Saturday, March 28, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Iraqi prime minister’s focus is to defend Baghdad

APTOPIX Mideast Iraq

Members of an Iraqi volunteer force put on their newly issued boots in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has put on hold plans for a counteroffensive to retake Iraqi cities captured by Sunni insurgents in the north and west of the country, instead deploying elite forces in Baghdad to bolster its defenses, Iraqi officials tell the AP. Shiite militias who have responded to a cleric's call to arms also are focusing their efforts on protecting the capital and other Shiite shrines, while Kurdish fighters have grabbed a long-coveted oil rich city outside their self-ruled territory in the name of defending it from the al-Qaida breakaway group leading Sunni extremists in their advance. With each sect focused on self-interests, the situation on the ground is increasingly looking like the fractured state the Americans have hoped to avoid. "We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq," the top Kurdish leader says.(AP Photo/Ahmed al-Husseini)

By
From page A10 | June 25, 2014 |

BAGHDAD  — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is ready to concede, at least temporarily, the loss of much of Iraq to Sunni insurgents and is instead deploying the military’s best-trained and equipped troops to defend Baghdad, Iraqi officials told The Associated Press Tuesday.

Shiite militias responding to a call to arms by Iraq’s top cleric are also focused on protecting the capital and Shiite shrines, while Kurdish fighters have grabbed a long-coveted oil-rich city outside their self-ruled territory, ostensibly to defend it from the al-Qaida breakaway group.

With Iraq’s bitterly divided sects focused on self-interests, the situation on the ground is increasingly looking like the fractured state the Americans have hoped to avoid.

“We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq,” the top Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday in Irbil, capital of the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Two weeks after a series of disastrous battlefield setbacks in the north and west, al-Maliki is struggling to devise an effective strategy to repel the relentless advances by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a well-trained and mobile force thought to have some 10,000 fighters inside Iraq. The response by government forces has so far been far short of a counteroffensive, restricted mostly to areas where Shiites are in danger of falling prey to the Sunni extremists or around a major Shiite shrine north of Baghdad.

These weaknesses were highlighted when the government tried but failed to retake Tal Afar, a mixed Shiite-Sunni city of some 200,000 that sits strategically near the Syrian border. The government claimed it had retaken parts of the city but the area remains under the control of the militants after a battle in which some 30 volunteers and troops were killed.

Government forces backed by helicopter gunships have also fought for a week to defend Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Beiji, north of Baghdad, where a top military official said Tuesday that Sunni militants were regrouping for another push to capture the sprawling facility.

In the face of militant advances that have virtually erased Iraq’s western border with Syria and captured territory on the frontier with Jordan, al-Maliki’s focus has been the defense of Baghdad, a majority Shiite city of 7 million fraught with growing tension. The city’s Shiites fear they could be massacred and the revered al-Kazimiyah shrine destroyed if Islamic State fighters capture Baghdad. Sunni residents also fear the extremists, as well as Shiite militiamen in the city, who they worry could turn against them.

The militants have vowed to march to Baghdad and the holy Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala, a threat that prompted the nation’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to issue an urgent call to arms that has resonated with young Shiite men.

The military’s best-trained and equipped forces have been deployed to bolster Baghdad’s defenses, aided by U.S. intelligence on the militants’ movements, according to the Iraqi officials, who are close to al-Maliki’s inner circle and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss such sensitive issues.

The number of troops normally deployed in Baghdad has doubled, they said, but declined to give a figure. Significant numbers are defending the Green Zone, the sprawling area on the west bank of the Tigris River that is home to al-Maliki’s office, as well as the U.S. Embassy.

“Al-Maliki is tense. He is up working until 4 a.m. every day. He angrily ordered staff at his office to stop watching TV news channels hostile to his government,” one of the officials said.

The struggle has prompted the Obama administration to send hundreds of troops back into Iraq, nearly three years after the American military withdrew.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that nearly half of the roughly 300 U.S. advisers and special operations forces are now on the ground in Baghdad, where they have begun to assess the Iraqi forces and the fight against Sunni militants. Another four teams of special forces will arrive in days, bringing the total to nearly 200.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, also said the U.S. is conducting up to 35 surveillance missions daily over Iraq to provide intelligence as Iraqi troops battle the aggressive and fast-moving insurgency. About 90 of the U.S. troops are setting up a joint operations center in Baghdad.

Iraqi officials said the U.S. advisers were expected to focus on the better units the Americans had closely worked with before pulling out.

