Monday, December 22, 2014

Instrument Of Iran’s Power In Iraq And Syria Kataib Hezbollah


As the insurgency grew at the beginning of 2014, many of Iraq’s militias began mobilizing to face the threat. One of those was Kataib Hezbollah (KH), the Hezbollah Brigades. In 2007 the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC – QF) formed the group as a small elite unit to attack U.S. forces in Iraq. Its leader was Abu Mahdi Muhandis, a former member of Dawa and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, who now acts as a representative of Quds Force commander General Qasim Suleimani in Iraq. In 2012 KH was deployed to Syria by Tehran to support the government of Bashar al-Assad, and in 2014 it refocused upon Iraq to fight insurgents there. From the day it was formed until today Kataib Hezbollah has acted as a means for Iran to project its influence into Syria and Iraq.

(Wikipedia)

Kataib Hezbollah has its origins with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC – QF). In 2007 IRGC-QF created Kataib Hezbollah as a small elite force of around 400 fighters to carry out operations against the United States and Coalition Forces in Iraq. It received arms and equipment from Tehran as well as training by Lebanese Hezbollah. Starting in March 2007 it began attacking American forces. In July 2009 the U.S. Treasury Department put the organization on its terrorist list and sanctioned it. From 2010-11 it stepped up its attacks as the Americans were preparing to withdraw. In July 2010 for example, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General Ray Odierno claimed that KH elements were in Iran for training to conduct new operations against the U.S, and Iranian advisers were also said to be in Iraq as well to assist it. The next year on June 6, 2011 KH claimed responsibility for an attack upon a base in Baghdad that killed five U.S. soldiers, and also carried out a rocket attack upon the Green Zone three days later. At the end of the month it killed three more Americans in a rocket barrage on their base in Wasit province near the Iranian border. KH was created to carry out Iranian policy in Iraq. Tehran was threatened by the U.S. occupation of Iraq. There were hostile forces right on its border and the Americans were trying to create a pro-Western government in Baghdad. Iran was intent on undermining these efforts and funded various militias to drive the U.S. out. When American announced that it would withdraw by the end of 2011 Tehran had its proxies like KH pick up its operation so that Iran could claim credit for the departure of the U.S.

Kataib Hezbollah next expanded its operations to Syria when Iran’s ally President Bashar al-Assad was threatened. In 2012 Quds Force commander General Qasim Suleimani called on Kataib Hezbollah and other Iraqi militias aligned with Tehran to send fighters to Syria to help the Assad government. KH helped form the Abu Fadhl al-Abbas Brigade along with Syrian and Lebanese members under the supervision of the IRGC-QF. In early 2013 it formed another militia Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada along with the Badr Organization to fight in Syria. By April 2013 it made its first public announcements of its involvement in Syria when it posted pictures of some its men that died there. To support and maintain this effort KH began recruiting in Iraq, with some of its new fighters being sent to Iran or Lebanon for training. KH justified its involvement in Syria by saying that it was defending the Sayid Zainab shrine in the Damascus suburbs from Sunni Islamists and the Free Syrian Army. That way it could say that it was performing a religious duty and distract from its support of the Assad government and working for Tehran. The shrine was also located in a strategic neighborhood that blocked rebels from surrounding the Syrian capital and allowed regime forces access to the Damascus International Airport. When the protests against the Assad government began, Tehran offered support to break them up. It didn’t believe that the Syrian army was loyal or up to the task however so it brought in its Iraqi allies such as Kataib Hezbollah. Now these have become the main forces defending the government against the rebels. In turn that made Assad dependent upon Iran and its Iraqi proxies. This strategy would be replayed in Iraq in 2014.

