Category Archives: Iraq

Congressional Report Concludes that US Military was too Positive in IS Fight

Posted on in Iraq title_rule

A United States Congressional report issued this month has found that the US Central Command’s analysis of the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) militants was too positive in 2014 and 2015, compared with events on the ground and other intelligence analysis. 2014 represented the height of IS’ rapid expansion as the militant group grabbed a swath of territory, effectively spreading from Iraq into central Syria.

The report was released by a task force that was established by the Republican chairmen of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Intelligence Committee and Defense Appropriations subcommittee. It found “widespread dissatisfaction” amongst analysts at US Central Command who felt that their superiors wee distorting their products. In a statement, Republican Representative Ken Calvert, a member of the task force, discloses that “what happened at CENTCOM is unacceptable – our war fighters suffer when bad analysis is presented to senior policymakers. We must continue our efforts until we fix it.”

According to Patrick Evans, a Pentagon spokesman, the Department of Defense had initiated a separate investigation into the issue and would take no action or make any comment that could influence the inspector general’s work. As a general comment however, he stated that the intelligence community routinely provides a wide range of assessments, noting that “experts sometimes disagree on the interpretation of complex data, and the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense welcome healthy dialogue on these vital national security topics.”

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Bombing IS Campaign in Syria and Iraq: Statistics

Posted on in Iraq, Syria title_rule

While United States President Barack Obama was determined not to get into a full war in Syria and Iraq, statistics from the two-year campaign show that the war is far from over.

When the US-led coalition began bombing the so-called Islamic State (IS) group’s targets in Iraq and Syria, senior general and politicians warned at the time that it would be a “generational struggle” that would “last many years.” Two years on, that prediction has proved to be accurate and while the campaign has had its successes, it appears to be far from over.

More than 14,000 strikes have been carried out in the past two years at a cost of US $8.4 billion to the United States and US $365 million to the United Kingdom. In these strikes, some 26,000 targets have been either damaged or destroyed. Rather than lessening the campaign, officials have opted to step it up in its second year. In its second year, there have been 2,336 more airstrikes, which have also resulted in twice as many civilian deaths. According to a London-based monitor, called Airwars, 1,080 civilians have been killed. The Pentagon however assesses that only fifty-five civilians have been killed by US aircraft while the UK Ministry of Defense states that British airstrikes have not resulted in any innocent deaths. In Iraq, some 3.2 million Iraqis have been displaced, however the number of Syrians is considerably greater and this mass exodus has changed borders, swelled towns and emptied cities.

While when he first announced the airstrikes in 2014, President Barack Obama stated that he “…will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” that appears to have failed as there are currently some 3,800 US soldiers in Iraq. US, UK and French Special Forces are also operating in Iraq as well as in Syria. A further 400 American troops will also be deployed to an airbase south of Mosul to help the push on that strategic city.

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The Iraqi Security Failure

Posted on in Iraq, IS, ISIS, Islamic State title_rule

On the 4th of July 2016, once again Baghdad was severely hit by one of the major bombing in the history of terrorism and the deadliest single attack in the war-weary country in years. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in response to the battlefield setbacks, including the recent loss of the western city of Falluja. The militants have stepped up their attacks on civilians and this is the latest in a string of assaults during Ramadan, a period of fasting and prayer for Muslims; but also a time when jihadists launch operations against those they regard as their enemies.

Iraqi officials have raised the figure for the number of people killed in Sunday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad; the health ministry has reported 281 killed in the attack, which targeted a shopping complex in the mainly Shia Muslim Karrada district. In Sunday’s bombing, an explosives-laden lorry blew up outside a crowded, three-storey shopping centre where people were enjoying a night out after breaking their daily fast for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The bombing has sparked widespread anger among Iraqis, some of whom have accused the government of failing to protect them. When Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the bombing site, people threw stones and shoes at his convoy and called him a “thief”. In the following days the Prime Minister dismissed key officials, including the country’s intelligence chief and directors of six state-owned banks, as he is trying to push through government reforms in the face of growing popular protests.

One protester hacked an official Iraqi government website Sunday, causing the address to link to a Blogspot page that accused the government of using fake bomb detectors. The official government website stayed down for several hours. The hacker changed the homepage of the government website to an image of a bloody child and a drawing of a fake bomb detector with the ISIS symbol on it. Concerns have been raised for years about fake, non-functional, hand-held bomb detectors being sold to and used by Iraq’s government at security checkpoints. Many online echoed the hacker’s opinion, saying the deadly bombing could have been prevented. Shortly after the hack, the prime minister’s office issued a press release saying that Iraqi security agencies would “withdraw manually held devices at checkpoints” and reopen a previous investigation into whether or not many bomb detectors are in fact functional. The fake bomb detectors, based on cheap devices for finding golf balls, were sold in large numbers to Iraq by fraudsters. The fake detectors were still being used at checkpoints in Iraq until few days ago. The man behind the ADE 651, the fake bob detectors, is James McCormick. In 2013 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the ruse. The former policeman, of Langport, Somerset, who was found guilty of three fraud offences at the Old Bailey, is thought to have made more than £50m from selling three models based on a novelty £13 golf ball finder, to Iraq and other countries.

