Friday, October 28, 2016

Potential for Colliding Forces Near Tal Afar

Tal Afar is likely to become a point of collision between Shiite militias and Turkish backed Sunnis.

The Shiite Militias moving toward Tal Afar

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Shiite militia group known as Hashd al-Shaabi is preparing to launch an offensive against ISIS west of Mosul, announced one of their spokesmen on Friday. 

“A few days or hours separate us from the launch of operations there,” Ahmed al-Asadi told state TV, as quoted by Reuters. 

He added that they plan to capture Tal Afar, the mixed Sunni and Shiite populated Turkmen town west of Mosul. 

The group is reportedly ready to advance on Tal Afar from positions they already control in Qayyara, south of Mosul. 

The west of Mosul has to date been left open to ISIS, potentially enabling them to evacuate to Syria as Iraqi and Kurdish forces close in from the north, east and south. A large presence of Hashd al-Shaabi militias to Mosul’s west could, however, box in these militants and prevent them from making such an escape. 

There is widespread opposition to Hashd participation in this operation, from authorities in Nineveh province and the coalition, given fears that it will inflame sectarian tensions in the region. ...


Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militiamen are reportedly planning to take the Iraq’s Tal Afar district west of Mosul, which is populated mostly by Turkmen.
Before being captured by the Daesh terrorist group, Tal Afar had been Mosul's largest district, hosting over 300,000 Shia Turkmen residents.
Since Daesh took the district, however, Tal Afar’s population has plummeted from over half a million to less than 50,000, mostly consisting of Turkmen.
On Tuesday, Jawad al-Talebawi, a spokesman for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (a militant faction within the Hashd al-Shaabi), told Anadolu Agency that the Hashd al-Shaabi leadership had specifically tasked the Asaib Ahl al-Haq with wresting Tal Afar from Daesh.
The assertion has prompted fears among Sunni Turkmen, who fear the Shia militiamen may commit rights violations against the region’s Sunni inhabitants.
Established in 2014, the Hashd al-Shaabi is an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias drawn up specifically to fight Daesh.
After Daesh captured Tal Afar, it attacked Sinjar, home to a large Ezidi population. Some groups in Sinjar alleged that Ezidi women and children were abducted and taken to Tal Afar in a move that some have blamed on Turkmen....
Iraqi sources reported that Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iranian Quds Force, left Kurdistan and arrived to Baghdad two days ago.
He reportedly wants to discuss the participation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the battle of Tal Afar, a city in the north of Mosul.
Analysts view this step as part of the Iranian strategy aiming to make the area a pathway for Iranian troops moving from Iraq to Syria.
Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization militias are currently situated on the outskirts of Tal Afar, on the borders between Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Observers believe that Iran made a strategic choice to secure a passage into Syria, down to its coastline on the Mediterranean.
Iran is supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime and trying to secure a vital line to help its troops in Syria through Iraq....

Turkey toward Tal Afar?

'Turkey will not forsake Tal Afar's Turkmen'

Turkey will take all necessary measures if any threat emerges from a Shia militia taking the northwestern Iraqi city of Tal Afar from Daesh, said Turkey's foreign minister.
"Fighting Daesh is necessary, but the process after Daesh must be planned carefully," Mevlut Cavusoglu told.
“Ethnic and sectarian balances must be taken into account in Mosul and Tal Afar,” a Daesh-held city 63 kilometers (39 miles) west of Mosul, he added.
Pointing to the threat of Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias, Cavusoglu said in addition to the expected attack on Mosul, the militia is also targeting largely Sunni areas.
Cavusoglu underlined that Turkey will "take all precautionary measures allowed by international law" if anything in Tal Afar threatens Turkey’s security.
Cavusoglu also warned that Turkey "will not be insensitive" if the Turkmens of Tal Afar are attacked.

Sectarian conflict
During a meeting with U.S. officials in Ankara on Nov. 4, Turkey made it clear it supports the homecoming of all Sunni and Shia Turkmen to Tal Afar after Mosul’s liberation, but it does not want Hashd al-Shaabi to settle in the district, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.
In Turkey's view, Hashd al-Shaabi moving into Tal Afar would bring sectarian conflict to the city, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on talking with the media....


bth: So it looks like Tal Afar is going to be a key collision point between the Turks and the Iraqis as defined nationally and the Shiites and Sunnis as defined ethnically.

Map of Turkish military bases

Thursday, October 27, 2016

John Mearsheimer Discusses Global Order and Great Power Politics at Vald...

Economic indicators of instability in Egypt


A shortage of basic goods and skyrocketing food prices are fuelling discontent in Egypt, where a currency crisis has hit imports.
Sugar has all but vanished from supermarkets and imports of items such as powdered infant formula and even some contraceptives are down.
Egyptian authorities, who have blamed traders and suppliers for hoarding and smuggling goods, said they have so far seized 9,000 tonnes of sugar in raids on factories and warehouses, including facilities belonging to Pepsico and Edita, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of confectionaries. The sugar is intended for resale to the public at subsidised prices....

Currency Blackmarket Pricing

Egypt’s pound dropped to 16.11 per dollar in the black market, another record that extends declines over the past month to 19 percent as pressure grows on the country to weaken its currency to lure foreign investment and stimulate growth. Africa’s third-biggest economy, where the official exchange rate is 8.88 per dollar, will close a $12 billion lifeline from the International Monetary Fund within two months, according to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.....

bth: These are strong early indicators of political instability to come. Currency collapse is causing the commodities hording.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mosul offensive: ISIS militants fleeing to Syria, says tribal leader - CNN

...Sheikh Abdullah Alyawer, a tribal leader in the town of Rabia, on Iraq's border with Syria, told CNN Monday that dozens of ISIS militants and their families were fleeing the city each day, and crossing into Syria at Ba'aaj, an ISIS-controlled crossing point south of Sinjar.
The route was entirely along corridors under ISIS control, he said. Fleeing civilians with no affiliation to ISIS usually ended up in the Syrian town of al Houl, which is under Kurdish control, he said....

bth: so if not ISIS then destination is al Houl?