KH fighters helped break the siege of Amerli, Salahaddin in Aug 2014 (BBC)

When the Iraqi insurgency was revived this year KH began bringing back its men from Syria to fight at home. According to Reuters, in April Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a meeting where he told fellow politicians that militias were being deployed to the Baghdad belts because he was disappointed with the performance of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). These irregular forces were put under Maliki’s office of commander and chief. KH was already withdrawing its men from Syria to fight in Iraq by then, and began a new recruiting drive in April as well. These were put into Popular Defense Companies. The next month KH posted video of it helping the ISF. In turn, the army was providing uniforms, weapons and support to the group. Its role was expanded after the fall of Mosul in June. In August it helped break the siege of Amerli in Salahaddin, and was said to have Quds Force advisers with it. Like in Syria, its operations were coordinated with General Suleimani. In December for instance, an Iraqi parliamentarian told the Observer, Suleimani “has the Shia militias, Asai’b ahl al-Haq, Katai’b Hezbollah and the Badr Brigades following his instructions to the letter.” Like in Syria, the Iranian government was not sure of the capabilities of the ISF when open fighting began in Anbar in January. It therefore called on its militia allies once more to protect the government. Today those groups are half or more of the government’s forces, and they have been informally integrated within units of the ISF. This has made Baghdad just like Damascus largely dependent upon Iranian and militia support to fight the insurgents.

IRGC - QF commander Gen Suleimani (center looking into camera), Badr leader Hadi Ameri (in between two blocked out faced men) and Muhandis (far right with glasses) in meeting discussing military operations in Iraq 2014 (Twitter)

KH’s leader Abu Mahdi Muhandis, also known as “The Engineer,” is a facilitator for Iran’s policies in Iraq. Muhandis, real name Jamal Jaafar Mohammed Ibrahimi, joined the Dawa Party in Iraq in the early 1970s. He left for Kuwait later in that decade where he found a job as an engineer in Kuwait City. In 1983 he helped with the bombings of the U.S. and French embassies there and then made an attempt to assassinate the emir of Kuwait in 1985. These were both planned by the Quds Force to deter Kuwait, France and the Americans from supporting Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. Muhandis ended up moving to Iran afterward where he joined the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). He went on to fight on the Iranian side in the Iran-Iraq War and eventually became the deputy commander of ISCI’s militia the Badr Brigade. Badr was then an official arm of the IRGC making Muhandis an Iranian officer. In 2002, Muhandis quit ISCI when it decided to work with the Americans in the build up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2005, Muhandis won a seat in the Iraqi parliament as part of the Iraqi United Alliance, but when the U.S. found out who he was it put out an arrest warrant for him and he fled back to Iran. That didn’t stop him from unsuccessfully running again in 2010 with the Iraqi National Alliance. Between then he funneled weapons to Iranian backed militias, while providing training for their fighters. When the Americans finally withdrew at the end of 2011, Muhandis returned to Iraq where he worked as General Suleimani’s unofficial representative to Baghdad. When in Iraq he lived in a house in the Green Zone under the protection of Premier Maliki. The premier not only gave him political cover saying that the charges against him for the bombings and assassination attempt in Kuwait in the 1980s were never proven, but even included him in an official delegation to Kurdistan in February 2013. Since 2014 he has facilitated the flow of Iranian funds, logistics and planning to its militia allies in Iraq. Muhandis’ long alliance with the Iranians explains why he was put in charge of Kataib Hezbollah when it was formed in 2007. He’d been working on conjunction with the IRGC since the 1980s and had a commission in the organization. His long time in the Iraqi opposition also gave him standing and ties with many Shiite politicians that came to power after 2003 making him an ideal middle man between them and Tehran. He has maintained this role into the present time.

Kataib Hezbollah has worked as one of Iran’s main proxies in Iraq and Syria since its creation in 2007. It carried out attacks for Tehran against the Americans, and then moved to defend Iran’s ally President Assad in Syria. Today it is one of the main forces defending Baghdad and its leader Muhandis is helping to supply other pro-Iranian militias as well. All along it has served Iran’s interests in the region opposing its enemies and helping its friends. Tehran has regularly deployed these types of allies to carry out its policies in the Middle East and beyond.

