Islamic State (Daesh)/Iraq – The assault to retake Mosul, Iraq, from the Islamic State will require 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops and is expected to begin in April or May, an official from the United States Central Command told reporters on the 19 Feb 15. The briefing, which was held on the final day of the White House counterterrorism conference, was intended to rebut criticism that the Islamic State had the upper hand and that Iraqi efforts to evict the militants from Mosul were lagging. It is unusual for American officials to discuss the details and timing of a military operation before it occurs. But the official said his intent was to describe the Iraqis’ “level of commitment” in regaining control of Mosul, which he said was held by as many as 2,000 fighters from the Islamic State. “There are a lot of pieces that have to come together, and we want to make sure the conditions are right,” the official said. “But this is their plan. They are bought into it. They are moving forward.” Still, the official, who could not be identified under the command’s protocol for briefing reporters, cautioned that the timetable for mounting the offensive to retake Mosul could change if more time was needed to prepare the Iraqi forces for the attack. He emphasized that the Obama administration had yet to decide if American advisers would be needed to call in airstrikes or to mentor Iraqi forces during the battle for Mosul. The official, providing new details about the Iraqi effort, said that the main Iraqi attack force would consist of five brigades, each of which would number about 2,000 troops. The Iraqis will keep three smaller brigades in reserve. Three brigades of Kurdish peshmerga fighters will also join the fight to contain the Islamic State militants from the north and manoeuvre to cut off approaches to the city from the west. Once Mosul is retaken, it is to be controlled by former Iraqi police officers from Mosul and tribal fighters, according to the plan. A brigade of Iraqi counterterrorism forces, trained by United States Special Operations forces, will also be involved. Masrour Barzani, the chief of intelligence for the Kurdish region of Iraq, recently said that a greater effort was needed to prepare the battle and to secure the backing of Sunnis and tribal fighters in and around Mosul. But the United States official insisted at the briefing that the Iraqi government was following a carefully prepared plan. The five brigades that are to form the main assault force in Mosul, for example, are to be drawn from Iraq’s more experienced units on duty in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. Those brigades will undergo a round of training by United States Marines and Army Special Forces, and their equipment will be updated before they move toward Mosul. The United States and its partners are continuing airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. “Militarily, ISIL is in decline,” said the official, using another name for the Islamic State. “Our effects are outpacing its ability to regenerate.” 361 COMMENT: This may seem like a ridicules statement by giving the enemy the intentions of the attack. Not so. The Islamist militants will of course prepare to resist the attack by putting in pre-placed bunkers and positions. This will of course work to the advantage of the Iraqi’s who will just target them from the air. The greater problem will lay inside Mosul with booby traps and carefully selected sniper positions to hinder the fighting in built up areas. Another problem will be that the IS are likely to attack towns and cities in the rear of the Iraqi forces in an attempt to disrupt and delay any forthcoming attack, especially in Anbar Province. It will also take away much needed experienced soldiers from the front line. The battle for Mosul has in fact started with the release of the information in what will be seen as a propaganda ploy. COMMENT ENDS
Experts have warned that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants could be about to bring Somali-style piracy to the Mediterranean. Analysis prepared by the Italian Ministry of Defence warns that ISIS have already taken control of ports and boats in Libya. The report states: “Having gained control of some ports and of vessels of various descriptions and with the possibility of taking advantage of the experience accumulated by the people traffickers working the migratory routes for years, ISIS could repeat the scenario that has dominated the maritime region between Somalia and Aden for the last ten years.” The report goes on to say: “Speed boats could attack fishing boats, cruise ships, small merchant ships, as well as coast guard in this case more to capture prisoners to exhibit in orange jumpsuits and a knife to the neck (and to ask for lucrative ransoms for them).” And the report warned that:”boats crammed with migrants could also be used in ‘kamikaze’ missions,” by loading boats with explosives that could be detonated close to other vessels. Earlier this week the British counter extremism think tank - the Quilliam Foundation - said ISIS planned to use Libya as a “gateway to Europe.” Quoting documents, including letters, the foundation said they went someway to explain the significance of Libya as a new “province” of the self-proclaimed caliphate, which already covers large swathes of Syria and Iraq. In an ISIS video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptians in Libya last week, a militant speaker pointed northward and said: “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” Experts fear ISIS could take to the Mediterranean in what could become a highly lucrative business – assuming ransoms are paid. The Mediterranean is one of the world’s busiest water ways, providing a thoroughfare thousands of vessels every year, including cargo ships, tankers, fishing boats and cruise ships filled with holiday makers. The reintroduction of piracy onto these waters would almost certainly put into question the continuation of the tourism industry on these waters.
