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Iraq Civil War - 2014

In Iraq, the year 2014 began with al-Qaida militants expelling the Iraqi government from the city of Fallujah after days of fighting. A senior security official told the French news agency that Fallujah is under the control of ISIS - a reference to the al-Qaida-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Witnesses said there were no signs of government forces inside the Anbar province city, which is only 60 kilometers west of Baghdad. On 03 December 2014, al-Qaida militants raised their flag over government buildings in Fallujah and declared an independent Islamic state. Witnesses said the militants cut power lines in the city and ordered residents not to use backup generators. In the Anbar provincial capital, Ramadi, a tribal leader who fought alongside US troops in 2007 told The Washington Post his fighters had joined police in ejecting al-Qaida loyalists. He said the regional ISIS leader, Abdul Rahman al-Baghdadi, was among those killed in the fighting.

Violence continued to escalate in Iraq after al-Qaida-linked militants seized neighborhoods in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in al-Anbar province. Suicide bombings and other violence across Iraq claimed lives of more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, in the first month of 2014, making January 2014 the deadliest month since April 2008. A total of 1,013 people – 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen – died as a result of violence, according to data compiled by the health, interior and defense ministries.

By February 2014 top Iraqi officials were hoping the country’s military would not be forced to storm the city and risk large-scale civilian casualties. Middle East analyst James Phillips said, “It is clear that Fallujah today is the epicenter of a struggle for the future not only of Iraq, but of the broader region, particularly what’s going on in Syria.” The prime minister is trying to reassert control over Anbar by convincing Sunni tribesmen, who have felt neglected by the Shi’ite-led government, to oust the militants.

Da’esh kidnappers also targeted ethnic and religious minorities. According to officials from the Turkmen Women’s Association, Da’esh militants kidnapped 500 Turkmen women and children from Tall Afar and Mosul since June 2014. The association claimed that Da’esh militants brutalized the captives and tied at least 25 of the women to electricity poles and raped them in front of their family members.

In June 2014 a lightning offensive saw Al-Qaeda-inspired forces drive government security forces out of some of Northern Iraq’s key cities. Four Iraqi army divisions simply disappeared and won’t be easily resurrected The hard-bitten fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL) marched towards Baghdad unabated, seizing cities, raiding US-stocked government armories and leaving hundreds of freed prisoners in their wake. Though sectarian violence has been on the rise all year, the last time Iraq faced a focused insurgent campaign of this magnitude was in 2007-08.

In quick strikes, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and advanced within 55 miles of Baghdad. ISIL fighters then seized the towns of Jalawla and Saadiyah in the ethnically divided eastern province of Diyala.

But Iraqi military intelligence chief Qassem Mohammed Atta told a news conference 14 June 2014 that government forces had recaptured most of Salaheddin province and that military commanders in Salaheddin, Diyala and Samarra told him they were holding firm. It was impossible to independently confirm these claimes.

A spokesman for the Sunni militants vowed they would push into Baghdad and on to Karbala, a city southwest of Baghdad that is one of the holiest sites for Shi'ite Muslims. Hundreds of men were volunteering to defend Iraq, and in particular holy sites like those in Karbala. The vast majority of volunteers appeared to be Shi'ite. Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a religious edict, calling on men to volunteer. Iran sent fighters from its elite Revolutionary Guards' “al-Quds Forces” to help the Iraqi military.

Maliki responded to the weakness of the state security forces by calling for an army of volunteers to take matters into their own hands — widely read as a move to revive the Shia militias that had come out on top in the country’s sectarian civil war in 2006-7. A slide back into sectarian warfare offers ISIL more fertile ground in which to operate

The ease with which ISIL operates reflects the collapse of the “Awakening” strategy at the heart of the US surge in 2007, when local Sunni militias recruited by the US effectively drove Al-Qaeda and its offshoots out of the region. The Maliki government progressively antagonized these groups.

President Barack Obama said "ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems... We won't allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which while we're there, we're keeping a lid on things and, after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we're not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability of the country."

As the rapid advance south by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) toward Baghdad appeared to slow after Friday the 13th, fierce fighting erupted in the town of Tal Afar 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of Mosul near the Syrian border, security sources and a local official said. ISIL jihadist fighters and other Sunni Muslim armed groups stormed several towns on the road to Baghdad after seizing Mosul nearly a week ago - an offensive that only stalled as it approached the mainly Shi'ite capital.