SOURCES

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Iraqi Shiite group says member killed in Syria,” Associated Press, 4/6/13

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim and Schreck, Adam, “Iraqi Shiite fighters’ Syria role raises tensions,” Associated Press, 6/10/13

Agence France Presse, “US puts sanctions on Iraq Shiite group, Iran adviser,” 7/2/09
- “US shows evidence in Iraq rocket attacks it says leads to Iran,” 7/14/11

Alsumaria, “Iraq Sadr Front threatens against Kuwaiti Mubarak Port,” 7/19/11

Arango, Tim, “Weapons Retrieved in Iraq Point to Iran,” At War, New York Times, 7/25/11

Arraf, Jane, “US military officials in Iraq warn of growing Iranian threat,” Christian Science Monitor, 7/27/11

Associated Press, “Shiite militia leader in Iraq says his group attacked Iranian exiles, killing 3 people,” 6/17/13
- “US troops face increasing dangers from Shiite militias in southern Iraq,” 5/17/11

Chulov, Martin, “Qassem Suleimani: can this man bring about the downfall of Isis?” Observer, 12/6/14

Dehghanpisheh, Babak, “Special Report: The fighters of Iraq who answer to Iran,” Reuters, 11/12/14

Fadel, Leila, “Amid threat, U.S. heightens security at its Iraq bases,” Washington Post, 7/13/10

Felter, Joseph and Fishman, Brian, “Iranian Strategy in Iraq, Politics and ‘Other Means,’” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 10/13/08

Filkins, Dexter, “What We Left Behind,” New Yorker, 4/28/14

Fulton, Will, Holliday, Joseph & Wyer, Sam, “Iranian Strategy In Syria,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project & Institute for the Study of War, May 2013

Garamone, Jim, “Extremists Use Iranian Weapons, Iraq Command Spokesman Says,” American Forces Press Service, 7/11/11

George, Susannah, “The guys who hold the key to stability in Baghdad,” Daily Post, 8/19/14

Harari, Michal, “Status Update: Shi’a Militias in Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/16/10

Ibrahim, Waleed, “Iraq militia claims attack on U.S. troops,” Reuters, 6/10/11

Jabar, Faleh, The Shi’ite Movement in Iraq, London: SAQI Books, 2003

Jakes, Lara, “Shiite militias step up Iraq attacks on US troops,” Associated Press, 6/30/11

Knights, Michael, “The Evolution of Iran’s Special Groups in Iraq,” CTC Sentinel, November 2010
- “Iran’s Foreign Legion: The Role of Iraqi Shiite Militias in Syria,” Washington Institute for Near East Studies, 6/27/13

Lewis, Jessica, Ali, Ahmed, and Kagan, Kimberly, “Iraq’s sectarian crisis reignites as Shi’a militias execute civilians and remobilize,” Institute for the Study of War, 5/31/13

Londono, Ernesto, “Anxiety along Iraq’s border with Iran,” Washington Post, 11/30/10

Multi-National Division-B, “(Enemy Action) Indirect Fire RPT (Rocket) JASG-C, JDOC : 0 INJ/DAM,” U.S. Military, 12/31/09

O’Keefe, Ed, “How U.S. ties Iran to attacks on forces in Iraq,” Checkpoint Washington, Washington Post, 7/15/11

Parker, Ned, “Ten years after Iraq war began, Iran reaps the gains,” Los Angeles Times, 3/28/13

Parker, Ned, Rasheed, Ahmed and Salman, Raheem, “Before Iraq polls, Shiite militias unleashed war on Sunni insurgents,” Reuters, 4/29/14

Peterson, Scott, “Odierno: Militants trained in Iran prepare to attack US bases in Iraq,” Christian Science Monitor, 7/13/10

Al-Qaisi, Mohammed, “Iran ‘directly involved; in recruiting Iraqis to fight in Syria: officials,” Al Shorfa, 4/24/13

Radio Nawa, “Hezbollah Brigades and the League of the Righteous today under the banner of national reconciliation,” 12/24/11

Roggio, Bill, “Iranian-backed Shia terror group remains a threat in Iraq: General Odierno,” Long War Journal, 7/13/10

Schreck, Adam and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “In Iraq, militia’s shift could bolster Iran’s hand,” Associated Press, 1/6/12

Schreck, Adam and Al-Jurani, Nabil, “Iraqi death hints of Iran’s role in Syrian crisis,” Associated Press, 5/6/13

Smyth, Phillip, “All the Ayatollah’s Men,” Foreign Policy, 9/18/14
- “Hizballah Cavalcade: Roundup of Iraqis Killed in Syria, Part 1,” Jihadology, 5/11/13
- “Iranian Proxies Step Up Their Role in Iraq,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 6/13/14

Solomon, Jay, “Iran Funnels New Weapons to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Wall Street Journal, 7/2/11

Strouse, Thomas, “Kata’ib Hezbollah and the Intricate Web of Iranian Military Involvement in Iraq,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 3/4/10

PBS NEWSHOUR VIDEO: What's Behind Recent Retreat Of ISIS In Northern Iraq?


