Archives For: Iraq

A Small Bit Of Justice For Iraqis

Oct 23 2014 @ 2:21pm

Four former Blackwater security contractors were found guilty yesterday in the infamous 2007 Nisour Square massacre, during which they shot 14 Iraqi civilians to death and injured 17 others:

In an overwhelming victory for prosecutors, a jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder. The three other three guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges. The four men had been charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings and the jury was able to reach a verdict on all of them, with the exception of three charges against Heard. The prosecution agreed to drop those charges.

Max Boot approves, calling the verdict “a step forward in holding contractors accountable for their conduct on the battlefield, but only a small step”:

After all, it took seven years to conclude this case–not that it’s concluded now since the defendants are likely to appeal. That is hardly the definition of expeditious justice.

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Map Of The Day

Oct 21 2014 @ 6:15pm

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Amanda Taub highlights the work data journos at The Guardian have been doing with Wikileaks’ Iraq War logs. Each red dot on the above map – the screenshot seen above only shows one corner of Baghdad, but the project covers the whole country – represents one of some 60,000 combat-related fatal incidents (mostly IEDs) between 2004 and 2009, representing more than 100,000 deaths. And that’s not even the whole story, as Taub points out:

[T]he true extent of the violence is much worse: the map likely only shows a small fraction of the attacks from that period. The database the map is drawn from does not include deaths from criminal activity, or those that were initiated by Coalition or Iraqi forces. And many deaths may not have been officially tallied. That means that the real total is almost certainly much higher. But even seeing the number of attacks recorded here shows how devastating this war has been to Baghdad’s civilians, who must now face even more attacks.

Kobani: A Battle In Multiples Wars

Oct 21 2014 @ 2:21pm

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Despite recent gains by Kurdish fighters in and around Kobani, aided by the delivery of small arms and other supplies yesterday, Kiran Nazish reports that the situation in the area remains tenuous:

Firas Kharaba, the leader of a Kurdish group, has been coordinating and managing the return of many wounded fighters from Kobani into Turkey. With the help of spies that, he says, infiltrated ISIS, “we found the power hub. … After the U.S. hit that building, they [ISIS] suffered a full blow.” More than 30 top fighters and commanders were killed, he said. Recently the Islamic State has been bringing in new fighters, but many of themaccording to Firas’s sourcesare not professionally trained fighters, but mere managers, organizers, and account keepers, with little experience in the battle field.

The main concern for YPG fighters now, is their on-the-ground force. What they need even more than manpower, says Kobani government official Idris Nassan, are “weapons on the ground.”

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Kobani: ISIS’s Stalingrad?

Oct 20 2014 @ 1:42pm

Syrian Kurds Battle IS To Retain Control Of Kobani

Last night, American military transport planes delivered weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies to the Kurdish fighters still holding the northern Syrian border town of Kobani against a lengthy siege by ISIS militants:

The supplies were not provided by the U.S., but instead came from other Kurdish forces outside of Kobani, the official told FP. U.S. aircraft merely facilitated the airdrops. American warplanes have been bombing Islamic State targets in and around the city for weeks, but the airdrops escalate that effort and mean that the U.S. is now facilitating direct assistance to the Kurdish fighters defending the city.

The defenders of Kobani welcomed the aid but warned that it would not be enough to decide the battle. Much still depends on how much help Turkey will allow across its border. Obama reportedly gave Erdogan advance notice of the drop on Saturday night, but Juan Cole interprets it as defiant of the Turks’ wishes. Since then, Ankara has been sending its usual mixed signals:

In comments published by Turkish media on Monday, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan equated the main Syrian Kurdish group, the PYD, with the PKK. “It is also a terrorist organization.

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George Packer checks in with his Yazidi contact “Karim” in northern Iraq, who reports that his community remains on the brink of a humanitarian disaster two months after a much-heralded rescue effort:

Yesterday, I spoke on the phone with Karim. He’s still at the top of Mt. Sinjar, living in a military camp with around a hundred fighters, the majority of them Kurdish, the rest Yazidis. They sleep in United Nations tents and eat canned food brought in by humanitarian airdrops. There is no real way out except by airlift—in the past ten or twelve days, according to Karim, ISIS has pushed Yazidi fighters out of villages north and west of Mt. Sinjar, and they now surround the mountain. Karim told me that there are still about a thousand civilians around the mountain, also living in tents. The humanitarian airdrops are not enough, food is running low, and the past few nights have been cold with the approach of winter. The Yazidi resistance fighters want an international ground force to liberate Sinjar—something that they are unlikely to get.

A few hours before we spoke, Karim said, five Yazidi girls arrived at the mountaintop camp. The youngest was nine, the oldest twenty. They had walked several dozen miles from their town to the south of the mountain. They carried nothing with them and were barefoot. The girls said that they had been held prisoner for weeks by ISIS fighters, and were badly beaten, according to Karim. Other Yazidi girls and women have been distributed in slave markets to ISIS fighters, and when I asked Karim if the girls had also been raped, he told me, “I couldn’t bear to ask that question, to be honest.”

Ralf Hoppe interviews a Yazidi woman who was kidnapped by ISIS but managed to escape after nine days in captivity:

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Will ISIS March On Baghdad?