Since September 2014 the coalition alliance made more than 2000 raids on ISIS centres and headquarters in an attempt to hinder league’s growth and to control its financial resources. The international coalition imposed an economical stenosis on ISIS and blocked the borders by bombing commercial routes owned by the league, destroyed its giant crude oil and fuel transport trucks, where the oil was being sold in the black-market, and cannonaded ISIS’s primitive oil refineries. The coalition tried to control ISIS, which is spiralling out of control day by day, with various means by controlling its funding resources and financial power that generates more than two million US dollars daily from the oil industry. Nonetheless, ISIS is still using a number of methods to pump money into its league by several means.
1-One of ISIS’s most important financial resources is selling electricity and gas to Assad regime through ISIS controlled dams like Teshreen, Al Ba’eth and Euphrates dams, in addition to Tweenan gas field that is also under the league’s control. Secret deals are being wrapped up between ISIS and Assad regime, where the regime conducts reform workshops in regions in exchange with ISIS providing them with electricity. Profits are divided in half between them.
2-One of the most ISIS financial resources is the taxes it imposes on Al-Raqqa citizens. Every house should pay 800 Syrian Liras for electricity bills and 400 Syrian Liras for phone bills. Each shop should pay 1500 Syrian Liras for electricity bills and hygiene services in addition to 400 Syrian Liras for the phone bills. These taxes generate a lot of cash flow to the league, where the Hisba apparatus collects the taxes every month from Al-Raqqa residents. (Al Hisba apparatus is a special ISIS agency concerned with collecting taxes from citizens.)
3-Customs revenue is also an important financial resource for ISIS. After transforming the old music institute to the “Customs Building”, the league imposes taxes on any goods that is being exported or imported to Raqqa city, where it earns the greatest share from these goods.
4-ISIS established a gigantic commercial route between Al Mousel city in Iraq and Al-Raqqa city in Syria. The league exports fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains, clothes and fabrics to Al Mousel in exchange to importing dates, vehicle spare parts, and some electric tools. This trade, which is one of the city’s economic resilience, proved high merits and empowered the league financially to the extent that some of the residents in Al Raqqa city started to engage in it.
5-Internet Cafes: After the absence of the internet on Al-Raqqa city for more than a year and a half, the city entirely depends on the expensive satellite internet. ISIS opened dozens of internet cafés, where the price of 25 megabytes are equal to 100 Syrian Liras that is expensive for Al-Raqqa citizens since Internet is not irreplaceable for both the citizens and ISIS members. This kind of trade is one of the most profitable trades for ISIS. There were less than 20 internet cafes in Raqqa city, now there are more than 500 cafes in a city. Nonetheless, ISIS distributes internet to the whole city so that Al-Raqqa is now called the satellite town in every sense of the word. There is internet even on the streets!
6- Al Hisba apparatus: ISIS’s tax agency used to impose sanctions on smokers, law-breakers, later prayers, and even people who avoided closing their shops according to ISIS laws, by either torturing or lashing them. Now, you can avoid all this by paying a certain amount of money to the league. ISIS members forced the residents to close their shops and go to pray; now instead they require people to pay 1000 Syrian Liras on (almost 5 US dollars). Instead of paying a tax on ration or traffic sanctions according to Sharia’ laws, it can now be substituted by paying money. The Islamic Court in Al-Raqqa city, affiliated to ISIS, condemned “Mahmoud Al Safrani” to 100 lashes in front of the city’s citizens, in addition to fining him with 14 million Syrian Liras because he was cheating people in selling rice.
7- ISIS confiscates people’s lands and sells it in public auctions, just like what happened with “Mahmoud Al Khalil Al Muhaimed” from Sluuk city in Al-Raqqa countryside. ISIS confiscated his lands, appointed a guard on it and sold it in a public auction since Mahmoud had relations with the Free Syrian Army.
8- Selling fuel and crude oil and extracting it in primitive ways: Despite all the raids done by the coalition, ISIS is still capable of extracting crude and fuel oil in primitive ways and establishing a commercial route with Turkey to sell it in the black-market. After extracting the fuel and crude oil, ISIS fills the giant tank trucks and sells it in Turkey. This industry is what keeping ISIS’s economy strong.
9- Selling cannabis, substance abuse, smuggling cigarettes and alcohol: There are a number of reports that state that ISIS plants a great amount of cannabis in agricultural fields in Al-Raqqa country sides to sell it later in the black-market in Turkey. Despite all the restrictions being done by ISIS, drugs and cannabis are abundantly found in the city, even though the drugs quantities were much less before ISIS. This league also takes a lot of money from alcohol dealers in exchange for overlooking it and approving alcohol’s entrance into the city, where alcohol is expensive but present.
