ISIS has repeatedly tried and failed to take Samarra (the last major town north of Baghdad. Meanwhile the Iraqi army got badly mauled trying to retake Tikrit.
That stalemate may have been broken today.
Sunni insurgents have reportedly seized control of Iraq’s biggest dam, an oilfield and three more towns after inflicting their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since sweeping across much of northern Iraq in June.It wouldn't be the first time that ISIS has used water as a weapon. In April the islamic fundamentalists captured the Fallujah Dam. They closed almost all of the dam gate, flooding land upstream to prevent Iraqi forces from advancing, while at the same time denying water to thirsty Shia regions.
Capture of the electricity-generating Mosul Dam, which was reported by Iraqi state television, could give the forces of the Islamic State (Isis) the ability to flood Iraqi cities or withhold water from farms, raising the stakes in their bid to topple prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shia-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 of the claimed 24 hour offensive.
It was effective.
However, this time the stakes are much higher. If the Mosul Dam were to fail it would unleashed a 65-foot wall of water downstream causing incalculable destruction.
For the moment that doesn't appear to be the strategy of ISIS. They appear to be wanting to use water as leverage, as they are also on the verge of taking Iraq's second largest dam, the Haditha Dam, also upriver from Baghdad.
Taking both dams would allow the fanatical jihadists control of all of Baghdad's water and most of its electricity in middle of the summer months.
ISIS didn't take Mosul Dam from Iraqi Security Forces. They took it from Peshmerga Kurdish fighters. When the Iraqi forces fled their positions in a panic in June, the Kurdish forces moved in to take their places in key locations.
When the ISIS southern momentum stalled they turned north toward weaker opponents.
In a press release, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) confirmed reports that ISIL and associated armed groups seized control of nearly all of Sinjar and Tal Afar districts in Ninewa Province, including the oil fields of Ain Zala and Batma, bordering the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.The Yazidi religion is rooted in Zoroastrianism but has over time blended in elements of Islam and Christianity. Yazidis pray to God three times a day facing the sun and worship his seven angels.
“A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar,” declared UNAMI chief and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, who added that the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government should urgently restore their security cooperation in dealing with the crisis.
According to reports, as many as 200,000 civilians, most of them from the Yezidi community, have fled to Jabal Sinjar.
Under strict islamic fundamentalists beliefs, Christians and Jews can live among muslims if they pay a tax. Followers of the Yazidi religion, however, are considered apostates by ISIS. They must either renounce their religion or they will be killed.
The Kurds have been begging President Obama for arms for days now.
U.S. officials say they are considering ways to help the Kurds defend themselves, but direct provision of arms to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in the way Washington arms Iraq's central government in Baghdad, appears highly unlikely.Maliki and Washington appears more afraid of the Kurds gaining independence than ISIS victory.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Arab, has clashed repeatedly with Kurdish leaders over budgets, land and oil.
I don't think Iraqis feel the same way.
Residents in Mosul are said to have formed armed gangs to counter ISIS. Bashar al-Kiki, the chairman of the Nineveh Provincial Council, of which Mosul is a part, told The Times that armed citizens had killed four ISIS militants.
“The people of Mosul are intensely angry at ISIS,” al-Kiki told The Times. “They can’t bear them anymore. This volcano of anger will explode soon.”
The Islamic State pursued aggressive offensives on two new fronts Sunday as its militants defeated Kurdish troops along a key front protecting a major dam, while in Lebanon its fighters attacked a series of army posts along the border with Syria sparking the worst spill over of fighting into Lebanon since the start of the civil war in neighboring Syria.
For a brief moment, it seemed all was lost. The Sunni militants seized the army command headquarters in town, with very little stopping them from reaching the dam. But some local Sunni tribes who oppose the militants and feared for their livelihoods if the dam were captured sent fighters to reinforce the 2,000 soldiers guarding the town, allowing for a narrow victory. At least 35 militants and 10 soldiers were killed in clashes on Friday, Fleih said.
But the militants have been fighting every day since trying to take the town, according to four senior military sources in Anbar province. They spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with the media.
Only 10 kilometers (6 miles) remain between the militants and the dam.