ISIS losing ground in Iraq, gaining it in Syria

posted at 1:01 pm on July 4, 2014 by Noah Rothman

The Iraqi government may be finally enjoying some military successes in their struggle to roll back the advancing Sunni Islamic militant group ISIS. On Thursday night, according to Baghdad, the Iraqi army recaptured the city of Awja, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace.

“Backed by helicopter gunships and helped by Shi’ite Muslim volunteers, the army recaptured the village of Awja in an hour-long battle on Thursday night, according to state media, police and local inhabitants,” Reuters reported.

A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government reported that 30 ISIS militants had been killed in the operation and Awja had been “totally cleansed.”

Awja is located five miles South of Tikrit, a city where Iraqi security forces have been unable to dislodge occupying ISIS forces. “Defense officials in the United States, which has deployed advisers to Iraq, believe the Iraqi army will be able to defend Baghdad but struggle to recapture lost territory, mainly because of logistical weaknesses,” the Reuters report continued.

This setback in Iraq for ISIS fighters was offset by territorial gains made in Syria. According to a report via CNN founded on the observations of a British monitoring group based in Syria, the Sunni militant army successfully achieved a “sweeping land grab” on Thursday capturing a major Syrian oil field.

“A video statement from the leaders in the town of al-Shahil announcing their withdrawal from all anti-ISIS organizations triggered the quick fall of a majority of Deir Ezzour province,” CNN reported. “With Nusra Front’s bastion in the east defeated, ISIS militants simply rolled through, unopposed, staking their black and white flag through most of the oil-rich province, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Deir Ezzour said in a statement.”

The capture of al-Omar oil field, the country’s largest and most important oil facility, with a capacity to produce 75,000 barrels of oil daily, is the jewel in a string of gains that includes a military airport and a local army base.

On Thursday, The New York Times published a fascinating interactive graphic detailing how ISIS had established a “rogue state” between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is a powerful visual representation of the increasing size of ISIS’s nascent Islamic caliphate.


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Ogabe can’t decide whether or not to release 5 more of his terrorist friends…

viking01 on July 4, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Maybe. Maybe not:

Tal Afar. Haditha. Even Mosul: Unless you’re one of Americans who served in the Iraq War, odds are you don’t recognize the names of most of the cities ISIS has seized thus far in Iraq. And the areas of ISIS control on maps don’t appear that intimidating. After all, Baghdad has not fallen; this is mostly Iraqi hinterland, right?

Not so, according to a new report in the Financial Times. The group has seized the vital trade routes for the country and in fact much of the entire region. Fully 75 percent of Iraq’s imports arrive overland, much of it from Turkey through routes now controlled by ISIS. Trade between Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq could be seriously interrupted. If so, food prices will rise in Bagdad, and the economy will take a beating.

http://www.the-american-interest.com/blog/2014/07/03/isis-owns-more-strategic-territory-than-you-think/

davidk on July 4, 2014 at 1:12 PM

ISIS (IS) taking over ground already gained by other rebels. This is or used to be a war between Assad against the rebels. IS or ISIS is the hayna of the Middle East.

IS hayna of Syria has a nice ring to it.

coolrepublica on July 4, 2014 at 1:18 PM

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/03/us-iraq-security-sleeper-insight-idUSKBN0F81FK20140703

Iraqi insurgents are preparing for an assault on Baghdad, with sleeper cells planted inside the capital to rise up at “Zero Hour” and aid fighters pushing in from the outskirts, according to senior Iraqi and U.S. security officials.

sharrukin on July 4, 2014 at 1:25 PM

On Thursday night, according to Baghdad, the Iraqi army recaptured the city of Awja, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace.

And just yesterday we were told that the Iraqi army couldn’t retake areas taken over by ISIS.

xblade on July 4, 2014 at 1:30 PM

They almost totally control the rivers, too (interesting interactive maps): http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/03/world/middleeast/syria-iraq-isis-rogue-state-along-two-rivers.html?_r=3

davidk on July 4, 2014 at 1:31 PM

“No boots.” “You can keep your doctor.”: http://complex.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/07/03/pentagon_says_us_troops_could_fight_in_iraq

davidk on July 4, 2014 at 1:58 PM

There’s ebb and flow in every fight.

formwiz on July 4, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Dear Leader will be so pleased when he reads about this in the news. Ya know how his massive surge of US troops is saving the day.

Buckshots on July 4, 2014 at 2:43 PM

I’m happy for Iraq! If they can defend themselves this will give them a great boost of confidence. People need victories to build upon!

JellyToast on July 4, 2014 at 2:45 PM

In both Iraq and Syria, supply just enough weaponry to maintain the balance of power, Muslim killing Muslim!!! What a joy!!!

MaiDee on July 4, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Nothing happening in Murieta….oh wait:

http://libertyunyielding.com/2014/07/04/developing-murrieta-americans-arrested-make-way-illegal-immigrants/

can_con on July 4, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Shhh.

Positive news about conservatives in California is not allowed at Hotair.

It stirs up the chicken coup.

Time to cue up another couple of stories about Hillary Clinton.