10- Excavating, smuggling remnants and selling it in the black-market in Turkey. ISIS found a huge range of artefacts in Al Raqqa’s eastern suburbs that are highly valuable. This is the not the first time that ISIS found a group of artefacts that contained a huge mosaic that dates back to the sixth centaury B.C
Despite more than 2000 raids on ISIS to destroy its economy, we can still say that the league is still strong-willed economically and wasn’t affected by the strikes and it still remains one of the richest terroristic organizations. Source – http://www.raqqa-sl.com/en/?p=624
More than 100 Iraqi men, including nine boys, had been kidnapped by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters near Tikrit, an influential sheikh stated on the 25 Feb 15. Sheikh Anwar Assi al-Obeidi said on the 25 Feb that 118 men and nine boys were originally captured three days ago (23 Feb 15) from Rubaitha village, east of Tikrit, but that 21 men have since been released. He said news of the kidnapping had not been reported earlier because phone services had been cut off in the area. The boys, aged nine and 10, are still being held along with the remaining men at an unknown location, Sheikh Anwar said. He said that most of those captured have relatives fighting against ISIL and that 600 members of the al-Obeid tribe, where he is the paramount sheikh, have been killed by ISIL fighters since Jun 14. The news came a day after ISIL fighters reportedly captured at least 70 Assyrian Christians in Hassakeh province in northeast Syria. 361 COMMENT: With reports of the impending attack on Mosul these kidnapped victims maybe an attempt to persuade those who are about to take part not to do so. With recent gains by Iraqi and Peshmerga forces the ISIS/Daesh and the loss in Kobane the terrorist group cannot be too confident of a successful outcome in the Iraq city. Therefore an attempt to stack the odds on their side by kidnapping children to be used as a bargaining point to stop fighters fighting against them cannot be ruled out. They may also be used as Human Shields against future air attacks on key points in and around Mosul. Another option is they may use the children as suicide bombers against their own people. They may have the choice of being targeted and have a suicide bomb go off near them or that the kill the bomber. Either way this may be a huge dilemma for those who are about to start the next phase in the removal of Daesh from Iraqi soil. COMMENT ENDS
ISIS is preparing military plans to declare an Islamic emirate in Lebanon very soon to serve as a geographical extension of the so-called “Islamic State” announced by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq last year, security sources said. ISIS fighters have demanded support from the militant group in northern Syria to achieve this goal, the sources said. They added that the ISIS command has begun preparations to set up a military organizational committee tasked with running Lebanese affairs and considering Lebanon as part of its state. However, ISIS is facing difficulties in choosing a Lebanese commander for this mission. The reported appointment of the fugitive preacher Ahmad al-Assir for this post was merely a trial balloon, the sources said. They added that arrangements to form an ISIS command for the Lebanon emirate were taking place under the supervision of the group commander Khalaf al-Zeyabi Halous, codenamed “Abu Musaab Halous,” a Syrian who had played a key role in the ISIS offensive to capture the Raqqa province in 2013. Abu Musaab Halous, accompanied by a number of ISIS military commanders, recently visited the Qalamoun region on the Lebanese-Syrian border, where he met with field commanders with whom he discussed the creation of security and military formations between Qalamoun and Lebanon, the sources said. In addition to the fact that the adventure of setting up an Islamic emirate in Lebanon has not received the green light from the powers backing ISIS, the group’s attempt expand into Lebanon might be doomed to failure, the sources added. In the meantime, an influential party in Lebanon has received important information indicating that ISIS is bent on recruiting more suicide bombers equipped with explosives belts to target Shiite gatherings in Beirut and the southern suburbs as well as French and Western interests, while the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, which was targeted with a deadly twin suicide attack in Nov 13, is still vulnerable to another assault. As Lebanon faces growing security threats, military assistance to the Lebanese Army is expected to be stepped up to help the country stand on its feet.
Lebanon/Iraq – Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah is fighting the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Iraq, its chief Hassan Nasrallah revealed for the first time on the 16 Feb 15 in a speech beamed to supporters in southern Beirut. “We may not have spoken about Iraq before, but we have a limited presence because of the sensitive phase that Iraq is going through,” Nasrallah said in reference to ongoing clashes between Iraqi troops, several militias and Kurdish forces against the ISIS. Nasrallah’s speech comes two days after his leading Lebanese opponent, Saad Hariri, called on Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria. “I say to those who call on us to withdraw from Syria, let’s go together to Syria,” said Nasrallah. “I say, come with us to Iraq, and to any place where we can fight this threat that is threatening our (Muslim) nation and our region,” he added. 361 COMMENT: Between Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah the two are becoming a strong influence in the Middle East. COMMENT ENDS
Syria – A suicide bomber killed four people in a hospital on the 21 Feb 15 in an attack that took Syria's civil war to the ruling Assad clan's hometown for the first time. The explosion that hit the town of Qardaha was caused by a suicide bomber driving a car along with another person reports claimed. The attack, the first explosion to hit the heart of the western town since the outbreak of Syria's civil war in 2011, took place in the parking lot of Qardaha hospital. The outskirts of Qardaha have previously come under rocket fire, while Latakia province has seen several rounds of heavy fighting.