News / Middle East

Iraq, Militants' Claims Conflict Over Control of Mosul Dam

Smoke rises during airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants at the Mosul Dam outside Mosul, Iraq, Aug.18, 2014.
Smoke rises during airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants at the Mosul Dam outside Mosul, Iraq, Aug.18, 2014.
Victor Beattie

Iraqi and Kurdish forces say they have retaken control of the key Mosul dam from Islamic State fighters, but the militants are disputing the claim.

An Iraqi army spokesman said the Iraqi flag has been hoisted at the dam, but acknowledged that the facility is not fully secure yet. Lieutenant General Qassim al-Moussawi says troops are looking for explosives left behind by the militant group.

''Some of the dam facilities have not been cleared yet. But what is important is that the security forces have arrived at the dam and they were able to capture the dam and conduct a full check around it to make sure that it's empty of bombs and explosive charges," he said. "The Iraqi flag has been raised on the dam this morning at 1100 [0800 GMT].''

The Islamic State called the Iraqi claim of control over the dam a "mere propaganda war," and the U.S. said fighting in the region is continuing. The dam is crucial to northern Iraq, providing electricity and irrigation for much of the region.

Mosul DamMosul Dam
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Mosul Dam
Mosul Dam

The U.S. military said it carried out 15 more airstrikes Monday against Islamic State militants near the dam, destroying more of their fighting positions and weaponry.

The United States first launched airstrikes earlier this month against the insurgents, in part to prevent the killing of thousands of minority Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq.

US involvement

The chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said the air strikes, in addition to equipment provided to Kurdish fighters, have helped slow the advance of Islamic State militants across Iraq.

President Barack Obama Sunday sent a letter to congressional leaders announcing his authorization of targeted air strikes to support Iraqi forces in their effort to recapture the Mosul Dam from Islamic State militants, referring to it as a “critical infrastructure site.”

Obama warned failure of the dam “could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to its people.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the operations are limited in nature, duration and scope. She said they are being undertaken in coordination with, and at the request of, the Iraqi government.

U.S. Central Command Sunday said the air strikes, the second in the area in as many days, were carried out using fighter and attack aircraft and destroyed three IS armed vehicles, an IS vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft artillery gun, an IS checkpoint and an improvised explosive device (IED) emplacement.  All strike aircraft are said to have exited the strike area safely.

The United States first launched airstrikes earlier this month against the insurgents, in part to prevent the killing of thousands of Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq.

RAND Corporation senior political scientist and former U.S. Army officer Rick Brennan said the latest air strikes are the beginnings of what he called a “more reasoned” involvement in Iraq.

"The earlier argument that the president was making about the humanitarian mission and the limited assistance that we’d be giving I think was unrealistic given the type of assistance that the Iraqis need," he said.

"And so," Brennan added, "at this point in time, what the Iraqis need is assistance in trying to help in doing the operational planning and the integration of air and ground capabilities to try to move back ISIL.We need a strategic approach as to how we’re going to engage, how our western allies will engage, as well as the nations in the region will engage to turn back ISIL."

Britain’s Defense Secretary Michael Fallon Sunday told British military personnel on Cyprus that Britain’s role in Iraq had expanded beyond the original humanitarian mission. He said the Royal Air Force has flown missions to gather intelligence about IS movements. He added that Britain’s engagement could last months.

Fallon’s statement came after Prime Minister David Cameron warned the Islamic State group could target the United Kingdom unless action was taken.

Appearing on U.S. television Sunday, the chairman of the House Intelligence committee, Congressman Mike Rogers, warned of the continued danger posed by the Sunni militant group.

"ISIL now is a terrorist organization with an army. That’s what makes them so dangerous: tanks, helicopters, heavy artillery, money. All of those equate to a pretty dangerous situation," said Rogers. 

Rogers said, however, that Kurdish ground forces, now better armed, are regaining lost ground.

"So, the peshmerga had a strategic withdrawal are armed up a bit and now have some air support, both from the Iraqi Air Force and the U.S. Air Force and have made real progress around that dam. Fighting still continues as of this morning, but it looks like they’re starting to gain the upper hand and pushing those ISIL units, the terrorist organization units, back away from the dam.  It is a strategic asset and something important to take before they move into Mosul," continued Rogers.

Brennan said U.S. forces on the ground are organized into planning cells in Erbil and Baghdad and are providing Iraqi security forces with critical intelligence. But those forces, he said, will eventually need advise-and-assist logistics support as they conduct offensive operations.

Brennan warned that IS militants will continue to pose a regional, and to an increasing extent international threat, unless they’re stopped now.