MichaelGabriel on July 4, 2014 at 3:13 PM

They almost totally control the rivers, too (interesting interactive maps): http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/03/world/middleeast/syria-iraq-isis-rogue-state-along-two-rivers.html?_r=3

davidk on July 4, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Good post David,when ISIS first started their march through Iraq taking over cities, I realized once they controlled the rivers,( water is the life blood of any civilization) they would completely control the country and it’s people.
As much as I hate to see any more American blood shed for this hell hole on earth, we must help Iraqi people regain their country, without control of these two rivers they are lost forever to the evil of ISIS.

Bakokitty on July 4, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Fisk, in The Independent (I know, crappy source, but hey when he’s right he’s right):

While the Iraqi army supposedly fights back against Isis, it’s worth remembering that the cities at either end of the Islamists’ new self-proclaimed caliphate – Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – have historic links which precede the post-First World War Anglo-French Mandates that divided them with a Syrian-Iraqi frontier. I’m indebted to a short but enlightening monograph by John McHugo (chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine) which points out that “in 1919-20… the separation of Iraq from Greater Syria was still only a division between occupation zones. Aleppo had stronger links and greater fellow feeling with Mosul than with Damascus.”

Both, says McHugo, were cosmopolitan, merchant cities “which had been trading partners for hundreds of years, if not for millennia, along the Silk Road, and there was no natural frontier between them.”

It gets better. According to McHugo, Aleppo, “still at the time probably Syria’s largest city and certainly the country’s commercial hub, had retained its links with Mosul and Baghdad throughout the Mandate years. Many politicians from the city favoured Syria joining Iraq in a federation, or even a full union…” So there you have it. The Silk Road reconnected. Now we know why the Isis lads have been bulldozing the border ramparts between Iraq and Syria.

Moron Labe on July 4, 2014 at 4:17 PM

And just yesterday we were told that the Iraqi army couldn’t retake areas taken over by ISIS.

xblade on July 4, 2014 at 1:30 PM

…they went to the Karl Rove school of analysis.

JugEarsButtHurt on July 4, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Moron Labe on July 4, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Great post. Thanks.

John the Libertarian on July 4, 2014 at 6:02 PM

From you link:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/03/us-iraq-security-sleeper-insight-idUSKBN0F81FK20140703
…………………….

Iraqi insurgents are preparing for an assault on Baghdad, with sleeper cells planted inside the capital to rise up at “Zero Hour” and aid fighters pushing in from the outskirts, according to senior Iraqi and U.S. security officials.

sharrukin on July 4, 2014 at 1:25 PM

The government says it is rounding up members of sleeper cells to help safeguard the capital, and Shi’ite paramilitary groups say they are helping the authorities. Some Sunni residents say the crackdown is being used to intimidate them.

Iraqis speak of a “Zero Hour” as the moment a previously-prepared attack plan would start to unfold.

A high-level Iraqi security official estimated there were 1,500 sleeper cell members hibernating in western Baghdad and a further 1,000 in areas on the outskirts of the capital.

He said their goal was to penetrate the U.S.-made “Green Zone” – a fortified enclave of government buildings on the west bank of the Tigris – as a propaganda victory and then carve out enclaves in west Baghdad and in outlying areas.

“There are so many sleeper cells in Baghdad,” the official said. “They will seize an area and won’t let anyone take it back… In western Baghdad, they are ready and prepared.”

A man who describes himself as a member of one such cell, originally from Anbar province, the mainly Sunni Western area that has been a heartland of the insurgency, said he has been working in Baghdad as a laborer while secretly coordinating intelligence for his group of Sunni fighters.

The attack on the capital will come soon, said the man, who asked to be called Abu Ahmed.

rodguy911 on July 4, 2014 at 8:19 PM

If Isis does have 2500 sleepers in Baghdad the could raise a lot of hell and perhaps take over part of the city.
All in all we may be looking at $110-125 per barrel through the Summer.If so the Saudis and Ruskies get a huge windfall. Guess which regime that controls the Presidency of America works for them?

rodguy911 on July 4, 2014 at 8:57 PM

I wonder how John McCain feels about this.

V-rod on July 4, 2014 at 11:00 PM

“There are so many sleeper cells in Baghdad,” the official said. “They will seize an area and won’t let anyone take it back… In western Baghdad, they are ready and prepared.”

that’s why the Battaan Amphibious Ready Group is there.

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=79034

http://news.usni.org/2014/06/16/u-s-moves-amphibious-warship-closer-iraq-four-u-s-ships-gulf

http://wtkr.com/2014/06/05/photos-the-bataan-amphibious-ready-group-on-deployment-7/

pc253 on July 4, 2014 at 11:00 PM

ISIS was funded by the USA. The USA provided the weapons to ISIS (via Libya) that got them started. ISIS will continue the destabilization of the middle east.

That is the goal. The interesting question is, who behind the scenes in the USA is directing this strategy? Not Barky, nor Vallerie, nor any of the cardboard figure heads in Barky’s administration.

SunSword on July 5, 2014 at 8:47 AM

ISIS was funded by the USA. The USA provided the weapons to ISIS (via Libya) that got them started. ISIS will continue the destabilization of the middle east.

That is the goal. The interesting question is, who behind the scenes in the USA is directing this strategy? Not Barky, nor Vallerie, nor any of the cardboard figure heads in Barky’s administration.

SunSword on July 5, 2014 at 8:47 AM

They absolutely are.

hawkdriver on July 5, 2014 at 9:24 AM