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Musings On Iraq In The News


My article on Iranian air power in Iraq was reprinted by Business Insider. "24 Voices On The Unity of Iraq" was also mentioned in Tom Rick's Best Defense Blog.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Attacks Up But Casualties Remain Stable In Iraq Dec 8-14, 2014

 
Violence in Iraq saw a slight increase in the second week of December 2014 due to fighting in Anbar. There the Islamic State continued its siege of Ramadi while the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and tribes launched an attempt to retake Hit. IS also succeeded in taking two small towns in Salahaddin and started attacking Muqtadiya in Diyala. Otherwise, the country saw some of the lowest casualty figures of the year.

In the second week of December there was a slight increase in the number of attacks reported in the press. From December 8-14 there were 156 security incidents. That broke a trend of four full weeks of between 120-130 attacks. The previous week for instance there was 137 incidents. The main reason why there was more violence was the fighting in Anbar. There the number of incidents went from 19 the first week of December to 38 the next. Overall, Salahaddin had the most attacks with 40, then Anbar and Baghdad had 38 each, Diyala had 18, Kirkuk had 9, Ninewa 8, Babil and Karbala two each, and there was one incident in Basra.

While attacks might be up casualties remained extremely low. There were 233 killed for the second week of December. That was made up of 56 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), 1 sahwa, 1 peshmerga, and 175 civilians. That was the lowest amount of deaths for the year surpassing the 246 seen from May 1-7. Anbar had the most deaths with 79, followed by 69 in Salahaddin, 49 in Baghdad, 18 in Diyala, seven each in Ninewa and Kirkuk, three in Babil, and one in Karbala. From the first to second week of the month fatalities went down in every province except Diyala. There were another 444 people wounded consisting of 72 ISF, 3 peshmerga, and 369 civilians. That was the second lowest figure of the year, and roughly the same as last week’s 476. Additionally the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) released figures for its losses since June, which amounted to 727 killed and 3,564 wounded amongst its fighting forces. Compared to numbers already reported in the press that was an additional 166 deaths and 1,113 wounded. For the year that brings the totals to 9,824 attacks, 23,529 killed, and 36,588 wounded.

Violence In Iraq By Week 2014
Date
Incidents
Dead
Wounded
Jan 1-7
244
363
733
Jan 8-14
272
364
676
Jan 15-21
205
358
616
Jan 22-28
236
305
618
Jan 29-31
57
93
237
JAN
1,014
1,483
2,890
Feb 1-7
211
306
706
Feb 8-14
229
258
505
Feb 15-21
264
347
703
Feb 22-28
251
374
617
FEB
955
1,285
2,531
Mar 1-7
252
412
702
Mar 8-14
205
323
610
Mar 15-21
216
423
736
Mar 22-27
211
279
580
Mar 28-31
108
169
261
MAR
992
1,606
2,889
Apr 1-7
238
259
550
Apr 8-14
224
362
646
Apr 15-21
241
406
805
Apr 22-28
226
347
744
Apr 29-30
61
82
179
APR
990
1,456
2,924
May 1-7
198
246
483
May 8-14
257
466
752
May 15-21
183
256
426
May 22-28
203
403
810
May 29-31
64
91
131
MAY
905
1,462
2,602
Jun 1-7
228
612
1,020
Jun 8-14
234
1,889
890
Jun 15-21
179
803
759
Jun 22-28
203
733
777
Jun 29-30
59
127
236
JUN
901
4,172
3,701
Jul 1-7
203
526
651
Jul 8-14
214
577
628
Jul 15-21
230
444
1,009
Jul 22-28
224
589
801
Jul 29-31
66
163
230
JUL
937
2,299
3,319
Aug 1-8
269
1,122
885
Aug 9-14
179
710
1,152
Aug 15-21
150
354
499
Aug 22-28
156
523
798
Aug 29-31
59
125
289
AUG
813
2,834
3,623
Sep 1-7
168
616
751
Sep 8-14
156
433
722
Sep 15-21
166
620
749
Sep 22-28
153
395
573
Sep 29-30
47
112
252
SEP
690
2,176
3,047
Oct 1-7
170
451
687
Oct 8-14
188
532
875
Oct 15-21
156
449
770
Oct 22-28
159
345
592 + 1,230
Oct 29-31
68
570
227
OCT
741
2,347
3,151 + 1,230
Nov 1-7
153
601
828
Nov 8-14
128
420
593
Nov 15-21
134
283
464
Nov 22-28
138
321
640
Nov 29-30
40
62
123
NOV
593
1,687
2,648
Dec 1-7
137
323
476
Dec 8-14
156
233 + 166
444 + 1,113
2014
9,824
23,529
36,588

