Archive for the ‘Turkey in Iraq’ category

Tehran will fight Turkey’s role in Mosul operation

October 24, 2016

Tehran will fight Turkey’s role in Mosul operation, DEBKAfile, October 24, 2016

bashiqa_b

The involvement of Turkish special operations, armored and artillery forces in support of the Kurdish Peshmerga battle to drive ISIS out of Bashiqa, 12 south of Mosul, marks a pivotal moment in the US-led coalition’s anti-ISIS offensive to free Iraq’s second city. The entire Mosul operation hangs in the balance since Turkey stepped into the fighting in Iraq, at the initiative of the US. Instead of fighting ISIS, the coalition’s partners are squaring off to fight each other.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Turkey was allowed to gatecrash the fighting around Mosul after US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited the KRG capital of Irbil Sunday, Oct. 23. He urged Kurdish leaders to bow to President Tayyip Erdogan’s demands for a role in the battle.

The Kurdish leaders succumbed to the pressure with the proviso that Turkey cease its air and artillery assaults on Syrian Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

When Ankara accepted this condition, Ashton set out for the Bashiqa arena, becoming the first US defense secretary to come that close to a battlefront against ISIS in Iraq.

He visited the Turkish military encampment outside Bashiqa and was given a briefing by their commanders. As soon as he departed, Turkish units entered the fray in support of the Peshmerga fighters

According to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim, this involvement was limited to tank and artillery support for the Kurdish forces. Our military sources report, however, that it went much further and included Turkish special operations forces and tanks. By Monday, Oct. 24, Turkish troops were still backing up the Kurdish effort to purge Bashiqa of ISIS fighters.

Tehran’s reaction to this change on the game board was extreme. Our sources report that the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias assigned to subordinate tasks in the Mosul operation were immediately put on a state of readiness. Commanders of the Bader Brigades, the Population Mobilization Force and the Hashd eal-Shaabi reported that they were standing ready to attack the Turkish forces operating at Bashiqa, whom they termed “gangs of terrorists no less dangerous than ISIS.”

The Iranian government leaned hard on Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi to make him redirect Iraqi government forces from the Mosul arena to join the Shiite forces preparing to strike the Turkish troops at Bashiqa.

Al-Abadi had in the past week demanded the removal of Turkish troops from Iraqi soil, a demand Ankara just as steadily rebuffed.

Building up at present is an imminent head-to-head fight between Turkish and Kurdish forces on the one hand and Iraqi Shiites on the other.

In an effort to prevent the long-awaited Mosul operation degenerating into an all-out conflagration among US allies, with the Islamist State no doubt cheering on, the Obama administration Monday turned to Tehran, Baghdad, Ankara and Irbil and asked them back off lest they wreck their primary mission of evicting ISIS from Mosul.

Tehran may decide to give ground on this but the price it exacts will be steep: an overhaul of the Iraqi Shiite militias’ rear position and permission for their direct intervention in the battle for Mosul, including their entry into the city. This permission the US commanders have hitherto withheld.

This would be a big prize. Mosul has been coveted by Iranian strategists as a major transit point on the land bridge they have designed to link the Islamic Republic to Syria and the Mediterranean. This prize would go by the board if the Turks and Kurds were first in the liberated city first and assumed control.

The big Mosul offensive is stuck, halted by ISIS

October 19, 2016

The big Mosul offensive is stuck, halted by ISIS, DebkaFile, October 19, 2016

mosul_offensive_declaration_16-10-16-1

Less than a day after its launch, the big Mosul offensive prepared for more than a year by the US, the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces and others, ground to a halt Tuesday Oct. 17, DEBKAfile’s military sources report – although none of the parties admitted as much.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi said his troops were busy opening up corridors for some million civilians to escape, while US sources suggested that the Islamic State would use primitive chemical weapons against the advancing Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Both had the ring of cover stories to account for the spearhead forces, the Iraq army’s 9th Armored Division and the Federal Police special anti-terror units, being thrown back Tuesday on their way to Mosul from the east and the south, while still 10-15km short of the city. They sustained heavy losses in lives and hardware.

The 9th Division and its newly-supplied heavy US Abrahams tanks were stopped at al-Hamdaniyah outside Mosul and retreated, recalling a previous defeat at ISIS hands in June 2014, when troops of the same division fled under Islamist attack, leaving their tanks behind.