The type of explosive used for the attack remains classified. A forensic examination of the site has not yet publicly unveiled any data, however in the November 2015 attacks in Paris, TATP (triacetone triperoxide) was used as the primary explosive in a number of bombs and suicide belts during the hours-long siege. TATP was again used in the 2005 London bombings that killed 56 and was also confiscated from Najibullah Zazi in his failed plot to attack the New York City subway system in 2009. Moreover there is an ongoing investigation on the primary ingredient in the devices detonated during the bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station 2016. The attack could become the latest example of the chemical’s use in terrorist strikes across Europe. Acetone peroxide is an organic peroxide formed by the oxidation of acetone to yield a mixture of linear monomer and cyclic dimer, trimer, and tetramer forms. The trimer is known as triacetone triperoxide (TATP) or tri-cyclic acetone peroxide (TCAP) a highly unstable explosive. Acetone peroxide coalesces into a white crystalline powder with a distinctive bleach-like odor and can detonate when exposed to exothermic reactions, friction, or shock. As a non-nitrogenous explosive, TATP has historically been more difficult to detect, and it has been implicated as the explosive used in terrorist attacks. TATP is easy to make and hard to detect, but is also incredibly unstable. In fact, all it takes is a firm tap to explode TATP with a force that’s about 80% as strong as TNT. Regardless of the nature of compound the entrusted ADE 651 would have always failed to detect any threats or hazardous materials.

The ISIS success is primarily due to the failure of the security services. In an embarrassing admission, the government has had to order security personnel to stop using bogus bomb detectors that, for years, have been widely known to be useless and admitting the critical failure of the country’s security services.

Iraqi Military Claims IS Leader’s Convoy Hit

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On Sunday, a military statement indicated that Iraq’s air force has hit a convoy of Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, adding that the fate of the leader was unknown.

According to Sunday’s statement, which was released by the interior ministry intelligence unit, the Iraqi air force “bombed the convoy of the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while he was heading to Karabla to attend a meeting with Daesh (IS) commanders.” The statement added that Baghdadi was “transported in a vehicle” after the air strike and that “his health status is unknown.” The statement concluded by indicated that “the location of the meeting was also bombed and many of the group’s leaders were killed and wounded.” The attack is said to have occurred in western Anbar province, near the border with Syria. Interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan has indicated that the strike occurred midday on Saturday. Hospital sources have disclosed that several IS fighters were amongst the casualties, however there was no sign of Baghdadi.

So far there has been no official comment from IS, however one IS media representative indicated that the government’s claim was aimed at boosting the morale amongst its troops.

While there have previously been several reports that the IS leader had been killed or seriously injured in attacks, none have been confirmed. One such claim in July 2014, was followed by a video of Baghdadi at a mosque in Mosul. The release of the video came amidst reports that he had been killed or wounded in an air raid. In November 2014, IS released an audiotape which it says was recorded by Baghdadi just days after reports emerged that he had been killed or injured. More recently in April 2015, rumours about Baghdadi’s death surfaced again after reports emerged that he was seriously wounded in an air strike earlier in the year by the US-led coalition that is opposing IS.

While the fate of Baghdadi in the wake of Saturday’s raid remains unknown, analysts have cautioned that military statements from the Iraqi authorities on the results of actions against jihadi or insurgent leaders have in the past been unreliable and are therefore treated with some caution

The IS leader has been careful to reveal little about himself and about his whereabouts, with source disclosing that even his own fighters reportedly do not speak about seeing him face-to-face. In October 2011, the United States officially designate Baghdadi as a “terrorist” and offered a US $10 million (£5.8 million) reward for information leading to his capture or death.

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France Begins Syria Surveillance Flights Ahead of Possible Airstrikes

Posted on in France, Iraq, ISIS, Islamic State, Syria title_rule

Last week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced that France had carried out its first surveillance flights over Syria in order to prepare for possible airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) group extremists.

Speaking to reporters, Fabius stated that “these surveillance flights will determine what action can be taken when the time comes.”  A French military source, the reconnaissance flights were carried out by two of France’s Rafale fighter jets, which are equipped with photo and video cameras.  The source disclosed that the “two Rafales left the Persian Gulf this morning (Tuesday 9 September) and have just returned.”

The surveillance flights follow President Francois Hollande’s announcement last Monday that France would soon begin surveillance flights over Syria.  During a press conference, he stated that the intelligence gathered from these flights would then be used in order to determine if France would go ahead with airstrikes against IS group targets in the Middle Eastern country.  The French President noted that he wanted to find out “what is being prepared against us and what is being done against the Syrian population.”

This move represents a major shift within France’s strategy in Syria as while the country is part of a coalition of nations that have been carrying out airstrikes against the extremist group in neighbouring Iraq, Paris has so far not commented on extending its bombing mission to Syria.

While President Hollande noted that the fight against terrorism needs to be carried out both at home and in places where it is entrenched, he ruled out deploying ground forces to Syria, stating that such a move would be “ineffective and unrealistic.”