Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Developments in the Aftermath of the Fall of Mosul

The following is a short update of events occurring in Iraq in the aftermath of the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham between June 10-11.

June 10: Clashes near Baghdad. The Iraqi Security Forces clashed with elements of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the village of Zaidan in the Abu Ghraib area near Baghdad. 11 soldiers are reported to have either been killed or injured. Zaidan has witnessed clashes since January of this year. But these clashes were likely intended to mobilize anti-government elements and also test the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).    Significance: This event is an indicator that ISIS's goals may include Baghdad.

June 11: In ISIS-controlled Mosul, ISIS elements are patrolling the city and calling on people to return to work and carry on with their daily lives. ISIS has also reportedly not ransacked government facilities. Significance: This is likely part of its strategy to win hearts and minds and to also establish the nucleus of a governance structure in Mosul.

June 11: In parts of Kirkuk province where ISIS is now in control, ISIS elements are reportedly searching for Iraqi Security Forces personnel. Significance: ISIS likely intends to punish the ISF. 

June 11: VBIED attacks: Three VBIEDs exploded in various parts of southern Iraq. VBIEDs are signature weapons of ISIS and they exploded in Karbalaprovince, Wasit, and notably in Basraprovince’s Safwan area which is a border crossing town with Kuwait. At least 34 people were killed and injured in these attacks. Significance: ISIS is showing that it can reach far into Shi'a areas, intending to provoke Shi'a mobilization.

June 11: ISIS reportedly took control of the town of Baiji and unidentified gunmen reportedly negotiated with the security detail of the oil refinery in Baiji to surrender and turnover the oil refinery to them. State-owned media reports that security forces along with pro-government tribal elements were able to reclaim the city of Baiji. It is difficult to verify the claim that Baiji has been reclaimed by the Iraqi government. Significance: ISIS has been gaining control of major oil infrastructure as well as taking cash, giving it the ability to fund further operations.

June 11: Leader of the Iraqi Shia political movement, the Sadrist Trend, Moqtada al-Sadr proposed the formation of “Peace Battalions” that will coordinate with the government to defend “sacred issues.” This proposal comes to light as Diyalas provincial council decided to form “popular committees” that will ostensibly provide protection in the province. Moreover, the Iraqi government openedthe recruitment process for ISF personnel in Baghdads Muthana airbase.  The ISF are currently suffering from manpower issues and are seriously under-manned and not close to full strength. Significance: ISIS likely intended to provoke the mobilization of the Shi'a population to fight in militia or popular units, in order to extend the sectarian conflict through Iraq.  Its plan is succeeding.