Oct 15 2014 @ 4:41pm

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Recent gains by ISIS in western Iraq’s Anbar province, including the capture of a military base on Monday, are raising fears that the militants might soon attempt to move on Baghdad:

Militants seized the base, located near the town of Hit and a major highway from Baghdad to the Syrian border, after heavy fighting with soldiers, according to Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a Sunni tribal leader. Its capture increases the threat to Ramadi, Anbar’s capital, and to Iraq’s second-largest dam at Haditha. …

Islamic State captured the Anbar towns of Hit and Kubaisa last week, and its fighters are battling Iraqi forces in Abu Ghraib, 18 miles (29 kilometers) from Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone that houses embassies and government offices. The town of Haditha is “completely besieged” by Islamic State militants and will fall within days without U.S. action to prevent it, Faleh al-Issawi, the deputy head of Anbar provincial council, said by phone late yesterday. He said the jihadists control 80 percent of Anbar province.

Joel Wing attributes these advances primarily to the weakness of the Iraqi Security Forces:

The fact that the ISF still appear hapless in most areas does not bode well for the future. They have broken again and again in just a few days. Both Baghdad and the American led coalition need to intervene in a much more determined fashion to reverse the situation, because even if places like Ramadi and Haditha are able to hold on they are cut off from their supply lines and need to be supplied by air something the government forces are not good at. If not there could be more bad news coming out of western Iraq very soon.

In Walter Russell Mead’s view, there is “a lot to be nervous about”:

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Turkey launched airstrikes yesterday – not against ISIS, but against Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey:

Turkish news reports said the strikes had been aimed at fighters of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, known as the P.K.K., and were in retaliation for the shelling of a Turkish military base. Such airstrikes were once common, as Turkey fought a Kurdish insurgency in a conflict that claimed almost 40,000 lives over nearly three decades. But hostilities essentially ceased two years ago when the peace process began, and both the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah and an online statement from the P.K.K. said the airstrikes on Monday were the first since then. The Turkish military also released a statement, but it did not mention airstrikes specifically, only an exchange of fire with “terrorists.”

Authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan are now pressing Ankara to let their fellow Kurds cross the border to help defend the Syrian town of Kobani, which remains under siege from ISIS:

Speaking on a visit to RFE/RL in Prague on October 13, Falah Mustafa, the foreign minister of the Kurdish regional government (KRG), said Ankara should heed calls from the international community to help the city, which has been under siege for almost four weeks.

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Panetta’s Plaint

Oct 8 2014 @ 6:15pm

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In his new book Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, the former defense secretary harshly criticizes Obama’s handling of Iraq and Syria:

Mr. Panetta, who was C.I.A. director before taking over the Pentagon, recounted decisions that he disagreed with, including the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq in 2011, the failure to intervene in Syria’s civil war by arming rebels and the abrupt reversal of Mr. Obama’s decision to strike Syria in retaliation for using chemical weapons on civilians. Mr. Obama “vacillated” over the Syria strike and “by failing to respond, it sent the wrong message to the world,” he wrote. Had the president followed different courses, Mr. Panetta said in the interview, the United States would be in a stronger position as it now tries to counter the rise of the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He added that he believed the president has turned a corner and “is going a long way in terms of repairing some of the damage I think took place as a result of the credibility issue that was raised on Syria.”

Beinart finds the “credibility” argument about Syria silly:

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An Actual War On Women, Ctd

Oct 6 2014 @ 8:52am

Colum Lynch relays the nauseating findings of a new report on ISIS:

By the end of August, the U.N. documented the abduction of up to 2,500 civilians, mostly women and children, from the northern Iraqi towns and regions of Sinjar, Tal Afar, the Nineveh Plains, and Shirkhan. Once they were in captivity, fighters from the Islamic State sexually assaulted the teenage boys and girls, witnesses told the United Nations. Those who refused to convert to the groups ran the risk of execution. “[W]omen and children who refused to convert were being allotted to ISIL fighters or were being trafficked … in markets in Mosul and to Raqqa in Syria,” according to the report. “Married women who converted were told by ISIL that their previous marriages were not recognised in Islamic law and that they, as well as unmarried women who converted, would be given to ISIL fighters as wives.”

A market for the sale of abducted women was set up in the al-Quds neighborhood of Mosul. “Women and girls are brought with price tags for the buyers to choose and negotiate the sale,” according to the report. “The buyers were said to be mostly youth from the local communities. Apparently ISIL was ‘selling’ these Yezidi women to the youth as a means of inducing them to join their ranks.”

Previous Dish on ISIS’s use of rape and sexual slavery here.

Our Allies Have Their Own Ideas

Oct 3 2014 @ 4:44pm

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Mohammed Ghanem urges the US to coordinate more closely with Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS, arguing that doing so would help defeat the group in Iraq as well:

Airstrikes alone will not defeat the Islamic State. Despite nearly two months of strikes in Iraq, Islamic State fighters attacked Iraqi army checkpoints close to Baghdad last weekend, and reports this week indicate a strong Islamic State presence just a mile west of the city. Although Obama administration officials are correct that the anti-Islamic State campaign will take time, they need to accelerate and significantly modify the effort to prevent further advances toward Baghdad. Close coordination with Syrian rebels would accomplish this. By enabling rebels to escalate ground attacks on the Islamic State’s western front, coordination would force the group to divert resources from Baghdad. And unlike the Iraqi army, moderate Syrian rebels have a proven record of rolling back Islamic State forces. But no coordination of any significance is occurring.

But Shane Harris questions Ghanem’s premise that Baghdad is at risk:

But if Baghdad were to fall, it would effectively put the Islamic State in control of Iraq and spell political disaster for the White House. That the Syrian rebels are connecting the fate of Iraq with their fight next door underscores how desperately they want help from the United States, and how unsuccessful they’ve been in securing it.

Dettmer attributes the Free Syrian Army’s growing disillusionment with the US to a clash of priorities:

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