Violence In Iraq By Province Dec 2014
Province
Violence

Anbar
19 Incidents
84 Killed: 16 ISF, 68 Civilians
58 Wounded: 6 ISF, 52 Civilians
11 Shootings
1 IED
38 Incidents
79 Killed: 28 ISF, 51 Civilians
146 Wounded: 28 ISF, 118 Civilians
22 Shootings
1 IED
3 Mortar
5 Suicide Car Bombs
1 Car Bomb
Babil
5 Incidents
6 Killed: 2 ISF, 4 Civilians
20 Wounded: 4 ISF, 16 Civilians
4 IEDs
1 Car Bomb
2 Incidents
3 Killed: 1 ISF, 2 Civilians
10 Wounded: 2 ISF, 8 Civilians
2 IEDs
Baghdad
44 Incidents
97 Killed: 97 Civilians
262 Wounded: 7 ISF, 255 Civilians
11 Shootings
25 IEDs
1 Mortar
5 Sticky Bombs
2 Car Bombs
38 Incidents
49 Killed: 2 ISF, 47 Civilians
135 Wounded: 16 ISF, 119 Civilians
11 Shootings
18 IEDs
4 Stick Bombs
1 Mortar
3 Rockets
Basra
1 Incident
2 Stun Bombs
1 Incident
Diyala
8 Incidents
8 Killed: 2 Peshmerga, 6 Civilians
10 Wounded: 6 ISF, 4 Civilians
6 Shootings
2 IEDs
18 Incidents
18 Killed: 3 ISF, 1 Sahwa, 1 Peshmerga, 13 Civilians
28 Wounded: 1 ISF, 2 Peshmerga, 25 Civilians
6 Shootings
1 IED
1 Suicide Bomber
3 Mortar
Kirkuk
6 Incidents
18 Killed: 18 Civilians
22 Wounded: 22 Civilians
1 Shooting
3 Mortar
1 Suicide Car Bomb
9 Incidents
7 Killed: 7 Civilians
12 Wounded: 12 Civilians
3 Shootings
50 IEDs
1 Sticky Bomb
1 Mortar
Ninewa
13 Incidents
15 Killed: 1 ISF, 4 Peshmerga, 10 Civilians
6 Shootings
6 IEDs
8 Incidents
7 Killed: 2 ISF, 5 Civilians
5 Wounded: 1 Peshmerga, 4 Civilians
3 Shootings
4 IEDs
Salahaddin
41 Incidents
95 Killed: 22 ISF, 1 Sahwa, 72 Civilians
104 Wounded: 4 ISF, 100 Civilians
24 Shootings
31 IEDs
3 Mortar
1 Suicide Bomber
1 Suicide Car Bomb
40 Incidents
69 Killed: 20 ISF, 49 Civilians
104 Wounded: 25 ISF, 79 Civilians
18 Shootings
11 IEDs
10 Mortar
3 Rockets
2 Suicide Car Bombs

