"Every day I receive about 100 patients. Every day there is shelling. Some of the injuries are very complicated, legs amputated, head wounds. But I don't have the materials to provide serious treatment. There are cases where I have put patients on the helicopter alive and they die when they get to Baghdad." Dr. Khaldoun Mahmoud speaks extremely rapidly, and with good reason. There is only a single place remaining in the northern Iraqi town of Amirli where he still has a modicum of mobile phone reception: at the helicopter landing pad above the village. And with every call, he is risking his life. Fighters from the Islamic State (IS) have surrounded the town and are just one kilometer away.
Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.
Kurdish fighters are struggling to hold on to recent gains against Islamic State militants in Iraq in the face of constant shelling and sniper fire. But Kurds say the jihadists have another weapon: local Arab sympathizers.
The Kurds suspect ethnic Arabs have backed the militants in battles that have raged in Iraq’s north over the past month, including a stunning advance by the jihadists. The fighting has displaced thousands of families in a region long known as a flashpoint for Arab-Kurdish violence. Now many Sunni Arab residents are barred from coming home. “The Arabs here stabbed us in the back, and now they are threatening us” from the villages nearby, a Kurdish intelligence officer, Ahmed Hawleri, said from the front-line district of Gwer.
Britain raised its terrorism alert on Friday to the second-highest level with Prime Minister David Cameron saying the Islamic State (IS) group operating in Syria and Iraq posed the country's greatest ever security risk.
The government said there was no evidence an attack was imminent but the assessment of the latest intelligence by security chiefs justified elevating the international threat level to "severe", meaning a strike was "highly likely". "What we're facing in Iraq now with ISIL (IS) is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before," said Cameron, adding he was "absolutely satisfied that ISIL ... would make specific threats to the UK".
U.S. military operations in Iraq, including airstrikes and surveillance flights, have cost about $560 million since mid-June, the Pentagon said Friday. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the average daily cost has been $7.5 million. He said it began at a much lower rate in June and escalated after the airstrikes in northern Iraq began this month.
After he spoke, the U.S. Central Command announced four additional airstrikes, bringing the total since they began on Aug. 8 to 110. Central Command said Friday's missions by U.S. fighter and attack aircraft destroyed four armed vehicles and three support vehicles in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam. One armed vehicle was damaged, it said without providing more details.
In 21st century Iraq, the enemy is not a state, though it calls itself one. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a group of Islamist insurgents whose presence stretches across the border between Syria and Iraq.
The only way to defeat the Islamic State is through military force, but Americans will not be doing the fighting on the ground. General John Allen, who commanded NATO forces in Afghanistan, has observed that, “the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Free Syrian resistance elements of the region are the ‘boots on the ground’ necessary to the success of this campaign.”
With more than 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, surveillance flights over Syria, and over 100 airstrikes launched in Iraq, it is time to start asking the hard questions about the latest U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. As David Petraeus so famously asked a decade ago, 'Tell me how this ends.'
However one felt about the humanitarian intervention to save the Yazidis stranded on Mt. Sinjar (and we can all be happy so many were safely evacuated), the U.S. military intervention in Iraq -- and potentially soon in Syria -- has become something completely different. As has so often been the case in conflict, the mission has crept its way from a noble humanitarian goal towards something far more complicated.
President Barack Obama signaled the U.S. has no immediate plans to escalate military operations against Islamic State extremists in Iraq or Syria, stressing the need to counter the group's advance while formulating a broader strategy to protect U.S. interests and allies. Mr. Obama spoke on a day when Syrian opposition activists said the Sunni radical group had killed nearly 500 people since Sunday in the northeastern province of Raqqa, most of them Syrian troops captured on an air base seized by Islamic State fighters.
The American military campaign against Sunni extremists in Iraq has leveled off in recent days as the U.S. weighs plans for expanded airstrikes and humanitarian-aid drops, officials said. Preparations were being made for operations near Haditha Dam and to provide relief to an Iraqi ethnic-minority group surrounded by Islamic State fighters. But new strikes and aid drops didn't appear imminent Wednesday, a reflection of the success the American air campaign and Kurdish fighters have had in blunting the momentum of the Sunni insurgent group.
Expanded U.S. operations, both in Iraq and Syria, remain a possibility. Military officials also are developing plans for strikes against Islamic State forces in Syria as part of a broader battle against the militant group that posted a video last week that showed it killed an American journalist. But officials cautioned that the White House isn't yet near a decision.
The new war the U.S. is waging over Iraq is succeeding. With help on the ground from Kurdish and Iraqi troops, U.S. airstrikes have pushed fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) away from the Mosul Dam.
But the daily details of U.S. military airstrikes only serve to highlight how little American military might can do. “The strikes destroyed an [ISIS] Humvee,” U.S. Central Command said Wednesday. “One strike destroyed an [ISIS] Humvee near the Mosul Dam,” Sunday’s announcement said. “The strikes destroyed or damaged three [ISIS] Humvees,” Centcom said a week ago.
The Islamic State runs a self-sustaining economy across territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, pirating oil while exacting tribute from a population of at least eight million, Arab and Western officials said, making it one of the world's richest terror groups and an unprecedented threat.
That illicit economy presents a new picture of Islamic State's financial underpinnings. The group was once thought to depend on funding from Arab Gulf donors and donations from the broader Muslim world. Now, Islamic State—the former branch of al Qaeda that has swallowed parts of Iraq and Syria—is a largely self-financed organization.