June 13, 2014                                

The Situation

Crisis in Iraq

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Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants continued to make territorial gains, seizing the town of Dhuluiya, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad (map), and temporarily taking the town of Jalula in Diyala Province June 12. Kurdish Peshmerga forces clashed with ISIS to try to dislodge them from Jalula and ISIS has reengaged the Peshmerga in Kirkuk. The Kurdish Minister of Peshmerga survived a bombing targeting his convoy in that city.

The Iraqi Air Force launched airstrikes in Tikrit and Mosul in an effort to dislodge insurgents from those cities. Additional aerial attacks on ISIS positions are likely. Unconfirmed but widely circulated reports have stated that Iran has deployed three battalions of elite Quds Forces troops to help Iraqi forces retake Tikrit and to protect Baghdad and the Shia' holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

ISIS is also in control of Suleiman Bek, 160 km (100 miles) north of the Iraqi capital. Iraqi forces are reportedly in control of much of Samarra, but clashes are continuing. Government forces are reportedly in control of the city of Baiji and its refinery - the largest in Iraq; however, unconfirmed information indicates that ISIS militants have established positions outside the city in Salah ad Din Province.

Meanwhile, on the political front, the Iraqi parliament failed to reach a quorum and was unable to hold a vote to grant Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki emergency powers. Maliki's party announced late June 12 that he would try to gain those powers through the judiciary.

ISIS continues to hold all of Mosul, the capital of Ninawa Province, which it seized on June 10. Around 500,000 people are reported to have fled Mosul and the surrounding areas during the ISIS assault, many of whom have moved into areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Ongoing clashes between ISIS and the Peshmerga increase the probability of ISIS carrying out bombings in the Kurdistan Region (KR); however, ISIS is unlikely to risk directly engaging the Peshmerga on their home territory. Violence is possible on the Arab side of the border near the KR. Expect increased security in KRG-controlled areas, including the cities of Arbil and Sulaymaniyah.

Additional violence related to ISIS activity and government offensives to counter the group is highly likely in the coming days. Security may be compromised south of Baghdad as security forces and volunteers head north to confront ISIS.

Background and Analysis
Parliament's inability to gather enough lawmakers to even hold a session underscores the disunity of the political landscape in the midst of a major ISIS offensive. It is unclear when parliament may try to reconvene to provide al-Maliki with emergency powers. Faced with numerous battleground defeats and reports of troop desertions, Iraqi security forces are calling for volunteers; Shia' militias are the most likely to respond, increasing the sectarian nature of the conflict.

ISIS still continues to style itself as an Islamic "state" and is attempting to control an area spanning the Syria-Iraq border, allowing it access to weapons and fighters from the Syrian conflict. It has held the Syrian city of Raqqa since 2013 and has established governing bodies there. It has also maintained strongholds in parts of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq's Anbar Province, where the border with Syria is extremely porous. On June 10, in addition to attacking Mosul, ISIS escalated its offensive in Syria's Deir ez-Zour Governorate, located between Raqqa, Syria, and Iraq's Ninawa Province, moving it closer toward a contiguous area of control. ISIS control of such a broad region would almost certainly make Iraqi government efforts to counter the group substantially more difficult.

Advice
Avoid the areas around Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra, Kirkuk, and Baiji. Consider avoiding Highway 1 from Baghdad to Mosul and Highway 2/3 from Kirkuk to Baghdad. If operating in the southern part of the Kurdistan Region, expect traffic disruptions as refugees arrive. Maintain a low profile; limit exposure to government buildings, security installations, and crowded public areas that could be potential bombing targets. Maintain contact with your diplomatic mission.

For more in depth information, please visit: http://www.assistamerica.com/Iraq.aspx.


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The content of this edition of AssistAlert is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace further investigation or personal observations. If you are planning travel, or are traveling in or proximate to the locations identified in this newsletter, you are encouraged to contact SecurAssist for additional information.

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