The creation of a new Iraqi government without Nouri al-Maliki may have already begun paying off in more muscular assistance to Baghdad as ISIS continues its sweep through the northern part of the country. The US has begun coordinating air strikes with a new offensive by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake control of the Mosul Dam, whose collapse could kill as many as a half-million people. The dam could play a critical role for ISIS for extortion purposes and the loss of it could cripple central Iraq, which relies on power generated from the problem-plagued dam:
U.S. warplanes carried out airstrikes in northern Iraq near ISIS-controlled Mosul Dam early Saturday morning, the Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported, citing eyewitnesses.
CNN confirmed that a U.S. and Iraqi military operation aimed at retaking the country’s largest hydroelectric dam from the so-called Islamic State was scheduled to begin early Saturday morning (Friday at 6 p.m. ET).
The operation was to begin with U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes against ISIS positions, with Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces following up on the ground.
U.S. fighter jets began carrying out the strikes early Saturday morning local time, Rudaw reported.
The loss of control of the dam created a high degree of concern in Baghdad as well as with its Western allies. Not only does the dam provide power to central Iraq, it’s also a critical part of the fresh-water infrastructure in the region. The dam itself is fragile even when the political situation is stable; the government in Iraq had planned to partner with the US and others to fix it before it collapsed on its own before ISIS pushed them out of the region. Its destruction — natural or otherwise — would be catastrophic for millions of people in Iraq.
NBC News spoke with Iraqi and Kurdish forces working together on the new offensive. They understand the need to work together, but when asked whether they can beat ISIS, the best they can say is insh’allah:
ISIS, meanwhile, has not stopped its offensive even with the US conducting airstrikes on their position. They sacked a village near Sinjar, massacring 80 or more Yazidi men and seizing over 100 women to send into slavery. The town of Kojo had been under siege for days, and finally fell yesterday. CNN notes that the reports of massacring men and sexual slavery for women is consistent with reports from similar ISIS actions in the area:
This is a campaign of annihilation against the Yazidis, and also the Christians and even Muslims who profess any heterodoxy from ISIS’ extreme ideology. The UN issued sanctions against a half-dozen of ISIS’ financiers and warned that the same will follow for anyone supplying weapons to the group:
The United Nations Security Council took aim at Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria on Friday, blacklisting six people including the Islamic State spokesman and threatening sanctions against those who finance, recruit or supply weapons to the insurgents.
The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution that aims to weaken the Islamic State – an al Qaeda splinter group that has seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate – and al Qaeda’s Syrian wing Nusra Front.
Islamic State has long been blacklisted by the Security Council, while Nusra Front was added earlier this year. Both groups are designated under the U.N. al Qaeda sanctions regime.
Friday’s resolution named six people who will be subject to an international travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo, including Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, an Iraqi described by U.N. experts as one of the group’s “most influential emirs” and close to its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
The UN seems a bit slow to react to the crisis, which has been unfolding all year. While these sanctions are certainly welcome, they won’t do much to deflect the current trajectory of the group. They have all the arms they need for a while, thanks to the collapse of the Iraqi military, and it won’t be long before they can sell oil on the black market to get their own financing. This seems too little, too late to stop ISIS, and it’s telling that the UN can’t seem to bring itself to discuss what actually could stop ISIS — which is a multilateral force that will roll back ISIS and take control on the ground, denying them the opportunity to commit their genocides. Without that even on the table, ISIS has little to worry about in the near term, even if they do lose control temporarily of the Mosul Dam.