The Iraqi anti-terror force withdrew from the village of al-Houd outside Mosul, a move which left the Kurdish Peshmerga no option but to stop its sweep of the villages around the city or expose their flanks to ISIS suicide and car bomb assaults.

Tuesday night, both Iraqi and Kurdish commanders announced a pause in their advance and said they would meet Wednesday to decide how to proceed.

The Kurdish Peshmerga’s role in the battle of Mosul has run into a further major impediment, which likewise has not been publicly aired. It turned out Tuesday that at least 3,000 of the 12,000 Kurdish fighters taking part in the offensive came from the banned Turkish underground PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) which is fighting the Turkish government. They came down from their northern Iraqi strongholds in the Sinjar and Qandil mountains. Ankara thereupon warned Washington and Baghdad in a strong ultimatum that unless those fighters were pulled off the field, Turkish troops would step in to attack them.

A second front within a front would effectively torpedo the entire Mosul liberation campaign against ISIS before it gets underway.

The first bricks of the military Tower of Babel predicted by DEBKAfile in the background report below were set in place sooner than expected.

Sunday night, Oct. 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, supported by a bevy of generals, announced that the military operation to recapture Mosul from its two-year occupation by the Islamic State had begun.

Three formally approved participants are taking part in the operation, DEBKAfile’s military sources report:

1. American special operations, artillery and engineering units – equipped with floating bridges for crossing the Tigris River – plus the US air force for massive bombardment to crush enemy resistance.

2. Iraqi army armored divisions, special ops forces, regular troops and anti-terror police units.

3. The Iraqi Kurds’ Peshmerga.

The Iraqi prime minister pledged formally that only Iraqi fighters would enter Mosul, i.e. no Americans, Kurds or other non-Iraqi forces.

It was a pledge that neither the Iraqi Sunni and Shiite combatants nor the Kurdish and Turkmen fighters trusted him to uphold, after similar promises went by the wayside in the US-led coalition battles fought in the past two years to retake the Iraqi towns of Ramadi, Tikirit, Baiji and Fallujah from ISIS.

The first forces to enter those cities were by and large pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Bader Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Units, under Iran’s supreme Middle East commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Nonetheless, despite the ravages they wrought in those Sunni cities, US air support was forthcoming for their advance, while in Washington US officials pretended they were helping Iraqi government army units.

With regard to the Mosul campaign, Obama administration officials and military officers, like the Iraqi prime minister, insist there will be no repetition of the Iranian-backed Shiite invasion and conquest of yet another Sunni city, where a million inhabitants still remain.

mosul_offensive_17-10-16-1

They don’t explain how this will be prevented when those same pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite forces are already massing northeast of Mosul, near the Iraqi-Syria border, and standing by for the order to advance into the city.

Tehran quite obviously has no intention of being left out of the epic capture of Mosul.

Neither is another uninvited party, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. He too has positioned a Turkish military concentration in Iraq, in defiance of strong objections from Washington and Baghdad. Turkish troops stand ready to move forward to do Erdogan’s will and achieve three strategic goals:

a) To actively frustrate Kurdish Peshmerga entry to Mosul, although its 15,000 fighters out of the 25,000 invasion force are a vital element of the spearhead thrust into the city. Ankara has warned that if Kurds set foot in Mosul, Turkish troops will follow.

b)  To block the path of Syrian Kurdish YPG militiamen from entering Iraq and linking up with their Iraqi brothers-in-arms.

c) To provide backing, including Turkish air support, for the Iraqi Turkmen militias still present in the Turkmen quarter of Mosul.

DEBKAfile’s military sources count six assorted military groupings taking part in the liberation of Mosul. They have nothing in common aside from their determination to drive the Islamic State out.

They are utterly divided on the two main aspects of the offensive: How to achieve their common goal and what happens to Mosul after the Islamist invaders are gone.

The underlying US rationale for embarking on this high-wire operation is President Barack Obama’s aspiration to achieve Mosul’s liberation before his departure from the White House in January, in the hope that this landmark success will provide a major distraction from his administration’s failed policies in Syria.

The Islamic State might have been expected to take advantage of the prior warning of the offensive for a stand in defense of the Iraqi capital of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate and so exploit the conflicting interests of the invading force.

