Islamic State/Da’esh – The purpose of this information is to outline assessment of the most likely and most dangerous courses of action for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to pursue during Ramadan (June 17, 2015 to July 17, 2015). For the past three years, ISIS has conducted major offensive operations during the Ramadan holy month, accomplishing its major annual campaign objectives. Its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), had historically also elevated violence in Iraq during Ramadan. ISIS is therefore likely preparing a surge of operations to try to achieve important campaign objectives. ISIS can also be expected to commemorate its declaration of a Caliphate on the first full day of Ramadan 2014 by trying to build upon or surpass its declaration of the caliphate last year. ISIS could do so by accomplishing new military objectives, striking religious targets, or announcing a new political milestone. Regardless, ISIS is likely to begin and end Ramadan with attempted spectacular military offensive actions in Iraq and Syria. (ISW Report 7 Jun 15)
Islamic State/Da’esh/Iraq – Water has become the latest weapon in ISIS’s arsenal, after militants closed the gates of a dam in western Iraq, allowing them easier access to government forces it was reported on the 5 Jun 15. In a move that could expose residents in southern provinces to drought, ISIS fighters have redirected the flow of the Euphrates River, to give them better access to government fighters on the southern bank, according to local officials. The Euphrates has acted as a geographical barrier between ISIS fighters who have seized the river’s northern bank, and pro-government forces who are attempting to move closer to Ramadi from the other side. ISIS fighters recently claimed Ramadi, which is the capital of Anbar province, as part of their so-called Islamic State. A spokesman for the governor of Anbar province said security forces would now have to regroup along the river to stop the insurgents from infiltrating. Fall of Ramadi “Previously they had to monitor only the bridges and certain areas, but now all of the river will be crossable,” Hikmat Suleiman told Reuters. By partially closing the dam, the fighters have forced water into a tributary running south to the Habbaniya lake, officials said. However, the insurgents have left two of the dam’s gates open, in an apparent effort to stop areas under their control from flooding, residents of Ramadi and a local irrigation official said. Falih al-Essawi, a senior provincial security official, said the government had opened another dam to channel water from the Habbaniya Lake back into the Euphrates and prevent shortages in the southern provinces. However, he warned that the measure would only work for three days. ISIS fighters are harnessing the tactic after they seized Mosul dam in northern Iraq last summer 92014), and threatened to immerse Baghdad in water before Kurdish forces and a US-led coalition drove them away from the city.
Islamic State/Da’esh/Iraq – At least 34 Iraqi police officers were killed and at least 48 more wounded on the 1 Jun 15 when an ISIS fighter drove a tank rigged with explosives into a joint Iraqi security forces base about 28 kilometres (17 miles) southwest of Samarra, two security officials stated. The attack happened at 0300 hrs local time. A medical source at a Balad hospital confirmed the deaths and number of those injured. Security officials said guards stationed at the base's entrance fired at the tank but couldn't stop it. The tank shoved aside two Humvees that blocked the entrance just before the ISIS driver detonated the tank. That explosion, near a stack of ammunition, triggered another blast. Reinforcements were sent to the area from the Iraqi Federal Police force, which is based near Samarra in north-central Iraq.
Islamic State/Da’esh/Lebanon – The TV station of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group stated that they had repelled an attack by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group fighters in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border reports claimed on the 9 Jun 15. Al-Manar TV said the attack left several ISIS fighters dead or wounded and three vehicles, including a bulldozer, destroyed. Hezbollah has been on the offensive in Syria’s Qalamoun mountains for weeks and has captured territory from al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front. Al-Manar said the ISIS attack targeted several Hezbollah positions outside the Lebanese border village of Ras Baalbek.
Islamic State/Da’esh/Iraq – ISIS's deployment of VBIEDs to Karbala and reports of ISIS's movement of VBIEDs in Anbar suggest ISIS may be preparing for renewed offensive operations a report by ISW wrote on the 9/10 Jun 15. ISIS likely seeks to consolidate control over the Euphrates and simultaneously launch its signature VBIED waves against Shi'a majority targets. By sending VBIEDs to Karbala, ISIS may be pursuing several courses of action. ISIS may be testing the security of Karbala in preparation for an attack on the city and its Shi'a shrines during the holy month of Ramadan. ISIS would likely use such an attack to spark sectarian strife, emulating AQI's February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra. It is also possible that Karbala is a diversion, and that ISIS intends to draw the ISF and "Popular Mobilization" away from their existing lines of effort in Anbar, Baghdad, and Samarra, where ISIS may launch a main attack during Ramadan. ISIS attacks in Baghdad would serve to undermine the Iraqi government and the ISF and portray the capital as unsecure nearly one year after the declaration of the caliphate. Consolidating and defending in Anbar is also likely a main objective, and it is possible that the VBIEDs were a defensive reaction to numerous airstrikes and counter-attacks reported in Anbar over the last two days. ISIS appears to be moving numerous vehicles and VBIEDs elsewhere in Iraq additionally, west of Samarra, west of Baiji, east of Tikrit, and along the Hamrin ridge. ISIS may be pre-positioning for Ramadan strikes, though ISF, Iraqi Aviation, and coalition airstrikes largely interdicted the reported VBIEDs among them.
Lebanon/al-Qaeda – At least 20 members of Syria’s Druze minority were killed in an unprecedented shoot-out with Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front in north-western Syria, a monitor said on the 11 Jun 15. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths came on the 10 Jun 15 in the village of Qalb Lawzah in Idlib province, most of which is now controlled by an alliance including Al-Nusra. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said villagers had protested after a Tunisian Al-Nusra leader "tried to seize a house belonging to a Druze resident of Qalb Lawzah, claiming he was loyal to the regime." Relatives of the owner of the house protested and tried to stop him and then there was an altercation and shooting. The Tunisian leader brought his men and accused the Druze residents of the village of blasphemy and opened fire on them killing at least 20 people, among them elderly people and at least one child. Some of the villagers had weapons and returned fire, killing three members of Al-Nusra. The Druze deaths were reported by Syria’s official SANA news agency, which accused Al-Nusra and allied Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham of an “appalling massacre committed against the people of Qalb Lawzah that claimed the lives of at least 30 people.” The Druze, followers of a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam, made up around three percent of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million people. They are concentrated mostly in the southern province of Sweida, the only Druze-majority region of Syria, but there are several Druze villages through other parts of the country, including in Idlib. The community has been somewhat divided during the country's uprising, with portions fighting alongside the government, but some parts expressing sympathy for the opposition. Mostly, the Druze have taken up arms only in defence of their areas, and have kept out of the fighting more broadly. The head of the Druze community in neighbouring Lebanon, Walid Jumblatt, is however a vocal opponent of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Saudi Arabia/Yemen – Saudi Arabia says it has shot down a Scud missile fired by Yemen's Shiite rebels and their allies at a Saudi city that is home to a major air base, marking what could be a major escalation in the months long war it was reported on the 6 Jun 15. Two missiles launched from a Patriot missile battery shot down the Scud at around 0245 hrs local time around the south-western city of Khamis Mushait, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. The agency did not report any casualties in the attack. Khamis Mushait is home to the King Khalid Air Base, the largest such facility in that part of the country. Saudis on social media reported hearing air raid sirens go off around the city during the attack. The agency blamed Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies in forces loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Syria/Druze – The broad retreat of the pro-government forces in Syria in the face of increasingly more effective attacks by both Islamic State and moderate anti-regime rebels, have placed the Druze in Syria in a difficult position it was reported by Homeland Security on the 15 Jun 15. The disintegration of the Syria military has forced the regime to abandon areas it regards as less essential to the future of the Alawite community, to which the Assad family belongs. The realization that Syrian government forces are no longer capable of, or interested in, defending them, has triggered urgent debates among Druze leaders about how best to protect the interests – and lives — of the half million Druze who live in Syria. Some Druze leaders still advocate staying close to the Assad regime, which traditionally has been hospitable to the Druze, but the majority of the Druze in Syria – and, importantly, the Druze leadership in Lebanon – are calling on the Druze in Syria to reach out to Sunni insurgents in an effort to reach an accommodation with them in anticipation of a post-Assad Syria. There are also Druze leaders who call for members of the community to mobilize and create a Druze militia in order to repel the approaching Sunni rebels. The Israeli government and military, however, have this week quietly decided not to use, or threaten to use, military force to defend the Druze. If ISIS fighters take the lead in pushing into areas heavily populated by Druze, and if the militants exhibit the same murderous tendencies toward the Druze that they showed in Iraq toward the Yezidis and others, then a humanitarian catastrophe will be unfolding on Israel’s doorstep, forcing Israel to make decisions it has so far resisted. In north-west Syria, Druze towns and villages have been attacked by al Qaeda-affiliated militants of the Nusra front, while in two provinces in southern Syria, forces from both a moderate rebel coalition and Islamic State have pushed the Assad military out of its main military bases in the area, and are advancing toward the main Druze towns and villages in the region. The Druze are facing danger on three fronts.
In the south, the newly formed coalition of rebels, the Southern Front, has gained a major victory over Assad forces by capturing a large military base situated near the road from Dara’a to Damascus. The base was home to the 52nd Brigade of the Syrian army.
The Southern From forces have been moving east toward Jabl Druze, and earlier this week captured a military airbase there.
ISIS forces are closing in on Jabl Druze from the east.
Yemen/al-Qaeda – The head of al-Qaeda in Yemen, Sheikh Abu Basir Nasser al-Wuhaishi was killed in a US air strike along with two other fighters in Yemen, an al-Qaeda spokesperson said in an online address and reported in open source material on the 16 Jun 15. In the video posted online on the 16 Jun, Khaled Omar Baterfi said the group has assigned its former military chief, Qassim al-Raymi, as its new leader. Raymi has already been acting as the group's top military commander. "He [Wuhaishi] was very well known in Afghanistan and was very close to Osama bin Laden, known as his secret keeper," Baterfi said in the video. Baterfi added that Wuhaishi was formerly imprisoned and had previously survived an assassination attempt. Hisham al-Omeisy, a Yemen analyst in Sanaa, said that the new al-Qaeda leader in Yemen is "more dangerous and aggressive than Wuhaishi". "You will be seeing a more aggressive al-Qaeda. Raymi is the mind behind huge operations like the assassination attempt against the defence minister in Saudi Arabia, the US Embassy attack in Sanaa in 2008 and attacks on several military officials in Yemen. "Al-Qaeda is more established in Yemen than it is anywhere else. It does not have an alliance with ISIL - they are not as vile as ISIL, nor do they follow the same methods as them," al-Omeisy added. Wuhaishi was a Yemeni citizen from the province of Abeen, southeast of capital Sanaa, and headed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula since 2009. He was believed to be at least 37 years old. Wuhaishi started training in 1990 in Afghanistan, which is where he became close to Osama Bin Laden. He became his aide and managed his finances and personal issues. Wuhaishi was among the aides of Bin Laden when he fled to Tora Bora close to the Pakistani borders during the US invasion of Afghanistan. After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US he was arrested and held for three years in Iran.