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Mission Creep to Mission Leap

The U.S. continued air strikes against ISIS today in its effort to help the Kurds retake the Mosul Dam. According to CENTCOM, on August 15th the U.S. was just using "remotely piloted aircraft." Yesterday, when the strikes began near Irbil and the Mosul dam, CENTCOM said the strikes consisted of "a mix of fighter and remotely piloted aircraft."

Today, according to CENTCOM, the U.S. has now added bombers and attack aircraft:

U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq Sunday, using a mix of fighter, bomber, attack and remotely piloted aircraft to successfully conduct airstrikes near the Mosul Dam.

Obama today sent a new letter to Congress authorizing the enhanced attacks. [More...]

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Mission Creep in Iraq? U.S. Air Strikes Against ISIS at Mosul Dam

CENTCOM confirms 9 strikes against ISIS near the Mosul Dam. This is far beyond the limits Obama set. There are no U.S. personnel or interests in needing protection in Mosul or Erbil. ISIS hasn't threatened U.S. interests. Baghdad, where the Embassy has ,personnel is and our interests lie, is 100 miles away. This is a bait and switch, as we all suspected it would be.

Obama authorized air strikes to save the Yazidis. He said further strikes would be allowed to protect American interests and personnel.

Beginning last night at 6 pm, U.S. warplanes struck ISIS in Mosul, in an effort to help the Kurds retake the Mosul Dam. The Kurds have reportedly retaken the East side of the dam.

"Kurdish peshmerga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam" complex, Major General Abdelrahman Korini told AFP, saying several jihadists had been killed.

[More...]

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AQAP Statement in Support of ISIS and Threatening U.S.

In response to U.S. air strikes in Iraq, AQAP (al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) has reportedly issued a statement supporting ISIS and blasting America and Obama, and urging attacks on the U.S.

The statement is titled "In the name of G-d the merciful. Subject: Statement on the US bombing on Iraq."here. It was issued by al Aswirti Media and posted on justpaste.it. You can use Google Translate or Bing Translator to translate (very rough translation, but it's enough to make out the important parts.)

ISIS has still not threatened to attack the U.S. It remains focused on building its Caliphate state in Iraq and Syria, and then in the other Muslim countries in the region. It does not control AQAP. Nor does it control its fanboys sitting behind computers in other countries who post threats to the U.S. [More...]

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Nuri al-Maliki Gives Up, Will Leave Office

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has agreed to leave office.

Maliki ended eight years of often divisive, sectarian rule and endorsed fellow Shi'ite Haider al-Abadi in a televised speech during which he stood next to his successor. Earlier, a leading figure in the Sunni minority told Reuters he had been promised U.S. help to fight the Islamic State militants.

Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi, the Governor of the Anbar province, told Reuters that the U.S. promised air support for its fight against militants.

"Our first goal is the air support. Their technology capability will offer a lot of intelligence information and monitoring of the desert and many things which we are in need of.

"No date was decided but it will be very soon and there will be a presence for the Americans in the western area."

The White House has not confirmed his statements, which were part of conversations he had with diplomats and a Pentagon official. [More...]

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WH Says Yazidi Crisis Over, No Need for Military Intervention

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, says the new military advisers who went to Sinjar have found the crisis is over. Military assistance (as opposed to humanitarian assistance) is not needed.

The Obama administration has ruled out for now a risky US military mission to rescue thousands of Iraqis stranded on a northern Iraqi mountain, declaring a siege by Islamist extremists to be over. ...Kirby said in a statement that the team on Mount Sinjar found a situation less dire than the administration and international organizations initially thought when the US sent its warplanes back to Iraq for the first time since 2011.

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White House Now Says Ground Troops Possible to Save Yazidis

Update: CENTCOM says the U.S. today struck an ISIS convoy west of Sinjar using a remotely piloted aircraft. This new Guardian op-ed explains why military intervention by the U.S. is the wrong answer.

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Deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes, speaking from Martha's Vineyard today, said Obama will consider proposals to use ground troops to save the Yazidis. He also said the U.S. would not use ground troops in combat in Iraq.

ISIS meanwhile marches on.[More...]

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Chaos in Baghdad: Maliki Locks Down City to Stay in Power

Update: President Masum has named Haider al Abadi as the next Prime Minister. Maliki remains defiant, calling the nomination illegal. John Kerry says:

Kerry said Malikiís actions could lead the U.S. to withhold further military assistance just days after American jets and drones began launching air strikes against Islamic State positions in northern Iraq.

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Baghdad is erupting. Prime Minister Maliki has brought out the Shi'a milita and security forces and locked down the Green Zone, closed the airports, and ordered a curfew. It's kind of like a coup against the new President, Fuad Masum, who Maliki says violated the Constitution by extending the time to choose a Prime Minister until Saturday. Tanks are patrolling the streets.[More...]

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Keeping Up With ISIS

Where's ISIS today? While the U.S. is focused on Erbil, ISIS as usual has been a step ahead. For an ongoing chronology of today's military action, check out Memlik Pasha, Mark and Charles Lister (Brookings.) For translations of ISIS releases, check out AbuUmarAlAnsari and ISISNews3. For official ISIS releases from the 13 or so various provinces, click on the "follow" link for any one of them -- they only follow each other. They post links to their text and photo releases on justpaste.it. [More...]

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ISIS Brings in Engineers to Repair Mosul Dam

Reuters is among those reporting that ISIS has brought in engineers to repair the Mosul Dam. It looks like ISIS intends to supply Mosul with water, not open the floodgates, as many have feared.

An engineer at Mosul dam told Reuters that Islamic State fighters had brought in engineers to repair an emergency power line to the city, Iraq's biggest in the north, that had been cut off four days ago, causing power outages and water shortages. "They are gathering people to work at the dam," he said.

ISIS' Ninwa News has released a video of its takeover of the dam. There's no violence in it and you can watch it here or download it here. It says the Peshmerga fled, leaving behind their uniforms, with the TV still running, and provides screenshots. [More....]

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ISIS View of Airstrikes and the Politics of Fear

There is still no official response by ISIS to the U.S. Airstrikes. But, via Reuters:

A fighter told Reuters by telephone the U.S. air strikes would have "no impact on us".

"The planes attack positions they think are strategic, but this is not how we operate. We are trained for guerrilla street war," he said. "God is with us and our promise is heaven. When we are promised heaven, do you think death will stop us?"

Do ISIS fighters (as opposed to supporters) really talk to the media by phone? Who knows, but I do think the response is in line with what ISIS will say when it does respond.

Related: Matthew Barber, a scholar at the University of Chicago, has been in Sinjar and Shariya (another Yazidi town near Dohuk) with the Yazidis and the Kurds all week. He has a very informative, interesting first person account of events. [More...]

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Obama Talks ISIS: No Caliphate For You

President Obama gave a lengthy interview to Tom Friedman at the New York Times. On ISIS and their goal of a Caliphate state:

We do have a strategic interest in pushing back ISIL. We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq, but we can only do that if we know that we’ve got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void. So if we’re going to reach out to Sunni tribes, if we’re going to reach out to local governors and leaders, they’ve got to have some sense that they’re fighting for something.” Otherwise, Obama said, “We can run [ISIL] off for a certain period of time, but as soon as our planes are gone, they’re coming right back in.”

He's not saying we're going to bring troops into Iraq to stop them. It's really a continuation of his answer to a previous question about why the the U.S. didn't go after ISIS when they first started their hyped up tour of destruction: [More...]

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U.S. Airstrikes On ISIS

The U.S. launched airstrikes against ISIS today outside Irbil (Erbil.) Here's a bigger version of the map above from the Washington Post.

Obama is holding firm for now that no ground troops will return to Iraq.

“I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.” [More...]

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ISIS Takes Mosul Dam and Wreaks Havoc in Yezidi Towns

ISIS unleashed its wrath yesterday on the Yezidis in Sinjar (aka Yazidis in Shingal) and two other towns in the Ninewa Province in northern Iraq. Here's a recap of the day's events. The U.N. says 200,000 Yezidis have been displaced. Thousands of cars were trying to leave, more than would fit on the roads. Here's a video. [More...]

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ISIS Grants Reprieve to Dozens of Seized Tribe Members

I really thought these Sunni al Sha'etat (aka Al Sh'etat or Sh’ytat or Shu'aytat) Tribe members in Deir Ezzor, Syria were done for. Their tribe had an agreement with ISIS which it claimed ISIS broke, and they expelled ISIS, killing 9 or 11 ISIS members. ISIS returned with its typical furor, and seized dozens of tribe members, mostly young men. It didn't kill them right away but put them in jail. ISIS released these (non-violent) images of their capture. (The towns were Abu Hamam, Kashkiyeh and Ghranij, in Deir Ezzor.)

There were unofficial reports the men were going to face a Sharia Court for treason, and that the penalty for treason is death, or the hacking off of an arm and a leg on opposite sides of the body.

Today, ISIS announced they were spared by order of the Khalifah, and given the chance to repent and pledge allegiance to ISIS. The photo announcement is here. They look much happier now. (And cleaner, maybe ISIS let them take showers and gave them fresh clothes.)[More...]

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ISIS Mass Massacre in Tikrit: "Down By the River"

I can't bring myself to watch (and won't link to) the ISIS video of the massacre of hundreds of Shi'ite Muslims and army deserters in Tikrit. Almost all are in their 20's and 30's. The video is 36 minutes long, and the real horror is in the last 6 or 7 minutes. Shorter version: There are trucks loaded with hundreds of terrified young men. First they make them lie down in the sand. Then they shoot around 50 of them in the head, one by one. Then there's a scene of an open area packed with more than 100 bodies. And then:

The 36-minute video ends with a scene in which fifteen young men are being escorted to a blood-soaked path along a river, where masked gunmen await, one of whom is holding the Islamic State's flag. The victims are each shot in the head and dumped into the river one by one.

Video above: Neil Young and CS&N, Big Sur Sept 6, 1969:

"Down by the river, I shot my baby
... This much madness is too much sorrow...."

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