Iraq's Shi'ite rulers defied Western calls to reach out to Sunnis to defuse the uprising in the north of the country, declaring a boycott of Iraq's main Sunni political bloc and accusing Sunni power Saudi Arabia of promoting “genocide.” Washington made clear it wanted Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to embrace Sunni politicians as a condition of US support to fight a lightning advance by forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) toward Baghdad, Reuters reported. But the Shi'ite prime minister moved in the opposite direction, announcing a crackdown on politicians and officers he considers “traitors” and lashing out at neighboring Sunni countries for stoking militancy.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned against US intervention in Iraq. “The U.S. aims to bring its own blind followers to power since the US is not happy about the current government in Iraq,” he said. Iran had been a backer of the al-Maliki government and offered military support.

The United Nations mission in Iraq said 01 July 2014 that 886 military personnel were killed last in June 2014, a number that is higher than the first five months of 2014 combined. At least 1,531 civilians were also killed, the most since July 2013.

In the first week of July 2014, Sunni militants who overran the city of Mosul rounded up between 25 and 60 senior ex-military officers and members of former dictator Saddam Hussein's banned Baath party, residents and relatives said. The crackdown could signal a rift in the Sunni alliance that helped secure the militant fighters' swift victory when they captured Mosul last month. The northern city of about 2 million people is by far the largest to fall to the group now known as the Islamic State and a central part of its plans for an Islamist caliphate. When the group, then known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), seized large swaths of Iraq in June 2014, it was supported by other Sunni Muslim armed groups. Tribes and former loyalists of Saddam's Baath party were eager to strike at Iraq's Shi'ite leaders, even if they did not share ISIL's vision of a caliphate ruled on medieval Islamic precepts.

On July 12, 2014 Human Rights Watch accused Iraqi security forces and militias associated with the government of unlawfully executing at least 255 prisoners in the previous month. The global human rights group said the executions took place in six Iraqi towns and villages since June 9, calling them an "outrageous violation of international law." The group said most of the victims were Sunni prisoners who were fleeing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other armed groups. At least eight of the murdered prisoners were less than 18 years old.

By mid-July 2014, five weeks after Islamist fighters stormed across northern and western Iraq, virtually every captured location remained firmly in rebel hands. The the central government’s feeble efforts at mounting a counteroffensive have been met with failure on virtually every front. The Iraqi army was riddled with incompetence, unable to provide support to troops in combat, paralyzed by widespread cowardice within the officer corps, and lacking a coherent plan for undoing the Islamic State’s advance.

“What will be required [to defeat Islamic State] of course, is an integrated, inclusive political leadership in Iraq,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said 09 August 2014. “It is why this country stands ready to support the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq.” Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute think tank, told al-Jazerra that this mantra is the administration’s way of saying that “there’s no point in degrading [Islamic State] if there’s no fundamental change in the political composition of the government in Baghdad.... As long as [Nouri al-Maliki] remains prime minister, as long as Baghdad’s policies continue to be seen as sectarian, there is no point in the United States simply destroying [Islamic State] because the fundamental conditions that gave rise to it — that is, Sunni grievances in the west and north of the country — will simply give rise to the same movement again.”

Gravely concerned for the physical safety of civilians in northern Iraq and the humanitarian situation in areas controlled by the group, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the United Nations human rights office on 08 August 2014 called on the international community and the Governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan region to protect people affected by the fighting. "We are deeply alarmed by the situation in northern Iraq, and in particular the situation of vulnerable minority groups, including the Yezidi, Christian and Turkomen communities," Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) told reporters in Geneva.

Kurdish officials said at least 20,000 Yazedi fled Mount Sinjar 10 August 2014, escaping first to Syria and then, escorted by Kurdish forces, returning to Iraq's Kurdistan region. But thousands of people remain trapped on the mountaintop. Islamic State militants had killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters. Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.

Acts of terrorism and violence in Iraq killed more than 1,100 people in September 2014, continuing what has been a particularly deadly year for the country. The United Nations mission in Iraq reportedy the toll included 854 civilians and 265 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. In the first nine months of 2014, nearly 12,000 people were killed - roughly the same number as the past two years combined.

Iraq as a whole had seen a huge surge in violence in 2014. Data from the United Nations Mission in Iraq indicate more than 13,000 civilians and security forces were killed through the end of October 2014 — a 75 percent increase from the same period in 2013.

Iraqi government figures show that violence in the country killed more than 15,000 civilians and security personnel in 2014, making it the deadliest year since 2007. Figures compiled by the health, interior and defense ministries put the death toll at 15,538, compared with 17,956 killed in 2007 at the height of Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian fighting. The 2014 toll was more than double the 6,522 people killed in 2013. Iraq Body Count, a UK-based independent group that tracks violence in Iraq, gives an even higher toll for 2014, reporting that 17,073 civilians were killed.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2016 20:06:39 ZULU