Weekly Iraq - Xplored
November 22, 2014
November 22, 2014
The Iraqi Security forces major success this week was the breakthrough by road to the Baiji refinery, finally
bringing an end to the five month long siege. Iraqi State TV today showed footage of M1 Abrahams tanks and
armored personnel carriers outside the facility; confirmation that a major force is now present and securing it.
Wasting no time, Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul-Mahdi visited the refinery on Thursday with top technical advisors to
assess the damage and begin efforts to put the refinery back on line as quickly as possible.
As anticipated, the Peshmerga and Iraqi Army have begun a coordinated action to liberate the towns of Jalula
and Sadiya in north Diyala province. Progress thus far is best described as methodical; EOD teams are clearing
approach roads and covering forces are engaged with militants in the suburban outskirts. Encouragingly, a
previously passive local Sunni tribe has mobilized up to 1000 fighters to assist the government forces.
On Sunday 16th, a car bomb detonated in a parking lot near the ‘Flying Man’ statue on the BIAP road, killing
four and injuring 11. This is the first major incident on the BIAP road since the bombing in the outer car park by
the airport entrance in April last year. A UN convoy was passing at the time, but from its positioning it appears
the attack was primarily designed to maximize casualties amongst civilians transferring to the airport and
security forces stationed in the area.
Despite their operational capability being significantly reduced in the north, IS are still demonstrably active in
Anbar. They launched a significant attack on parts of Ramadi yesterday; clashes are still ongoing in at leat one
It has been a positive week politically; Baghdad and Erbil reached an initial agreement over the long running oil
dispute. The federal Iraqi government transferred $500 million dollars to the KRG to cover long overdue
salaries; reciprocally, the Kurdish Region has begun pumping oil to federal Iraqi storage tanks in Ceyhan at a
rate of 150,000bpd. While there remains much to discuss, this tangible effort has eclipsed anything
accomplished during the Maliki era.
30 Nov : Birth of 7th Imam
4-7 Dec : Basra O&G conference
12 Dec : Arbaeen
November 22, 2014
Flashpoints and Outlook Summaries
IS ‘caliphate’: Territory held by IS gradually reducing. Mosul increasingly isolated and IS elements in the
north suffering from lack of supplies. Air strikes targeting key assets associated with the group. As IS is
gradually losing the ground war everywhere in Iraq apart from in Al Anbar province they will concentrate more on
Sectarian violence: Shi’a militias conducting independent military operations - although Abadi government
appears to be having a degree of success in controlling elements engaged in major fighting. IS and Shia mass
executions; retaliatory harassment and murder of Sunnis.
Increased US and Foreign Military presence: As the US place more troops in Iraq along with their allies in the
Baghdad and Erbil JOCs as well as at the Embassy, there is potential for an increase in the targeting of
premises such as the US New Embassy Compound and BIAP. IDF in particular could increasingly be used
against these targets so long as IS can obtain supplies.
IS will continue efforts to reignite its asymmetric campaigns in major cities across the country although has yet
to match 2013 levels. Their major focus will be to stir sectarian strife and attack government targets, although
as international support continues to grow they may also attempt limited attacks against western interests.
The new government has taken some positive steps but still faces major challenges, the most critical of which
will be to win back the support of the disaffected Sunni communities if IS is to be truly defeated rather than
November 22, 2014
On Thursday Turkish PM Davatoglu visited Baghdad; the first visit to Iraq by a Turkish premier in over four
years. He attended a series of high level meetings, including one with PM Abadi, where the IS situation and oil
matters were discussed. During a joint press conference, Davatoglu stated Iraq and Turkey now stood ‘as one’
against IS. PM Abadi stated that an intelligence sharing arrangement had been agreed, and that Turkey has
offered additional military assistance, although did not elaborate further.
PM Abadi also did not mention what was discussed as regards to Iraqi oil export through Turkey. However, it is
likely arrangements were discussed to facilitate the pumping of Kurdish Oil into Federal Iraqi tanks in Ceyhan,
which began this week after a landmark deal was made between Baghdad and Erbil. The KRG has begun
pumping 150,000bpd to Ceyhan in return for a payment of $500 million from the federal government to cover the
long delayed salary payments for government employees in Kurdish areas. COMMENT: This is the first
meaningful agreement between Baghdad and Erbil over oil in years. While there is still much to discuss, this
progress reflects the currently warming relationship between the Barzani and Abadi governments. Such a deal
would have been very unlikely to have come to pass had Maliki remained in office.
The US military industrial complex has been busy this week as Iraq put in a $600 million order for ammunition,
munitions and spare parts for its US supplied military vehicles. Separately, US Congress is gearing up to
debate the additional $5.6 billion funding that President Obama has asked for to take the campaign against IS
to ‘the next level’ over the next few years. COMMENT: The recent mid term reshuffle of the House and Senate
even further in the republicans favour may mean that some Hawkish politicians will try to seize the opportunity to
undermine the President. Paradoxically, however, it has been these same far right politicians who have been
the most vocal about President Obama ‘not doing enough’ to combat IS.
November 22, 2014
Security forces scored a major victory this week as they finally broke the five month siege of Baiji refinery. A
sizeable force equipped with M1 Abrahams tanks and armored personnel carriers is now on station in the
expanded refinery area as other units continue to push IS further back in the area between it and Baiji town.
Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul-Mahdi wasted no time in paying a visit to the facility alongside a team of experts, who
were there to assess damage with a view to bringing the facility back on line as quickly as possible.
In southern Salah ad Din, IS again appear to be increasing the level of offensive actions in Dhuluiya north of
Balad. COMMENT: This area continues to prove extremely difficult to control despite repeated security forces
attempts to do so. The local tribes continue to support IS, compounding the difficulties.
In northern Diyala province, the anticipated Peshmerga/Iraqi Army operations to liberate Jalula and Sadiya got
underway mid week after a two day bombardment of IS positions. Eight more villages have been captured and
approach routes have been cleared or ordnance as troops push forwards and engage in clashes with the IS
defenders. Encouragingly, a force of 1000 local Sunni tribal militia have volunteered to participate in the
operations. COMMENT: Similar reports of Sunni tribes falling in behind the government have been coming
from the Baiji area. The Abadi government must now to try to capitalise on this and double its efforts across the
country to bring the Sunni community back into the fold.
Coalition airstrikes have continued at elevated levels in Nineveh and western Kirkuk provinces. The airstrikes are
reportedly having a detrimental effect on IS morale; at least 30 fighters surrendered at a Peshmerga checkpoint
bordering Hawijah district after a serious bombardment left scores of their colleagues dead.
In Anbar, the week began with security forces continuing efforts to establish further control of areas south of
Amiriyat Fallujah, and continuing their advance towards Hit. However, IS were repeatedly able to strike with a
mix of conventional and asymmetric tactics; repeated suicide bombings against troops near Hit were clearly
designed to hamper progress. On Friday, IS launched major multi axis assault on areas of Ramadi. Early
attacks were repulsed with the aid of coalition airpower, but IS this morning were reported to have seized control
of a part of the city ,and also have cut supply lines between Ramadi and Hit. Clashes are ongoing as security
forces attempt to reestablish full control. COMMENT: Despite the security forces efforts and an marked
increase in airstrikes, IS are deomonstrating they still have the ability to rapidly move in strength and carry out
offensive operations in different parts of the province. This contrasts sharply with the situation in the north,
where they are largely been pinned in place and reduced to aysmmetric attacks and/or limited raids.
November 22, 2014
The most significant attack in Baghdad this week was the car bomb blast in a car park near the ‘Flying Man’
(Abbas Ibn Firnas) statue on the BIAP road 3km east of the airport, which killed four and injured 11. Although a
UN convoy was passing at the time, it appears the main target was the car park itself, which houses a security
forces post and is used as an Iraqi civilian airport transfer point. This is the first attack on the BIAP road since
the bombing of the outer airport car park in April last year. COMMENT: In isolation, the incident does not affect
threat levels - the high intent to attack the road is already factored in to the standing assessment. It remains to
be seen if IS can significantly increase the frequency of these incidents. COMMENT ENDS. This week also saw
a continuation of daily lower level IED attacks in mixed Sunni/Shia districts throughout the city. In addition to
often under reported shootings, these are the hallmarks of the underlying sectarian tensions that persist,
despite continued efforts to reunite the communities. The heightened Shia militia presence of this year is likely
also contributing to the increased amounts of incidents in Sunni districts.
North of the city, there were several roadside IED attacks / mortar attacks in Sabaa al-Bour west of Taji and in
Tarmiyah on the Baghdad/Salah ad Din provincial boundary. COMMENT: These areas have always suffered
relatively high levels of asymmetric attacks. COMMENT ENDS. South of the capital, further bombings were
reported in the Mahmudiyah-Latifiyah-Yusifiyah area - again, this is a traditional hotspot for Sunni insurgents
and despite efforts last month by the security forces to push them out, it is proving difficult to commit the level
of resources required to effect a lasting reduction in activity.
In Basra province, tribal altercations were reported at least twice in the Qurna area as a conflict between two
sub-clans of the Bani Malik tribe continues. At least one person was killed and four others injured on Friday
during the latest flare up. Other, likely tribal, murders and an instance of an RPG being fired at a home were
reported south of Basra.
The elevated levels of tribal violence which have been noted this year are a result of clans taking advantage of
the redeployment of military forces to fight IS elsewhere in the country. In order to address these security gaps,
a newly formed provincial security brigade is to begin duties this next week; its main focus is the policing of
areas of tribal conflict throughout the province. The force is likely to be formed from new recruits who have
recently graduated from the main military training center in Nasiriyah - this week Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid
Obeidi attended a graduation ceremony there. 3000 recruits have passed through the facility since the current
IS crisis began in June and Ayatollah Sistani's subsequent call to arms.
An intimidatory roadside IED attack occured on a slip road just south of Basra airport on 19 Nov, which
detonated near a PSC vehicle but caused no damage or casualties. COMMENT: Although due to the presence
of other traffic it cannot be confirmed the PSC vehicle was the intended target, it is possible. There have been
other similar incidents involving local PSC companies this year in the Basra area - most notably, two intimidatory
devices placed under the vehicles of rivals in Basra city in September. It is plausible to suspect that such
intimidatory attacks are driven by business rivalry, as is commonly seen in southern Iraq. IS involvement is not
November 22, 2014
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