"There have been estimates as many as 1,000 people, who are affiliated with ISIL, have passports either to the United States, Canada, Australia or our Western allies in Europe," said Brennan.

He warned that allowing them to have safe harbor in Iraq and Syria will only invite the kind of attacks in the West carried out by al-Qaida a decade ago.  Rogers said the world faces a greater terrorist threat now than before 9/11.

Pope Francis on the use of force

Also Monday, Pope Francis said it is legitimate for the international community to use force to stop Islamic militants in Iraq. But he said that it should not be up to a single country to decide how to intervene in the conflict.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department, acting under an edict targeting terrorists, imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the Islamic State spokesman.

Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo.

  • Smoke rises from the impact of airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants, at the Mosul Dam, Iraq, Aug. 18, 2014.
  • Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, on their way to the front line to fight Islamic State extremists, Mosul Dam, outside Mosul, Iraq, Aug. 18, 2014.
  • A Kurdish peshmerga fighter stands guard at the Mosul Dam, near the town of Chamibarakat, outside Mosul, Iraq, Aug. 17, 2014.
  • A Kurdish peshmerga fighter prepares his weapon at his combat position at the Mosul Dam, outside Mosul, Iraq, Aug. 17, 2014.
  • A Kurdish peshmerga fighter prepares his ammunition near the Mosul Dam, outside Mosul, Iraq, Aug. 17, 2014.
  • A Iraqi Shi'ite family who fled from Mosul after the advance of Islamic militants, at a refugee camp in Baghdad's southeast suburb of Nahrawan, Aug. 17, 2014.

 

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by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, USA
August 18, 2014 2:36 PM
To take away the Moshul dam from the clutches of the ISIL by the combined Kurdish and the Iraqi security forces under our air cover is a good news. Still the ISIL is far from being defeated. A lot remain to be done to achieve that by the Iraqi govt. led by the premier Abadi. The time and the situation to signify that ahead. .......... The EU, the NATO and our govt. had not trained some Syrian rebenits for creating the ISIL but to oust a dictatorial regime of president Assad. Although the ISIL has created a problem out of the Syrian crisis, still our govt. is cofident to tackle this mesh ahead. If there's a problem, there does remain a solution course for it........ In Syria, out of the rebel units, the al Queda backed al Nusra unit of the rebel faction was banned officially by our govt........ But the Free Syrian Army is of different kind that our govt as well as our friendly states in the Middle East and Europe do trust. The ISIL comprises of the al Queda, the Sunni militia of Iraq and some imported ones for the Syrian civil war out of the African states as well as the Asitics where such tinges remain........... To dealing with the Syrian civil war against the dictatorial regime of president Assad; and, at the same time, the ISIL movements in Iraq, right strategies are necessary to go in a correct balance. The Mosul dam is unquestionably a strategic site; and, it was certainly necessary for the Iraqi forces to recover it. But the long-term challenges do remain ahead that Iraq has got to deal with.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 18, 2014 7:08 PM
Hey Lawrence;... The (2) days of US airstrikes destroyed (3) armored vehicles, (1) mounted anti-aircraft gun, (1) checkpoint, and (1) (IRD) emplacement....as reported by the US White House officials....

IF you checked the warplanes recorded photo evidence, you'd see the (pickup trucks) the US called armored vehicles weren't moving, (and I personally believe), all the US claims of their role in this Iraq war is propaganda, (and in reality), the US role is very limited, and is almost non-existent.... (an the Iraqi air-force provided all the support for the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters).... but the US gets all the propaganda from the Voice of America and the western news media.....

by: anObserver from: world
August 18, 2014 9:02 AM
The current situation does have some parallels with the situation created by the US in Pakistan in 1970-1971. The players here are the Sunnis & Shias of Iraq. There the players were the West & East Pakistanis (now aka Bangladeshis). The US armed (West) Pakistan to usurp the democratically elected PM (who was from East Pakistan). The war created countless (about 10 million) refugees - who still live in India. Here the Yazidis & other minorities, generally friendly groups are victims of US policy. In that war, Indians have been the sufferers. In both the wars, it is the US who is arming the fighting rogues with weapons (ISIS is using US weaponry).
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 18, 2014 11:41 AM
You are right;.. The tens of thousands of (foreign) Sunni Muslim ultra-extremists from around the world, (who had no loyalty or allegiance to anybody), are being armed and trained by the US and NATO in Jordan and Turkey, to wage war on the Shia Muslim government in Syria....

And al-Baghdadi from "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" went to Syria, and (recruited) these same tens of thousands of (foreign) Sunni Muslim ultra-extremists from around the world, and armed and trained by the US and NATO in Jordan and Turkey, into his al-Baghdadi Sunni Muslim (ISIL) army, (and had them swear the (Bay'ah) oath of allegiance to him).... and then, al-Baghdadi led his (ISIL) Sunni Muslim army into Iraq, and merged with the Sunni Muslim tribes in the "Sunni Triangle" and Sunni "Triangle of Death" and "Al-Qaeda of Iraq" and Sunnis in the Iraq army, into his (ISIL) army, to wage war on the Iraqi Shia Muslim government, and form his Sunni Muslim Caliphate.....

by: Anonymous
August 18, 2014 8:38 AM
ABSOLUTELY under no circumstances should anybody that is fighting with islamists be allowed into western countries!

by: David from: Sydney
August 18, 2014 8:33 AM
The mistake was made by leaving Iraq without an airforce to defend itself when the pullout happened. I hope thousands wont die by repeating that mistake in Afghanistan.
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 20, 2014 11:12 AM
The Afghans will not have the knowledge, trained staff nor money to keep an air force flying.
In Response

by: Charlie468
August 18, 2014 3:08 PM
The Iraqi military does have an Air Force.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 18, 2014 10:42 AM
The White House said they were going to start supplying the (35) old refurbish Russian attack helicopters in (6) weeks to the Afghan air force, that they had promised to deliver to them in 2009, (but), it'll take about (6) months or more to deliver the remaining order..... like the US promised Iraq in 2012, and the US promised the Afghans in 2009.... just keep waiting.... (American promises are worth what?)..... (promises?).....

by: wayne from: uk
August 18, 2014 7:20 AM
100% i agree with ...Mr A from: new york...
its a lunatic disease that must be cut out from all society
wayne

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 18, 2014 6:00 AM
.From the beginning it was spelt out that the so-called Free Syria Army or the Liberation Front and whatever name they chose to go by, fighting to wrestle power from Bashir al Assad, were a terrorist mob. The USA, EU and NATO wanted every support given to them because they were fighting to free Syria from a long reign of the Assad family. Today we find that was just an excuse to break the long arm of Iran in the territory, which was necessary – even now. But the warning that the conglomeration of terrorist cells was dangerous for the cause being pursued was ignored.

That fear has been proved right. Bashir al Assad could have been bad; there could have been genuine reason to remove the Iran fingers from the territory; but to ignore every reason given which exposed the mob action against the Assad regime is the danger to which the Kurdish, Yazidi and Christian minorities of northeast Iraq have been exposed. Those who encouraged this terrorist group should be held accountable for its hydra-headed operations and deadly destruction of lives and property out there.

Kudos to Bashir al Assad for his foresight; he was a good military strategist allowing ISIS to show its true colors in no time. Now, will the world give Assad the necessary support to defeat this deadly terror group? Best practice here is for USA, NATO and the EU to swallow their pride, apologize to Syria, and then empower it to rout the evil horn of the devil called ISIS. Currently, Syria is the only power out there that can confront and defeat ISIS given the right framework to leverage its activities. Whether it is true or not that Saudi Arabia is afraid for its own safety is uncertain, hence it has been a sunni islamist arm that can most arguably be sponsored from Riyadh, Ankara or Dubai

The suggestion of ISIS aim at Saudi Arabia makes its threat urgent and the need to remove it even more urgent. This calls for concerted effort to defeat the menace by Syria and Saudi Arabia coming together to cut off both its arms and funds supply, thus making it easy to be routed by the Syrian forces already tuned up for war with the militant group. Failure of the Saudis to give all necessary support to Syria now to take on this insurgency leaves only one important suggestion – that Saudi Arabia is actually funding it. If what Brennan said concerning terror threat level is real, why not take it up with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar NOW before it gets out of hand? What is the use of fraternizing with terror sponsors for gains that will be wiped away in no time and inflict more injuries, like 9/11

by: Mr A from: new york
August 18, 2014 5:10 AM
It is good news. Eventually the power of evil will be defeated. Still it is far from over. We are fighting ideology. it is like Octopus. once an arm is removed, another arm will grow again and many radical are spreading in Europe and Us. and immigrant countries such as Australia and Canada. .these countries are still in coma . Their liberal and western culture style allow the Jihadist to grow and spreading hate ideology . The Australian from Lebanese origin who displayed his child with a head of man killed is an example .it example of hate message and it is growing in our land and we have to deal with it . If we want that Isis fiasco will not be repeated again, we have the Islam disease

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