ISIS supporters posted photos to Twitter of fighters from the militant group in control of Russian Sukhoi warplanes, as well as missiles and tanks seized after the jihadists overran the Syrian air base of Tabaqa. The fall of the base gives ISIS full control over Raqqa governorate. Syrian government forced withdrew from the base after a battle that lasted five days, leaving 195 government troops and 346 ISIS fighters dead. (IraqiNews.com)
Thousands of Yazidi refugees who have fled the Sinjar region of northern Iraq have been denied entry into Turkey by military forces. The refugees, many of whom managed to flee north through the civilian corridors established by the PKK-aligned YPG militia, have been left waiting on the Turkish border near the Roboski crossing. Turkish soldiers have met any attempts to cross the border with force, according to a report in Turkey's Özgür Gündem. They are struggling to protect their children and ill from the sun under the shade of rocks and the sparse trees. They eat whatever food they can find and cooking is done in empty oil containers or cans. Many mothers have been forced to give birth on the road and some have declined to give their new children names out of fear for their future. (Rojava Report)
A suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a husseiniya, or Shi'ite mosque, in central Baghdad on Aug. 25, leaving at least 13 dead. Three were killed and several wounded in two other car bombings elsewhere in Baghdad. Another 23 were killed in car bombings at the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala and nearby al-Hilla. (IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, BBC News, NYT) A Kurdish MP in Iraq's parliament called on new Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to either arm the Kurdistan Regional Government or permit it to seek arms elsewhere. "It is crucial for the new government of Baghdad to give weapons to Peshmerga forces and train them as part of the Iraqi army or allow the Kurdistan Region to be able to buy weapons from other countries," said MP Shwan Mohammed Taha. "Today, Peshmerga forces protect 20% of Iraq's border and our demands are not unconstitutional. Putting Peshmerga forces in the security system of Iraq is a constitutional demand." (BasNews) Iranian Kurdish guerilla fighters that crossed the border to fight ISIS in the Jalawla and Khanaqen areas were prevented by the continued presence of Iranian government forces, according to the BasNews independent new agency. Tehran denies reports that Iranian forces are fighting in Iraq. (BasNews)
Iraqi government forces say they have driven back an ISIS advance on the country's largest oil refinery, killing several insurgents. The Baiji refinery (Salaheddin [Salah ad Din] governorate) has been the site of several battles between government forces and militants over the past months. (BBC News) A 2,000-strong militia has been raised to relieve the 18,000 Turkmen at the ISIS-besieged village of Amerli, also in Salaheddin. The force is commanded by Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri, a former commander of the Badr militia. (Azzaman) A group of PKK-affiliated HPG-YJA STAR fighters has reached the Duhok (also rendered Dahouk) area and taken up positions in the mountains around the city to defend it from an ISIS advance. (ANF)
The Yazidi miltia that has been formed to help Peshmerga forces liberate Sinjar from ISIS is being armed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. The militia's commander, Qassim Shashou, told the independent Kurdish agency BasNews that he hopes to receive heavy artillery has said had been promised by the KRG. "We are looking forward to receiving the weapons which will be vital in our fight against IS. After we free Sinjar, we can return to our homes with our head held high," said Shashou. (BasNews) Qasim Shesho, another member of the militia, urged his fellow Yazidis to stand and fight rather than flee Iraq. "Those who urge Yezidis to leave for Europe have no integrity or conviction," he told Rudaw agency. "We ask these people [who have left] to come and defend their land and return to Shingal,"* he told Rudaw in an interview. "I have German citizenship and could leave today, but it would be a disgrace to abandon my land." The militia, said number 2,000, is also coordinating with the PKK-aligned People's Protection Units (YPG) in the battle for Sinjar. They are hoping to protect Yazidi holy places in the mountains, such as the shrine to 13th century saint Sharafaddin, before they are desecrated or destroyed by ISIS. (Rudaw)
Gunmen opened fire inside a Sunni mosque in Iraq's eastern Diyala governorate, killing at least 68 people, Aug. 22. A suicide bomber broke into the Musab bin Omair Mosque during Friday prayers in the village of Imam Wais and detonated his explosives. He was followed by gunmen, who rushed in and opened fire on the worshippers. Initial reports blamed ISIS in the massacre, but reports later in the day blamed an unnamed Shi'ite militia, suggesting it was retaliation for a roadside bomb attack at a recruitment event organized by the militia. Last month, Shi'ite militiamen executed 15 Sunni Muslims and hung them from electricity poles in a public square in Baquba, Diyala's capital. In the wake of the mosque massacre, two influential Sunni politicians—deputy prime minister Saleh Mutlaq and parliament speaker Salim al-Jibouri—announced they are pulling out of talks on forming a new government until the investigation into the attack is completed. (RT, LAT, IraqiNews.com, Aug. 22; Reuters, July 30)
Boy, did we ever call this one. Contrary to the prevailing leftist conspiracy theory that the US was backing ISIS against Assad, we predicted earlier this year that the US would soon intervene in Syria against al-Qaeda and its offshoots such as ISIS. Today, the New York Times reports the comments of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that ISIS cannot be defeated unless the US or its partners take them on in Syria. "This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated," Dempsey said. "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no." Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who both spoke at a Pentagon press conference, stopped short of saying air-strikes on Syria are planned, but the comments were obviously intended to float the idea.
ISIS on Aug. 19 released a video purporting to show a mass conversion of hundreds of members of the 4,000-year-old Yazidi religion. The "conversion" is clearly forced, undertaken on pain of death. The video was published shortly after ISIS released a video showing one of its members beheading US journalist James Foley, sparking outrage around the world. (IraqiNews.com) More than 90,000 Yazidi refugees who fled Mount Sinjar to the Kurdish-governed Dahouk governorate live in horrific conditions, according to Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. Thousands are without even rudimentary shelter, seeking refuge form the blazing sun under trees and bridges. He said many of the refugees who made it to Dahouk are now struggling "to get food and water for their families and many have no access to medical care." (Azzaman)