Al Qaeda’s relentless advance in Iraq

After Mosul, Al Qaeda seizes 38,000 sq. km of Iraqi territory, division-size armored vehicle fleet
DEBKAfile Special Report June 11, 2014, 9:10 AM

After occupying the oil town of Mosul in northern Iraq, Al Qaeda’s ISIS (Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant) went on to seize more slices of Nineveh province. By Wednesday, June 11, they were in control of some 38,000 sq. km. or one-tenth of Iraqi territory – the size of Portugal – and 3.5 million inhabitants, around ten percent of the country’s national population.

The Islamists also took over the main crossing from Iraq to Syria at Yaaroubiyeh.

They rode out of the Mosul battle Tuesday with 260 new armored vehicles of various types – enough to equip a full division – taken booty from the Iraqi army. The roads out of the city are clogged with an estimated half a million refugees in flight from the bloodshed and chaos with no means of support.\

Although he declared a national state of emergency, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has no illusions about his army standing up to the ferocious al Qaeda fighters. And indeed the tens of thousands of troops stationed in Mosul turned tail Tuesday and fled under the onslaught.

The Iraqi government has therefore started handing out firearms to civilians at special distribution centers and asked people to come and collect them.

The initial popular response was very slow. People are not prepared to confront al Qaeda and, anyway, most were happy to see the backs of the troops stationed in their areas, especially in the north. In the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government capital of Irbil in northern Iraq, no distribution stations were to be seen.

Read DEBKAfile’s first report on the fall of Mosul Tuesday, June 10, below

Al Qaeda in Iraq (ISIS: Islamist State of Iraq and Syria), captured the northern Iraqi oil city of Mosul, capital of Nineveh Province, Tuesday, June 10, after the Iraqi military defenders caved in and fled. Mosul is Iraq’s third largest city after Baghdad and Basra with a population of around two million.

Ministers in Nuri al-Maliki’s government have sent desperate appeals to the Obama administration for help to save Baghdad and Iraq from doom.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Iraqi army’s command facilities and bases in Mosul are ablaze and many bodies of Iraqi soldiers are lying in the town’s streets. Convoys of fleeing troops were ambushed by the invaders and destroyed.
The fall of Mosul with heavy casualties is the worst disaster suffered by the Iraqi army in its feeble attempts to fend off the deep inroads Al Qaeda has been making in the country for more than a year. ISIS now controls two major Iraqi cities, after capturing Fallujah earlier this year, has overrun parts of Ramadi and Tikrit, as well as eastern provinces bordering on Iran, Diyala province and parts of the town Baquba, where just Tuesday, 20 people were killed in two explosions.

The loss to Islamist terrorists of Mosul, home to Arab, Assyrian, Christian, Turcoman and Kurdish minorities – and the site of Old Testament prophets such as Jonah – is critical for six additional reasons outlined here by DEBKAfile’s counter-terror and military sources:

1. Mosul’s conquest gives ISIS the key to the highway to Baghdad, enabling its fighters to advance on the capital from three directions: the west from Fallujah and Ramadi, the east from Diyala and now the north, from Mosul.

2. ISIS can  merge its Iraqi and Syrian fronts and move its forces freely between them.

3. Mosul straddles the two banks of the vital Tigris-Euphratest river system shared by Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. The Iraqi Islamists now have their hand on its flow.

4. With Mosul’s capture, Bakr Al-Baghdadi, commander of ISIS, had taken a flying leap towards his avowed goal of establishing an independent Islamist state in the heart of the Middle East. No army has been able or willing to stem his steady advance, including the United States, although his state would present a direct threat to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Israel.

5. Mosul is a vital link in Iraq’s northern oil trade; one third of its exported crude is pumped past this city from Kirkuk and it also has a refinery.

6.  Iran and Hizballah face a second front in Syria opened by Al Qaeda from Iraq. To save their proudest strategic gains in Syria, Tehran will have to send troops into Iraq to save Baghdad from falling to the Islamists, or else see Syria falling into another abyss, this one of vicious Sunni-Shiite warfare.

June 11, 2014 | 1 Comment »

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  1. Mosul is a vital link in Iraq’s northern oil trade; one third of its exported crude is pumped past this city from Kirkuk and it also has a refinery.

    I wonder what this means for the Kurds? I believe that both kirkuk and Mosul were contested by them.
    when the jihadis were first being assmbled in syria I stated that if they attacked Assad and hezbullah and then went on to Iraq without attacking Israel that it would indicate the GCC war against Iran and understandings with Israel. I also stated that following Iraq would be Iran. I expect next internal insurgency in Iran from Baluchis, Azeris and Kurds. I am curious as to how the Kurds will relate to this move seemingly against their interests(unless Mosul was not one of their contested cities like Kirkuk)
    so much for the “lost” sunni war against Iran and proxies.