Iraq will at long last be getting the first batch of F-16 fighter jets it ordered four years ago, its air force commander said Thursday, a shipment that is expected to boost Iraq's capabilities in battling the extremist Islamic State group. Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin said the fighters would arrive on July 12 along with the U.S.-trained Iraqi pilots and spare parts and would immediately begin carrying out operations, according to a statement posted late Wednesday on the Defense Ministry's web site. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not confirm the date, and only said the planes were expected by the summer.
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The Obama administration is considering training Iraqis to handle ground control for airstrikes, a move that would significantly expand their role in the fight against the militant group Islamic State, a senior administration official said Thursday. The administration has been reluctant to put U.S. special forces at risk by deploying them on the ground in Iraq to call in strikes against targets associated with Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. At the same time, officials have been reluctant to rely on the Iraqis for a job that requires lengthy training. But the absence of what the military calls joint terminal attack controllers has lengthened the time it takes to direct airstrikes, raising the risks for Iraqi forces on the ground.
After the recent Tikrit offensive, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is turning his focus to Anbar, where only limited areas of the expansive western province remain under government control. Yet while the fight against the Islamic State (IS) continues, there is another vital struggle going on inside Iraq over the Iraqi state itself. This battle pits Abadi and aligned nationalist Shia factions against a series of Iran-backed militias and their political wings, whose power expanded dramatically following the June 2014 collapse of the Iraqi army in the north.
Although the Tikrit offensive appears to have been an Iranian initiative, Abadi deftly managed to make the Iraqi state a central player. Initially, the bulk of the media attention was on the presence of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani in Salahuddin, and reports of Iranian-backed militias closing in on Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The key groups included Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), which splintered from the nationalist Islamist Sadrist movement in 2004 and became Iran’s proxy during the previous civil war; the Badr Organization, which was founded in Iran in 1982 and whose long-time leader, Hadi al-Ameri, is viewed as the political godfather of the Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashd (al-hashd al-shaabi); and the Hezbollah Brigades, a smaller group with a reputation for quality operations, headed by a man known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Hashd’s military commander and a Soleimani confidant.
Over 100,000 people have fled fighting in Anbar province as fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group advanced on Ramadi. This comes after officials sent out a warning that the city could fall. Many of those wound up in Baghdad and brought with them tales of brutality and woe. Some, however, were more blunt, blaming the government for letting Anbar descend into chaos and therefore allowing ISIL to take huge chunks of the province. But why is Ramadi so important? For a start it's symbolic. It's the largest city in Anbar and is the capital of the province.
Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group have taken partial control of a water dam and the military barracks guarding it in western Anbar province, security sources and witnesses said. The armed group launched an offensive on the dam late on Friday with explosive-laden vehicles, and engaged in gun battles with Iraqi soldiers that continued through to Saturday.
Dozens of Iraqi troops were killed in the fighting, with poor communications making it difficult to confirm the precise number, Athal al-Fahdawi, an official in Anbar told the Reuters news agency. Army sources said two senior officers were among the dead.
A video posted on YouTube purported to show fighters from the group walking around the dam and the base nearby with no Iraqi soldiers in sight. The bodies of several Iraqi soldiers were seen lying on a road leading to the encampment.
Within Iraq and Syria, the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) relies heavily on Kurdish Peshmerga as coalition boots on the ground. Since international air strikes commenced in September 2014, the Peshmerga have regained about 25–30 percent of territories lost to ISIS. Territorial gains have also limited ISIS’ access to oil and gas resources, drying up some of its revenue streams. But the Peshmerga haven’t been a total success story; Peshmerga forces are using coalition air strikes to engineer territorial and demographic changes that are antagonizing Sunni Arabs—the very communities the United States needs on its side to degrade ISIS. Coalition military support to the Kurdish Peshmerga in Syria is also irritating Turkey, a major regional ally, and further hindering a shared regional framework of action.
Iraqi security forces recaptured a key bridge from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in the capital of Anbar province on Friday, said an Iraqi security official, as the country's top Shiite cleric renewed calls for national unity among political rivals in the face of the Islamic militant threat. Police colonel Mahdi Abbas said Iraqi security forces recaptured the al-Houz bridge over the Euphrates river after fierce clashes with ISIS militants in western Ramadi. Abbas said that the bridge was controlled by ISIS for several months and served as a primary supply route for the insurgents.
A hundred years ago on Saturday, tens of thousands of allied troops, led by Australians and New Zealanders, landed on the Gallipoli peninsula, on the northern bank of the Dardanelles in Turkey. The plan, devised by Winston Churchill, was to capture Istanbul and give Russia, an ally in the first world war as in the second, protected access to the Mediterranean. On 25 April, named Anzac Day after the first action by the new joint Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, wreaths will be laid, and songs sung, in memory of the large number of casualties in a military disaster blamed squarely on British commanders.
The assumption was that the Turks would quickly succumb to a naval bombardment. Instead, British and French warships succumbed to bombardment by Turkish guns, to mines, and bad weather. By the end of the year, as the oppressive heat turned to bitter cold, the allies evacuated, at a cost in lives of almost 9,000 Australians, almost 3,000 New Zealanders, 35,000 British and 10,000 French. More than double these numbers were wounded. Though an estimated 60,000 Turks were also killed, it was a late morale-booster for leaders of the decaying Ottoman empire.
The war that has engulfed Syria and spread into Iraq has displaced 14 million people, including four million Syrian refugees scattered to neighboring countries, and it has created “host fatigue,” which has further aggravated the crisis, United Nations officials said Friday. In remarks to the United Nations Security Council, the officials also rebuked its 15 members for what they called a failure to exert authority to intervene in the four-year-old Syria war, which has left 220,000 people dead.
The officials described the Iraqi territorial gains of the Islamic State, the Syria-based extremist group, as an unforeseen shock to an already overstretched emergency aid system. They called the crisis in both countries a contributor to the surge of people risking death at sea to reach Europe.
Three suicide car bombs exploded at a border crossing between Iraq and Jordan on Saturday, killing four soldiers, a witness and an Iraqi border police source said, in an attack claimed shortly afterwards by Islamic State. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack in a video, saying it had targeted a government complex, control point for the border crossing, and army patrol, according to monitoring group SITE.
A Jordanian official said his government had responded by stepping up security measures at the Tureibil crossing, while an Iraqi defense ministry spokesman said Baghdad would investigate the assault.