Iraqi Forces in Battle to Retake Baiji Refinery (VIDEO)

Troops and Shia units challenge ISIL fighters holding facility, control of which has been hotly contested for months Iraqi forces and Shia units are involved in heavy fighting to retake the country’s largest oil refinery from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. ISIL holds large sections of the Beiji refinery complex in northern Iraq where police, soldiers and elite special forces are holding out. Speaking from Baiji, a member of the elite forces said they were aiming to retake the whole area. “We stormed a building inside the Baiji refinery with the support of Hashid Shaabi. As you can see, we are inside the refinery now. God willing, within the coming few hours, we will liberate the whole refinery and the area outside the refinery with the help of Almighty God,” he said. According to Hashid Shaabi, an area of 50km south of...

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Iraqi Forces Mobilize for Largest Offensive Yet Against ISIS

By Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams – The Iraqi military, backed by Shia militias, launched a large-scale offensive on Monday to reclaim Tikrit from Islamic State militants, who overtook the central city last June. A force of up to 30,000 soldiers and fighters was reported attacking Tikrit from different directions, backed by artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets. The extent of U.S. involvement in Monday’s offensive was unclear. However, the Combined Joint Task Force reported Sunday that a U.S.-led coalition launched seven air strikes against Islamic State militants over the weekend in both Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, the coalition used warplanes and drones to strike near Al Asad, Al Qaim, Kirkuk, and Mosul, destroying Islamic State tactical units, boats, a storage facility, buildings, and other targets, according to the statement. According to Reuters, Iraq’s air force carried out strikes in support of the advancing ground forces who were being reinforced by...

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Iraq Breaks Islamic State Siege of Amerli

Thousands threatened mass suicide if extremists entered town, under siege for two months Iraqi government forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters on Sunday broke a siege by extremist group Islamic State (IS) on Amerli, a town located between Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk, sources told Al Jazeera. At least 12,000 people were trapped in Amerli for over two months with little food or water, and had threatened mass suicide if the city fell to Islamic State fighters — who captured large swaths of northern Iraq in June. Adel al-Bayati, mayor of Amerli, confirmed the report to Reuters, adding that government forces were inside the town. “Security forces and militia fighters are inside Amerli now after breaking the siege and that will definitely relieve the suffering of residents,” said Bayati. The forces that broke the siege were reportedly mainly peshmerga fighters (armed Kurdish fighters), Iraqi forces, and other armed volunteers — though there...

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Mounting Pessimism about Two-State Israeli-Palestinian Solution

In the wake of yet another breakdown in the Middle East peace process, publics in the region have little faith that a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully with each other. Majorities or pluralities in countries across the region voice the view that peaceful coexistence is not possible. And such pessimism is on the rise among many Middle Eastern publics. These are the findings of a new survey by the Pew Research Center of 7,001 people in seven nations conducted April 10 to May 16, 2014. Cynicism about peaceful Israeli-Palestinian co-existence is particularly strong in Lebanon, where 79% of the public say such an outcome is not possible. This includes 93% of Shia Muslims, 72% of Christians and 69% of Sunni Muslims. Just 11% of Lebanese hold the view that the Israelis and Palestinians can live together in harmony. But grave...

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On the Brink: Managing the ISIS Threat in Iraq

Country is back on the brink of all-out sectarian civil war. By Brian Katulis, Hardin Lang, and Vikram Singh, Center for American Progress– In 2005, the Center for American Progress called for the strategic redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq. This comprehensive strategy combined the withdrawal of combat troops by a certain date with a deeper regional, diplomatic, and security engagement strategy to address the increased sectarian divisions in Iraq and across the region that threatened U.S. interests. The withdrawal of U.S. combat troops was necessary to create an incentive for Iraqis to take control of their own affairs: Iraq had become dependent on an endless supply of American ground troops for its security. The way forward for Iraq was and continues to be an inclusive democracy that fully respects the rights of all Iraqi communities, providing a voice for Sunnis and Kurds in the political process and in government. The...

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