to kill them.
After four days without food and with only a few sips of water from shallow springs — parents were spitting into their children’s mouths to try to get them some liquid — Mr. Aslan’s wife, Gerus Khalaf Aslan, said they felt death would soon come to them.
“We decided to risk our children’s lives and try to escape,” she said.
The mountain lies near the Syrian border; they managed to cross it with the help of relatives who met them when they came down. They then spent their last few dinars on a taxi back to Dohuk — testament to how the borders have melted away in this troubled region.
They had spent 24 hours living under a highway bridge, uncertain where they should go or what they should do. Local Kurds have brought them mattresses, bread and cookies; some are bringing cooked food, but the children want desperately to go home.
“We thought ISIS would only stay a short time in our village, and we thought the Kurdish fighters would succeed in beating back ISIS,” said Mrs. Aslan, explaining that their village had been defended by pesh merga soldiers.
“But they used up all their bullets,” she said, looking down.
Her husband nodded and said, “We will never go back to our village or we will die.”
.We build a fire in a powder magazine, then double the fire department to put it out. We inflame wild beasts with the smell of blood, and then innocently wonder at the wave of brutal appetite that sweeps the land as a consequence
kmich wrote:.We build a fire in a powder magazine, then double the fire department to put it out. We inflame wild beasts with the smell of blood, and then innocently wonder at the wave of brutal appetite that sweeps the land as a consequence
- Mark Twain, 1907 speech
Doc wrote:kmich wrote:.We build a fire in a powder magazine, then double the fire department to put it out. We inflame wild beasts with the smell of blood, and then innocently wonder at the wave of brutal appetite that sweeps the land as a consequence
- Mark Twain, 1907 speech
I would remind you that ISIS was created in Syria not Iraq.
Doc wrote:I would remind you that ISIS was created in Syria not Iraq.
Heracleum Persicum wrote:true, ISIS was created in SYRIA , by Mossad & CIA.
kmich wrote:Doc wrote:I would remind you that ISIS was created in Syria not Iraq.Heracleum Persicum wrote:true, ISIS was created in SYRIA , by Mossad & CIA.
I doubt it is all that simple. The current borders in the Mesopotamia/Levant region are imperial fictions constructed by the British and the French a century ago. The real borders have always been tribal, ethnic, and religious, even the Ottomans understood that. National boundaries, even with the enforcement of state terror, remained porous even during the times of Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad. The rise of Sunni extremists against the Alawite dictatorship in Syria was synergistic with the disaffection of the Sunnis with the miserable failures of the Maliki, Shia government in a polarized Iraq. ISIS understood this and exploited the situation effectively.
The region is developing its own, fluid, dangerous dynamics, and we need to get our heads out of our butts stuck in our fantasies of our military capabilities and wake up to the unfolding realities and the limits of our power. Otherwise, we will continue to flail about about in tactical reactivity, lurching from one mess to another, pouring a little more fuel and chaos as we go making bad situations worse, spending treasure we don't have. We are in sore need of intelligent appraisals of our national security interests and an honest review of our military track record for serious strategic thinking to develop. Doubt that will happen though. Leadership is ignorant and weak in both parties and there are elections coming up and campaign funds to raise.
The region is developing its own, fluid, dangerous dynamics
Tehran has sought and obtained assurances from the Obama administration regarding the parameters of future US military involvement in Iraq. The remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry, while on a visit to Australia yesterday, ruling out any US troop deployment in Iraq are categorical and without caveats.
To be sure, Tehran welcomes the international community engaging itself with the struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant [ISIL], but is staunchly opposed to foreign troop deployment in Iraq.
Tehran has taken a stance in its self-interest in terms of the imperative need to stabilize the situation in Iraq but in the process it also may have done a favor to the US administration and President Barack Obama. Tehran may or may not have factored in that there is a poignant context here devolving upon the immense pressure building up in the recent weeks on Obama as his critics and detractors pounced on him to blame him for all that has gone wrong in Iraq. But the fact is there is such a context and the chances are that Tehran is conscious of it.
Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place. He needs to act on the ISIL threat and there is little time to waste, but, on the other hand, the political infighting in Baghdad and al-Maliki’s total alienation hampers the US military efforts. Besides, as Obama put it, this is “going to be a long term project” — securing Iraq — and Iraqi forces badly need to revamp, which in turn requires a government in Baghdad that is acceptable to the Iraqis and is purposive.
This is where the Iranian support for the transition in Iraq becomes extremely vital, coming as it did when things began looking very dangerous and al-Maliki began maneuvering elite military units in Baghdad. Of course, these are early days but the high probability is that the congruence of interests between Washington and Tehran over stabilising the Iraq political situation and revving up the fight against the ISIL would have positive fallout for the broader US-Iranian engagement.
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