— The Erimtan Angle —

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The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s glossy magazine Foreign Policy‘s Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley write that “[o]ne week into the fight for Mosul, and the battle has expanded across Iraq, but has yet to start inside the city itself. Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga are within just a few miles of the city, pushing from the south, east, and north as an estimated 1,500 ISIS fighters are making a fighting retreat back into their fortified strongholds within Mosul. To slow the coalition’s advance, they’re lighting oil pits, sending columns of thick black smoke into the sky, and laying hundreds of buried bombs along the roadways. Just a few miles away, as many as 5,000 well supplied and deeply dug in ISIS fighters, surrounded by unwilling civilian human shields, await . . . American military officials have said they expect ISIS to lash out in other areas of Iraq to try and shift Baghdad’s attention from Mosul, and the assaults on Kirkuk on Friday, and Rutba in far western Iraq on Sunday — both hundreds of miles from Mosul — have pulled some troops into the fight to secure those cities. The fighting in both places continued through Sunday, with several suicide bombers hitting Kirkuk throughout the day. In Rutba, reports indicate that ISIS has taken control of half of the town . . . But the biggest surprise came Saturday, when Islamic State fighters lit a sulphur plant on fire, sending plumes of toxic smoke into the skies around Mosul. A defense official speaking on condition of anonymity told SitRep that U.S. troops at Camp Swift and Qayyarah West Airfield near Mosul “are in an area far enough away that there is minimal threat to any lasting health effects,” but all troops have gas masks, and they have the option of using them. About 1,000 Iraqi civilians have been sickened by the fumes already . . . The Pentagon is sending dozens of new intelligence analysts to Iraq to help sift through what leaders think will be an intelligence windfall when the city eventually falls. But hundreds of ISIS fighters have been fleeing the city though an open western corridor to Syria, one tribal chief near the border tells CNN. Big win for the Kurds, may anger Baghdad. The clouds of black smoke don’t appear to be slowing things down much. On Sunday, the Kurds look to have captured the ISIS-held town of Bashiqa, only five miles from Mosul, which would open up a critical lane into the city. But the victory might come at a long-term cost. The Kurds were supported by Turkish artillery, fired from a base near the town that houses hundreds of Turkish troops, along with dozens of tanks and artillery pieces. Baghdad says they’re there without the consent of the Iraqi government, and wants them out. Ankara refuses . . . U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Turkey, Baghdad, and the Kurdish city of Erbil over the weekend to huddle with U.S. military commanders and local officials leading the fight. The visit produced some real tension, as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi soundly rejected a preliminary agreement Carter appeared to have reached with Turkish officials that would open the door for Turkey to become more involved in the Mosul operation. While there were some vague threats of war last week over the base, Abadi toned things down Saturday, saying it’s “important for us to have good relations with Turkey…I know that the Turks want to participate, we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul.” But the Shiite militias that Baghdad is preparing to send west of Mosul aren’t looking to decrease tensions with Turkey. Just the opposite, the New York Times tells us . . . Spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, Col John L. Dorrian, Tweeted Sunday that the U.S. led coalition dropped over 1,400 munitions on ISIS positions around Mosul between Oct. 17 and 22, a record number of strikes over any other 5-day period since the bombing campaign kicked off in August, 2014 . . . The fight for Mosul has just started, but the ISIS capital of Raqqa ha[n]gs over the entire campaign. ‘We want to see an isolation operation begin around Raqa as soon as possible’, Ash Carter said Sunday. ‘We are working with our partners there (in Syria) to do that. There will be some simultaneity to these two operations'”.[1]

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[1] Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley, “Situation Report” Foreign Policy. (24 Oct 2016). http://link.foreignpolicy.com/view/53676c82f6e3a597524615234q8uf.1fvt/6de5645f.

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