Car Bomb Attacks In Iraq Dec 2014
Date
Location
Dead
Wounded
Dec 1



Dec 2
Mahmudiya, Babil

1
Dec 3



Dec 4
Shaab & Sadr City, Baghdad
Shorja, Kirkuk
39
97
Dec 5



Dec 6



Dec 7
Salman, Salahaddin
9
17
1st Wk Totals
5
48
115
Dec 8



Dec 9
Nikhaib, Anbar


Dec 10
Ramadi, Anbar
1
1
Dec 11
Ramadi, Anbar
Dijla & Mutasim, Salahaddin
12
25
Dec 12



Dec 13
Haditha & Ramadi, Anbar
15
33
Dec 14



2nd Wk Totals
7
28
59

One cause of the decline in casualties has been a decided decrease in the number of vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) deployed by the Islamic State. In the first week of December there were only five and no waves, the first time that had happened since April. There was one wave the second week from December 9 to 11 hitting Anbar and Salahaddin. Surprisingly there were no attacks upon Baghdad that week. Instead all of the car bombs were used as tactical weapons usually in conjunction with armed attacks on cities and towns such as Ramadi and Haditha in Anbar and Dijla and Mutasim in Salahaddin. In total, 28 people were killed and 59 wounded by VBIEDs December 8 to 14.

IS continued its major push in Anbar. Its main target remained Ramadi where there was fighting throughout the week. Insurgents launched repeated attempts upon the city often coming form multiple directions, but they were repulsed each time. On December 8 for example, the government complex in the center of the city was attacked starting at 7am and lasting until the afternoon. A major attack was also launched upon the Hawouz district. Air strikes were called in, which blunted the offensive. IS was more successful seizing small towns in the middle of the province with 15 taken on December 12, along with Dulab and Wafa. On the other hand, the long awaited government attempt to retake Hit began on December 11. The ISF and tribes made little headway as IEDs held up their advance. The attacks on the surrounding towns was likely a way for the IS to draw away forces from Hit. The struggle for control of the province has been going on for months now. Insurgents have been quite successful there with a major victory every couple weeks to the point that they now control around 85% of Anbar. Still they have been fighting for Ramadi since January. While they have gained more ground in the city, it has yet to fall. The government has been able to hold onto other major cities such as Amiriya Fallujah as well despite months of assaults. Still the province is in a precarious situation, especially because the government is more focused upon other areas of the country. That has led the local government and tribes to feel that they are being neglected and left to largely fight on their own.

Babil is going in the exact opposite direction from Anbar. There IS has been completely disrupted after it lost its long time base in Jurf al-Sakhr. It is now attempting to regroup in the north, but attacks have taken a large drop as a result. For the week there were only two attacks consisting of an IED on Shiite pilgrims heading for Karbala on December 8 that killed two and wounded eight, and another IED on December 10 that left one soldier dead and two injured. The week before there were five incidents, nine November 22-28, six November 15-21, nine November 8-14, and eleven November 1-7. In comparison there were an average of 2.2 attacks per day in January. The clearing of Jurf al-Sakhr was a major victory for the government and it has paid dividends by disrupted IS operation not only in that province, but in the south as well as Babil was used as a staging area for attacks and especially car bombs into that region.

Diyala was the only province that saw an increase in attacks for the week going from eight to 18. The main target was Muqtadiya in the center of the governorate. From December 5-9 six people were kidnapped. December 8, 11 and 12 the city was hit by mortar fire, and that last day there was also a suicide bombing. The IS did face a setback recently when it lost Sadiya and Jalawla in the eastern part of the governorate. Now those two towns are part of a major dispute between the Kurds, local Arabs, militias, and the central government. Some local tribes are claiming that the peshmerga are not allowing them to return to their homes now that the insurgents have been expelled, while the Kurds claim they are IS supporters. There was also a report that the peshmerga was destroying Arab homes in the area to stop them from returning. The Kurds are also feuding with the militias over who will control Sadiya and Jalawla. The Kurds claim them as part of their disputed territories that were taken from them under Saddam, but the militias say they should be under the central government’s rule. The Kurds have been demanding that the militias either share power or withdraw, while the latter has refused. On December 14, a peshmerga commander said that the army could not return to Jalawla unless the Kurds were given joint administration of it and Sadiya. Finally, on December 9, the Tigris Operations Command announced the start of an operation to clear Arab Jabour north of Muqtadiya. The head of the command said that the area has been used as an IS base. Despite all this activity security in Diyala has improved recently. From 2013 to August Diyala was one of the most violent areas of the country, but attacks have dropped off since then. Whether that was due to the efforts of the security forces or IS sending their assets to other areas or a combination of both is unknown.

