AFP reports, "Gunmen kidnapped at least 18 Turkish employees of a company building a football stadium in Baghdad on Wednesday, officials said, but it was not immediately clear who was holding them." NINA notes the kidnapping took place in the Sadr section of Baghdad. And, of course and no surprise, First Post adds of the assailants, "Masked men in military uniforms kidnapped 18 Turkish employees of an Ankara-based construction company in Baghdad early Wednesday, bundling them into several SUVs and speeding away, Iraqi and Turkish officials said."
But never accuse the military or the militia in Iraq -- not even when it turns out it was them. Ignore that fact in every subsequent report and just continue to pretend there's a mad tailor in Baghdad churning out impostor uniforms.
Iraq Times notes a Baghdad police source states that armed militia (which one is unidentified) stole the 3 SUVs earlier that day. All Iraq News reports Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi responded by declaring this was all a conspiracy by "corrupted officials" while Kitabat notes he vowed to pursue the wrong doers as terrorists.
Alsumaria reports Baghdad Operations Command issued a statement announcing they were opening an investigation into the kidnappings.
Among today's other violence, Alsumaria notes 1 attorney and his nephew were shot dead outside Baquba,
In Friday's snapshot, we were noting the lack of progress in the fight against the Islamic State. It's even worse today. It's no longer just that the year-plus campaign that's failed to retake Mosul and seen Ramadi seized.
There's Baiji. Strategy Page notes:
The government also admits that the ongoing battle with ISIL near the oil refinery at Baiji (on the Tigris River between Baghdad and Mosul 200 kilometers north of Baghdad) is crucial. Security forces have been unable to keep ISIL away from the refinery. The ISIL attacks generally involve suicide car bombs and gunmen. These attacks are usually repulsed within a few hours. ISIL seems willing to suffer as many as several hundreds of casualties a week with these attacks. ISIL has been fighting here since mid-2014 and despite being defeated and pushed back many times, keeps returning with suicide bombers and mobs of suicidal gunmen. This year all these ISIL offensives have been repulsed but the security forces are so far unable to push the Islamic terrorists far enough away to restart refinery operations. The Beiji refinery can process 320,000 barrels of oil a day and that represents more than a quarter of Iraq's refining capacity. Until ISIL is cleared out of Baiji a major advance on Mosul will not be practical.
Haider was in DC when Baiji was threatened (the oil refinery -- not in use -- was overtaken by the Islamic State) and when the Islamic State made it's move on Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province.
What to do, what to do, Haider apparently debated.
Before sending the Iraqi military to Baiji to 'protect' a basically abandoned oil refinery.
The people of Ramadi?
He would wait and wait before sending the Iraqi military there.
Reminder, Ramadi fell to the Islamic State and remains under IS control.
Well, he didn't save the people but at least Haider saved that oil refinery, right?
Of the efforts to defeat the Islamic State, Strategy Page notes:
Some members of the American led coalition providing air support are openly questioning the tactics and procedures being used. There are accusations from within the American intelligence community that political leaders are hiding the truth about how the restrictive ROE (Rules of Engagement) are crippling the air offensive against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Another problem with the use of more ground control teams is the American political leadership wanting to put more of them on the ground while American military commanders believe that the risk of these U.S. troops getting killed or captured outweighs the benefits of more precise air strikes. That's because the ROE is obsessed with avoiding any civilian losses from air strikes and ISIL exploits this by regularly using human shields.
Meanwhile the United States and Britain have very quietly brought in more special operations troops to fight ISIL in the "ISIL Homeland" of western Iraq and eastern Syria. The American and British commandos in Syria have apparently been operating together on raids, scouting missions and assisting the local Kurds and other armed anti-ISIL groups. One reason for keeping the commando presence quiet is that it is largely concerned with collecting more intelligence on ISIL. This means interviewing locals who deal with ISIL and observing ISIL operations in areas ISIL believes they are safe. The commandos want to make those areas less safe and, sooner rather than later, free of ISIL presence. Many of the locals agree with that.
So US forces, as Al Mada had previously reported, are on the ground accompanying Iraqi forces on missions?
It would appear so.
Saturday's snapshot noted:
In addition, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reported this week on what the people of Nineveh Province were seeing: US forces joining Iraqi forces in combat.
The residents say this is not 'consulting' or 'advising' but that US forces are actually taking part in on the ground combat.
So with Grace's report and Strategy Page, is there a reason the US press isn't noting that US forces are on the ground in Iraq -- off 'training bases' -- and taking part in military exercises?
Before US President Barack Obama began bombing Iraq from US warplanes in August of last year, he'd already publicly declared (June 14, 2014) that the only answer to Iraq's various crises was a political solution.
Then came August 2014 and, of course, he forgot all about that and just focused on dropping bombs.
Look who's picking up Barack's slack.
As previously noted in the last months, Ammar al-Hakim is already powerful via his leadership of the Shi'ite political organization the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq.
He was also seen as a US ally for years.
Then something happened in the summer of 2014 which caused a break.
Some say Ammar did not feel the administration courted his opinion, others say he was upset that the US didn't back him to be the new prime minister (instead going with Haider al-Abadi).
Whether it was either of those, both or some other reasons, the US and Ammar experienced a public break that, had the State Dept not wasted all their time on Iran, could have been fixed.
Instead it festered and, for the first time in his public career, Ammar began publicly criticizing the US government.
This has taken place over months and in public and the US State Dept has done nothing to rectify it.
And now there are rumors that the powerful Shi'ite bloc the National Alliance is on the verge of naming Ammar its leader. As the leader of SICI, he's already powerful. Were he to be named head of the National Alliance, he would be arguably the most powerful political leader in Iraq.
And the US government?
Unable to even keep basic promises or follow the law.
I'm referring to the Ashraf community now.
When Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, a number of dissident Iranians came to Iraq. They were part of the Socialist MEK group. They were considered criminals in Iran for their political goals and aims.
Saddam protected them.
When the US invaded in 2003, the US government asked them to disarm.
They resided on Camp Ashraf -- hence their being known as the Ashraf community -- and because they disarmed, they fell under the Geneva Conventions -- they became protected people with a legal obligation on the part of the US government to ensure their protection.
Barack has repeatedly looked the other way as the Ashraf community has been attacked. They were forcibly moved to Camp Liberty. They have continued to be attacked there.
At least 7 were kidnapped by Iranian forces -- and all the State Dept's Brett McGurk could do was spin and lie when Congress asked him about it.
There is no protection for the Ashraf community despite the fact that the US government is legally obligated to protect them.
(This obligation is only in force while they are in Iraq. The US could quickly relocate the remaining members to other countries and be done with the legal obligation.)
Not everyone is as silent as the White House: