News / Middle East

Iraqi PM: Government Forces Winning Against Militants

  • A member of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces stands guard during an intensive security deployment in Baghdad's Amiriya district, June 18, 2014.
  • Shi'ite volunteers who joined the Iraqi army to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant gesture with their weapons in Baghdad, June 18, 2014.
  • A member of Iraqi security forces stands guard in front of volunteers who joined the army to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Baghdad, June 17, 2014.
  • Shi'ite tribal fighters raise their weapons and chant slogans against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Basra, Iraq, June 16, 2014.
  • Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr march during military-style training in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, June 16, 2014.
  • Iraqi army soldiers stand guard in Baghdad, June 16, 2014.
  • A volunteer who joined the Iraqi Army to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant holds a weapon during a parade in Al-Fdhiliya district, eastern Baghdad, June 15, 2014.
  • A vehicle belonging to Kurdish security forces fires a multiple rocket launcher during clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on the outskirts of Diyala, Iraq, June 14, 2014.
  • This image posted on a militant website on June 14, 2014 appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
  • This image posted on a militant website on June 14, 2014 appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
Edward Yeranian
Despite the loss of the town of Tal Afar, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq's prime minister and his military spokesman continue to insist that government forces are winning the battle against Sunni militants in combat north of the capital. Despite the assurances, many foreign embassies have ordered the evacuation of personnel as fears grow over the possible fall of Baghdad.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
  • Formed by members of al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria and Iraq
  • Aims to establish an Islamic emirate across Syria and Iraq
  • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
  • Believed to have 5,000 to 7,000 fighters
  • Has launched high-profile attacks in both countries
Iraqi state TV showed a crowd of Iraqi soldiers south of the capital overnight cheering Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as he delivered a defiant speech, boasting his forces would defeat Sunni militants from the al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

He said those who are plotting for, counting on or idly imagining that Iraq, Mosul or the armed forces are going to fall are deceiving themselves.  It is those politicians themselves who bet on the fall of Mosul or the country who have sullied themselves before history and will be punished for it this day, the next, and before God Almighty.
Despite Maliki's confident tone, he went on to threaten Arab TV networks and local Iraqi media, which he accused of playing with the security of the country.  He insisted that they would be punished in accordance with Iraqi law.
Conflicting stories

Military spokesman Sa'ad Ma'an echoed the prime minister, accusing Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV of broadcasting misinformation.  The TV reported Sunday that Baghdad airport had come under attack and flights were suspended.  VOA was unable to independently confirm if the story was true or false.
Spokesman Ma'an said government forces had made progress in combating the advancing Sunni militants.

He said that Baghdad security forces have killed 56 “terrorists” and wounded 21 others during the past 24 hours.  He claimed that all of the operations were defensive ground actions.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
But according to eyewitness reports, Iraqi government forces were defeated in heavy combat overnight and driven out of the mostly Turkmen town of Tal Afar, northwest of Baghdad.
ISIL posted gruesome photos Sunday of hundreds of soldiers whom it claimed to have executed after they had surrendered. The government cut Internet service across most of the country, apparently to prevent the circulation of such photos and other negative news.
Iraqi refugees also complained about government bombing.  One woman said she had fled Kirkuk, now under Kurdish control, because government planes were attacking targets inside the city.  It was not immediately clear if the planes were targeting Kurdish forces.
Ashirqiya TV also reported government warplanes bombed the mostly Sunni town of Falouja, 40 kilometers west of Baghdad, which is now under control of Sunni militants.  The TV added that 13 civilians died from government shelling and air raids.

Sunni ambitions
American University of Beirut political science professor Hilal Khashan tells VOA he thinks it is unlikely that Sunni militants will be able to capture Baghdad or Shi'ite holy cities in the south of Iraq, as they have vowed.
"I do not think ISIL has the capacity to reach Baghdad.  Baghdad's defenses are quite strong and their ability to reach the Shi'ite shrines in Karbala are unachievable.  ISIL has a plan to create a Sunni state.  It will not serve their purposes to get as far as Baghdad or Karbala and get bogged down in a battle they cannot win.  They are fighting in parts of Iraq where they have a good chance of winning," said Khashan.
Various media organizations have reported that Iran has sent elite Revolutionary Guard troops to Iraq to help the Maliki government.  Secretary of State Kerry has also proposed the United States discuss the defense of Baghdad directly with the Iranian government.  Iran's national security advisor, Admiral Ali Shamkani, met Monday with the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan.

UN evacuates personnel from Baghdad

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq says about 58 staffers have been moved from Baghdad and its surrounding areas to Amman, Jordan.  Haq said they will be sent to Irbil when possible.

The U.N. has just under 200 international non-essential and essential employees in Baghdad and the surrounding areas. Haq said some more re-locations may be made in the coming days.

Margaret Besheer contributed to this report from the United Nations.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: meanbill from: USA
June 16, 2014 6:24 PM
MY OPINION? -- Don't trust the US President who bowed to the Wahhabi Sunni Saudi King?

THE WISE MAN said it; "Where others see defeat, the wise man see's victory" (from) "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu -- (BECAUSE?) -- the approximately 3,000 Sunni (ISIL) plus the approximately 30,000 US trained Sunni Security Forces that switched sides, are spread out over at least a thousand square miles, trying to defend around (7) to (15) cites and towns -- (WHEREAS?) -- the full power of the Iraq Shia government forces, will concentrate on taking back one city and town at a time?

VICTORY for the Shia government is assured, as long as they don't listen to an outside country wanting a ceasefire, and dividing the country up.... don't pause, and finish the job you have to do... for Iraq and the Iraqi people...

by: Robert Ezergailis from: Ontario, Canada
June 16, 2014 2:10 PM
While I believe that it may be appropriate for the United States and others to provide some forms of non lethal material aid, and particularly humanitarian aid, I firmly believe that not one shot ought to be fired by Americans in the current round of Mideast confrontations between Sunni and Shiite rivals. They ought to be left to fight their own battles, and resolve their own problems, without western, particularly American, involvement.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs