Tag Archives: Baghdad

Islamist State fighters seize western Iraqi town – officials

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Islamic State insurgents took control on Thursday of most of the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, threatening an air base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi troops, officials said.

Al-Baghdadi, about 85 km (50 miles) northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, had been besieged for months by the radical Sunni Islamist militants who captured vast swathes of Iraq’s north and west last year.

“Ninety percent of al-Baghdadi district has fallen under the control of the insurgents,” district manager Naji Arak told Reuters by phone.

Militants attacked al-Baghdadi from two directions earlier in the day and then advanced on the town, intelligence sources and officials in the Jazeera and Badiya operations commands said.

The officials said another group of insurgents then attacked the heavily-guarded Ain al-Asad air base five km southwest of the town, but were unable to break into it.

About 320 U.S. Marines are training members of the Iraqi 7th Division at the base, which has been struck by mortrar fire on at least one previous occasion since December.

U.S. officials in Iraq were not immediately available for comment, and a defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on the situation in Anbar.

The death toll from the fighting was not immediately clear.

Most of the surrounding towns in Anbar fell under Islamic State control after the group’s rapid advance across the Syrian border last summer.

(Reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Andrew Roche)

News courtesy: Reuters
Learn more » http://in.mobile.reuters.com/article/idINKBN0LG22G20150212?irpc=932

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Iraq loses control of chemical weapons depot to ISIS militants

The Iraqi government has informed the United Nations that it has lost control of a former chemical weapons depot to Islamist insurgents affiliated with ISIS, or IS, and cannot carry out its obligations to destroy what’s stored in the compound.

In a letter penned by Iraq’s UN Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim, it was revealed that “armed terrorist groups” took over the Muthanna complex on June 11. Located north of Baghdad, the facility was the main center for chemical weapons production prior to the 1991 Gulf War, and is still home to 2,500 rockets containing the lethal nerve agent sarin.

According to the Associated Press, the compound is now in the hands of the Islamic State extremist group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In the letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Alhakim said that Iraqi officials witnessed the intruders looting some of the equipment before the surveillance system was taken offline.

Read more » RT
http://rt.com/news/171388-iraq-loses-chemical-weapons-depot/

Mass beheadings reported in Iraq as al-Qaeda forces take Mosul and Tikrit

Iraq crisis: ISIS militants push towards Baghdad – live

Group claims mass killings of Iraqi troops, as militants battle security forces 50 miles from Baghdad – follow latest developments – follow latest developments

By 

It is impossible to confirm at present whether the ISIS claim on Twitter to have executed 1,700 Shia soldiers in Iraq is accurate, or an exaggeration intended to create fear among the Shia populace. But earlier, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, expressed “extreme alarm” at the situation and spoke of verified reports of “summary executions and extrajudicial killings”. Some of the reports cited suggest that Iraqi security forces are being purged, though it is unclear whether there is an ethnic dimension to all of the killings.

According to the UN mission in Iraq, “the number of people killed in recent days may run into the hundreds and the number of wounded is said to be approaching one thousand,” Rupert Colville, Ms Pillay’s spokesman, said in Geneva.

He said UN had received reports of horrific abuses after the capture of Iraq’s second city Mosul, one such case involving the “summary executions of Iraqi soldiers (and) of 17 civilians” thought to have been working for the police, in one particular street in Mosul on 11 June.

Read more » The Telegraph
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10892299/Iraq-crisis-ISIS-militants-push-towards-Baghdad-live.html

Americans Being Evacuated from Iraq Air Base

Officials say three planeloads of Americans are being evacuated from a major Iraqi air base in Sunni territory north of Baghdad to escape potential threats from a fast-moving insurgency.

A current U.S. official and a former senior Obama administration official say that means the American training mission at the air field in Balad has been grounded indefinitely.

Twelve U.S. personnel who were stationed at Balad were the first to be evacuated. Several hundred American contractors are still waiting to leave.

They have been training Iraqi forces to use fighter jets and surveillance drones.

Other U.S. contractors at a tank training ground in the city of Taji (TAH’-jee) is still ongoing for now.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they refused to be named in discussing the sensitive situation.

©2014 by The Associated Press.

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Fisk on Syria: “Assad faces a well-armed & ruthless enemy whose Islamist supporters are receiving help from the West.”

Robert Fisk: The bloody truth about Syria’s uncivil war

Those trying to topple Assad have surprised the army with their firepower and brutal tactics

By: Robert Fisk

A few hours after the ferocious attack on Damascus by the Free Syrian Army began last month, the new Syrian minister of information, Omran Zouhbi, turned on journalists in the capital. “What are you doing here in Damascus?” he roared. “You should be out with our soldiers!” And within a day, tired images of a primly smiling President Bashar al-Assad and pictures of Syrian troops happily kissing children were replaced by raw – and real – newsreel footage of commandos fighting their way across Baghdad Street under fire from the rebel opponents of the regime, grimy-faced, running from street corners, shooting from the cover of walls and terraces. “We’ve cleaned up here,” one tired but very angry officer said. “So now we’re going to get the rest of those bastards.” Never before – not even in the 1973 war when the Syrian army stormed Observatory Ridge on the heights of the Golan – had the Syrian public witnessed anything as real as this on their television sets.

Continue reading Fisk on Syria: “Assad faces a well-armed & ruthless enemy whose Islamist supporters are receiving help from the West.”

All they are saying is, Iran should be replaced by Pakistan in international scare scene

Are We Focusing on the Wrong Nuclear Threat?

Americans are wringing their hands about the grave threat that a nuclear Iran would pose to the United States. But the numbers tell a different story.

BY:  VICTOR ASAL AND BRYAN EARLY

As a contentious new round of high-stakes nuclear talks between Iran and world powers wraps up in Baghdad, it is important to think critically about how much of a threat Iran poses to the United States. According to former senator Rick Santorum, for example, a nuclear Iran would have “carte blanche to spread a reign of terror around not just the Middle East, but here in America … [and] across Western civilization.” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has argued that “if the Iranians are permitted to get the bomb, the consequences will be as uncontrollable as they are horrendous.” Several leading U.S. senators penned an op-ed in March stating that “the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to the entire world, including particularly the U.S.”

It is not just politicians who hold these views. A recent CNN poll revealed that more than three-quarters of the American public sees Iran and North Korea as “serious” threats while only 44 percent feels the same way about Russia. Indeed, fear of the Iranian threat in the United States is more widespread today than fear of the Soviet threat was in 1985, even though at that time the Soviet Union possessed the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and today Iran doesn’t have a single nuclear weapon.

Which raises an obvious question: Does the dominant perception of the Iranian threat actually square with reality? To answer that question, we designed the Nuclear Annihilation Threat (NAT) Index — a way of systematically and empirically assessing the existential threat that nuclear-weapon states (NWSs), and potential nuclear-weapon states, pose to one another. What we found is striking: Although Israel is right to see Iran as an existential danger, the United States has blown the Iranian threat to itself all out of proportion — and Iran is unlikely to find existential security in a nuclear weapon. In addition, both Israel and the United States should be focusing much more aggressively on the threat posed by Pakistan.

Unlike any other weapon, nuclear weapons can jeopardize a nation’s very existence. We use the term “existential threat” to denote the capability of one state to completely annihilate another. In concrete terms, a nuclear attack on one U.S. city would be catastrophic, but it would not destroy the United States. A similar nuclear attack on Tel Aviv, on the other hand, would potentially kill 42 percent of the Israeli population and most likely spell the end of the Jewish state. By focusing exclusively on existential dangers, we seek to understand how nuclear weapons affect the core survival motivations that drive states’ behavior. While this may be a narrow perspective, we think that isolating this unique characteristic of nuclear weapons yields important insights.

Our NAT Index is a relational metric that draws on four factors in determining the existential threats that nuclear-armed countries pose to one another: 1) the potential damage a country’s nuclear arsenal could cause to a target’s population; 2) the ability of a country to strike a target with ballistic missiles; 3) the presence of a strategic rivalry between the two countries; and 4) the risk of state failure in the country that is hypothetically attacking a target. The NAT Index can also be used to identify which nuclear-armed countries pose the greatest existential threats overall and which are the most vulnerable.

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, for example, is capable of inflicting higher levels of proportional damage to a country the size of Israel than a country the size of China because of geographic and demographic differences. Countries that are rivals of North Korea and are within range of its ballistic missiles face a greater existential threat from Pyongyang than those that are not. We factor in the risk of state failure because an unstable country’s leaders and governmental policies can change on a dime and destabilized regimes can lose command and control of their nuclear weapons, exposing the arms to theft or unauthorized use.

While our index accounts for the heightened existential risks created by rivalries, we do not assume that nuclear-armed allies pose no risks to one another. From a realist perspective, the military power of other states can never be safely ignored — especially with respect to weapons that possess such uniquely destructive power. Beyond realism’s admonishment that today’s allies could become tomorrow’s rivals, the risks of nuclear weapons accidents and misuse exist between both rivals and allies. While it may appear odd to consider Britain as a potential nuclear threat to the United States, remember that Pakistan is also a U.S. ally. In accounting for the threats that even allies’ nuclear weapons pose, our analysis reflects the view that all nuclear weapons — no matter who possesses them — present a grave international security threat.

We coded our NAT Index using the most recent publicly available data. To account for the potential nuclear destruction a country could inflict on a target, we compared the number of nuclear weapons the state possesses to the number of population centers over one million people in the target country. Assuming that it would take four nuclear weapons to ensure destruction of a population center, we noted whether a state could destroy less than 25 percent of a target’s urban centers, 25 to 75 percent of them, or more than 75 percent of them. We classified a country as being able to strike a target with its ballistic missiles if it possesses known ballistic missile capabilities that would allow it to strike any part of a target’s territory. States engaged in strategic rivalries were identified via a highly regarded international relations data set on the subject. Lastly, we coded the country as constituting a state failure threat if it was identified as being at critical risk in Foreign Policy’s 2011 Failed States Index. Like any effort to systematically analyze nuclear threats, the results of our analysis are shaped by the assumptions we make and the data we use. We thus encourage readers to learn more about our methodology we use in the appendix we have provided.

Using the method of aggregation displayed below, our NAT Index produces a measure of the existential threat a state poses to a target state on a scale from .05 (minimal threat) to 9 (maximal threat). ….

Read more » Foreign Policy (FP)

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Current wave of extremism in Pakistan

Statistical ambiguity society

Just how some recent events of our surface politics offer an interesting study of the deep politics

By Dr Ahsan Wagha

It started with the worst ideological polarisation promoted by the military generals in the 1970s when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was forced to invite Saudi ambassador Riaz Al-Khatib to mediate between him and the opposition, a practice that was reverberated during the Musharraf-Nawaz conflict and has almost culminated into becoming one of the basic features of our foreign policy. The phenomenon can be investigated in the background of the history of Arab colonisation of this region.

Continue reading Current wave of extremism in Pakistan