The Islamic State started targeting Hawija in eastern Kirkuk during the week. From December 8-13 47 houses belonging to members of the security forces and sahwa were blown up there with more in surrounding villages. December 13 17 people were kidnapped, and the next day a former candidate was executed by IS. Hawija was a long time insurgent base dating back to 2003. It was later a center for the Baathist Naqshibandi, but after the summer offensive it was forced out by IS. That change in control is seen by the fact that the Islamists are behind the recent spate of incidents.

In Ninewa, IS continued to try to take Mount Sinjar while there was talk of making an attempt upon Mosul by government forces sooner rather than later. On December 11 and 13 there were attacks upon Mount Sinjar. The area has remained surrounded for several weeks now with Kurdish forces taking some towns on the outskirts of the mountain every now and then with occasional IS assaults. With regards to Mosul, there is growing pressure to make a stab at retaking it by the government. On December 10 for instance, the Ninewa council said that the first shipment of weapons was sent to fighters who were preparing to attack Mosul. The U.S. is trying to temper Iraqi expectations, and want to build up Iraq’s forces before any assault is launched. Mosul is the most important city held by the Islamic State within Iraq, and it is also the second largest urban area in the country. Losing it would be the biggest setback IS could face so far. Because of its size however it would be a major undertaking for Baghdad as well, which is why the Americans are advising caution.

After facing several reversals the insurgents went back on the offensive in the second week of December in Salahaddin. On December 7 it seized the town of Mutasim. Fighting continued there the next day with seven Federal Police killed and 11 Wounded, and the municipal building and several homes belonging to members of the ISF being blown up. By December 9 the Defense Ministry claimed that it had cleared the town, but then on December 10 the Samarra Operations Command said that only 60% of the area was free. The presence of insurgents in Mutasim was confirmed by a suicide car bomb going off that day. December 11 there was another story that the town was freed, but December 12 the Interior Ministry launched Revenge of Mutasim Operation killing 33 insurgents in fighting there. Finally on December 13 militants shot down an ISF helicopter over the town. December 10 IS also took the town of Dijla beginning with a mortar barrage on an army base, followed by an assault on the camp and the village itself. That forced the local security forces to withdraw to the south of the town. Helicopters were then called in to attack the insurgents. There was also fighting in Ishaqi, Yathrib, Balad, and Tikrit showing the breadth of territory insurgents are still active in. On the other hand, the ISF said that it carried out successful operations in Albu Haswa in the Dujail area, and had complete control of Baiji. The province continues to be a main focus of the pro-government forces as well with Badr Organization head Hadi Ameri reportedly preparing another major offensive there. The back and forth between militants and government backed forces showed that Salahaddin, along with Anbar were the two main battlefronts in the country. Baghdad has had several successes and is attempting to build upon them, but IS and other armed groups are not willing to give up without a fight hence the attacks upon Mutasim and Dijla. Salahaddin is going to be an area of conflict for the foreseeable future.

SOURCES

Abdullah, Dalshad, “Baghdad preparing to liberate Mosul from ISIS: sources,” Asharq Al-Awsat, 12/10/14

AIN, “13 ISIL terrorists killed in Mutasim District,” 12/11/14

Alsumaria, "Daash executed former candidate for the elections southwest of Kirkuk," 12/14/14
- "Daash organization kidnaps 17 civilians who refused to pledge allegiance in the south-west of Kirkuk," 12/13/14
- "Policeman sacrifices himself to prevent suicide bomber storming Husseiniya northeast of Baquba," 12/12/14
- “Salahuddin Council : Security forces in full control of Baiji,” 12/10/14
- “Security forces liberated the area south of Tikrit, killing 30 elements of Daash,” 12/10/14
- "Source: seven cases of kidnapping were registered during last four days in Muqdadiyah in Diyala," 12/9/14