But ISIS leaders decided against waiting for the combined offensive. Indeed, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, thousands of jihadis made tracks out of the city two or three months ago, relocating the bulk of their combat strength and institutions in two new locations: in the western Iraqi desert province of Anbar at a site between the Jordanian and Saudi borders and eastern Syria. Several hundred fighters were left behind in Mosul to harass the US-Iraq-Kurdish armies as they advance into the city and exploit the invaders’ discord to retain a foothold in Mosul.

Mosul assault – a military Tower of Babel

October 17, 2016

Mosul assault – a military Tower of Babel, DEBKAfile, October 17, 2016

mosul_offensive_declaration_16-10-16

The underlying US rationale for embarking on this high-wire operation is President Barack Obama’s aspiration to achieve Mosul’s liberation before his departure from the White House in January, in the hope that this landmark success will provide a major distraction from his administration’s failed policies in Syria.

****************************

Sunday night, Oct. 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, supported by a bevy of generals, announced that the military operation to recapture Mosul from its two-year occupation by the Islamic State had begun.

Three formally approved participants are taking part in the operation, DEBKAfile’s military sources report:

1. American special operations, artillery and engineering units – equipped with floating bridges for crossing the Tigris River – plus the US air force for massive bombardment to crush enemy resistance.

2. Iraqi army armored divisions, special ops forces, regular troops and anti-terror police units.

3. The Iraqi Kurds’ Peshmerga.

The Iraqi prime minister pledged formally that only Iraqi fighters would enter Mosul, i.e. no Americans, Kurds or other non-Iraqi forces.

It was a pledge that neither the Iraqi Sunni and Shiite combatants nor the Kurdish and Turkmen fighters trusted him to uphold, after similar promises went by the wayside in the US-led coalition battles fought in the past two years to retake the Iraqi towns of Ramadi, Tikirit, Baiji and Fallujah from ISIS.

The first forces to enter those cities were by and large pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Bader Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Units, under Iran’s supreme Middle East commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Nonetheless, despite the ravages they wrought in those Sunni cities, US air support was forthcoming for their advance, while in Washington US officials pretended they were helping Iraqi government army units.

With regard to the Mosul campaign, Obama administration officials and military officers, like the Iraqi prime minister, insist there will be no repetition of the Iranian-backed Shiite invasion and conquest of yet another Sunni city, where a million inhabitants still remain.

mosul_offensive_17-10-16

They don’t explain how this will be prevented when those same pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite forces are already massing northeast of Mosul, near the Iraqi-Syria border, and standing by for the order to advance into the city.

Tehran quite obviously has no intention of being left out of the epic capture of Mosul.

Neither is another uninvited party, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. He too has positioned a Turkish military concentration in Iraq, in defiance of strong objections from Washington and Baghdad. Turkish troops stand ready to move forward to do Erdogan’s will and achieve three strategic goals:

a) To actively frustrate Kurdish Peshmerga entry to Mosul, although its 15,000 fighters out of the 25,000 invasion force are a vital element of the spearhead thrust into the city. Ankara has warned that if Kurds set foot in Mosul, Turkish troops will follow.

b)  To block the path of Syrian Kurdish YPG militiamen from entering Iraq and linking up with their Iraqi brothers-in-arms.

c) To provide backing, including Turkish air support, for the Iraqi Turkmen militias still present in the Turkmen quarter of Mosul.

DEBKAfile’s military sources count six assorted military groupings taking part in the liberation of Mosul. They have nothing in common aside from their determination to drive the Islamic State out.

They are utterly divided on the two main aspects of the offensive: How to achieve their common goal and what happens to Mosul after the Islamist invaders are gone.

The underlying US rationale for embarking on this high-wire operation is President Barack Obama’s aspiration to achieve Mosul’s liberation before his departure from the White House in January, in the hope that this landmark success will provide a major distraction from his administration’s failed policies in Syria.

The Islamic State might have been expected to take advantage of the prior warning of the offensive for a stand in defense of the Iraqi capital of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate and so exploit the conflicting interests of the invading force.

But ISIS leaders decided against waiting for the combined offensive. Indeed, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, thousands of jihadis made tracks out of the city two or three months ago, relocating the bulk of their combat strength and institutions in two new locations: in the western Iraqi desert province of Anbar at a site between the Jordanian and Saudi borders and eastern Syria. Several hundred fighters were left behind in Mosul to harass the US-Iraq-Kurdish armies as they advance into the city and exploit the invaders’ discord to retain a foothold in Mosul.