Al Arabiya, “Tribal chief: ISIS seizes 15 villages in Iraq’s Anbar,” 12/12/14

Associated Press "Attacks kill 15 in Iraq as country battles IS," 12/10/14

Bas News, "Coalition Warplane Mistakenly Kills 16 Civilians in Iraqi Town," 12/13/14

Coles, Isabel, “Rivalries resurface in Iraqi town recaptured from Islamic State,” Reuters, 12/8/14

Al Forat, "ISF block terrorist attack in Bald district," 12/10/14
- “ISF declares liberating Albo Haswa area of ISIL,” 12/10/14
- “Samarra OC assures liberating 60% of Mutasim area,” 12/10/14

Iraq Times, "Two suicide bombing targeting security forces in Samarra area," 12/10/14

Al Jazeera, "ISIL fighters gain ground in Iraq's Anbar," 12/13/14

Al Mada, "Daash destroys dozens of homes of members of the security forces and the Awakening in areas south and west of Kirkuk," 12/13/14
- “Defense announces clearing of area around Samarra and the killing of 51 Daash elements,” 12/9/14
- "Killing and injuring ten people in forty bombing south of Baghdad," 12/8/14
- "Killing and wounding 18 people in the fall of mortar shells on the Shiite shrine north east of Baquba," 12/12/14

Al Masalah, “Badr: Ameri goes to lift the siege on Dhuluiya,” 12/11/14

Middle East Eye, “IS retakes al-Dolab district in Iraq’s Anbar province,” 12/12/14

NINA, “/15/ element of the IS killed in a military operation in the north east of Baquba,” 12/9/14
- “/33/ Elements of the IS killed in “ al-Mutassim First Revenge Operation,”” 12/12/14
- "A Civilian Killed In North East of Baquba," 12/11/14
- “The imposition of a curfew in the western and northern areas of Ramadi,” 12/12/14
- "More than /40/ people killed and wounded in the aerial bombardment of the International Coalition on the center of Fallujah," 12/9/14
- "One Soldier Killed, Two Others Injured In IED north of Hilla," 12/10/14
- "Peshmerga forces repulse an attack by the IS on Sinjar Mount," 12/11/14

Radio Free Iraq, "10 December 2014," Daily Updates from Anbar, 12/10/14
- "13 December 2014," Daily Updates from Anbar, 12/13/14

Radio Nawa, "Two people from the popular crowd killed and five injured in clashes with Daash south of Tikrit," 12/9/14

Al Rayy, "Security forces and the popular brigades deter an attack by Daash burn two vehicles and kill two of them south of Tikrit," 12/10/14
- "Tank explosion bomb on a road south of Anbar Nikhaib," 12/9/14

Radio Free Iraq, “08 December 2014,” Daily Updates from Anbar, 12/8/14
- "10 December 2014," Daily Updates from Anbar, 12/10/14

Rudaw, “Peshmerga commander lays down conditions for Iraqi army reentry to Jalawla,” 12/14/14
- "Peshmerga repulse ISIS attack on Shingal, kill four militants," 12/14/14

Schmitt, Eric, “Despite U.S. Warnings, Iraqis Push for Winter Offensive in Mosul,” New York Times, 12/8/14

Shafaq News, "Mutassim proceeds: 18 casualties from the police," 12/8/14
- “Tribal force of 3000 elements participate in liberating Hit district,” 12/11/14

Shafiq, Mohammed, "Daash blow up the municipal council building in Mutassim and 15 of its elements killed south of Samarra," Alsumaria, 12/8/14

World Bulletin, “Iraqi forces launch operation against ISIL in Anbar –UPDATED,” 12/11/14

Xinhua, “17 killed in bombings, clashes with IS militants in Iraq’s Salahudin,” 12/10/14
- "Insurgents shoot down military helicopter in Iraq," 12/13/14
- "Iraqi troops repel two IS attacks, killing 31 in key towns," 12/8/14
- “Over 700 Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed since IS rise in June: report,” 12/10/14