Iraq’s best-trained and equipped force is a 10,000-strong outfit once nicknamed the “dirty division” that fought alongside the Americans for years against Sunni extremists and Shiite militiamen. Now it is stretched thin, with many of its men deployed in Anbar province in a months-long standoff with Sunni militants who have since January controlled a city 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

The focus on Baghdad, rather than recapturing the vast Sunni areas to the west and north, has been subtly conveyed to the media in daily briefings by chief military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi. He has in recent days shifted from boilerplate assurances that the military is on the offensive to something less confident.

“Withdrawals from anywhere to another location does not mean defeat or that we permanently left an area,” he said Monday. “It is a battlefield, and the fight includes going forward and backward and regrouping.”

The Iraqi military, rife with corruption and torn by conflicting loyalties, lacks adequate air cover for its ground troops and armor, with the nation’s infant air force operating two Cessna aircraft capable of firing U.S.-made Hellfire missiles. That leaves the army air wing of helicopter gunships stretched and overworked.

While Iraq’s security forces number a whopping 1.1 million, with 700,000 in the police and the rest in the army, corruption, desertion and sectarian divisions have been a major problem. With a monthly salary of $700 for newly enlisted men, the forces have attracted many young Iraqis who would otherwise be unemployed. Once in, some bribe commanders so they can stay home and take a second job, lamented the officials.

Al-Maliki’s effort to bolster the defense of the capital coincides with Iraq’s worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces, with the nation facing a serious danger of splitting up into warring Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves.

The declaration by Barzani, the Kurdish leader, of a “new Iraq,” was a thinly veiled reference to the newly won Kurdish control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds have long sought to incorporate into their self-rule region.

Control of Kirkuk and Kurdish pockets in Diyala province and elsewhere have been at the heart of tension between the Kurdish region and the Baghdad government, and the Kurds are unlikely to want to give up that territory, regardless of the status of the fighting.

Al-Maliki, who has no military background but gets the final say on major battlefield decisions, has looked to hundreds of thousands of Shiite volunteers who joined the security forces as the best hope to repel the Islamic State’s offensive.

While giving the conflict a sectarian slant — the overwhelming majority are Shiites — the volunteers have also been a logistical headache as the army tries to clothe, feed and arm them. Furthermore, their inexperience means they will not be combat ready for weeks, even months.

Still, some were sent straight to battle, with disastrous consequences.

New details about the fight for Tal Afar — the first attempt to retake a major city from the insurgents — underscore the challenges facing the Iraqi security forces.

Dozens of young volunteers disembarked last week at an airstrip near the isolated northern city and headed straight to battle, led by an army unit. The volunteers and the accompanying troops initially staved off advances by the militants, but were soon beaten back, according to military officials.

They took refuge in the airstrip, but the militants shelled the facility so heavily the army unit pulled out, leaving 150 panicking volunteers to fend for themselves, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The ill-fated expedition — at least 30 volunteers and troops were killed and the rest of the recruits remain stranded at the airstrip — does not bode well for al-Maliki’s declared plan to make them the backbone of Iraq’s future army.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Fraisure Smith hearing delayed twice Friday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
Luncheon honors women for their work to help others

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Sheepdogs, handlers flock to Rio Vista for trials

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Solano Rotary clubs honor top firefighters from across county

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Eatery to host event to support child with cancer

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

 
Project begins to brighten downtown Fairfield

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

April workshops set for Train Station Project

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield police log: March 26, 2016

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun police log: March 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Going home to mother

By Murray Bass | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Chances of being locked up vary widely across California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Jury says Silicon Valley firm did not discriminate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Video shows ‘hospitality ambassador’ beating homeless man

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Gov. Brown signs $1 billion water plan for dry California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
California woman, friend charged in alleged baby-theft plot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Public defender: San Francisco jail inmates forced to fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
NY mayor: Someone may have ‘inappropriately’ tapped gas line

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Feds: Baltimore jail illegally keeping juveniles in solitary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Autopsies determine children found in freezer were slain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Fetus debate looms following charges in womb-cutting case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Pugnacious Reid retiring, wants Schumer as Senate Dem leader

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Senate OKs Republican balanced-budget plan, following House

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
‘Sopranos’ star’s apartment destroyed by blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Pilot who scared passengers sues airline

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

‘Mad Men’ costumes, props head to Smithsonian

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
US economy showing signs of durability

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Mexico City businesses cite losses during Bond filming

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Comedian Gardell hosts game show version of Monopoly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Nelson set to return to role as Coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
German airline could face ‘unlimited’ damages for Alps crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Co-pilot appeared healthy, but may have hidden illness

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
About 4,000 fishermen stranded on Indonesian islands

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Warships move in key strait as airstrikes widen in Yemen

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Iran says nuke talks focused despite Yemen crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

At least 9 dead as militants attack hotel in Somali capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned by Italy high court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

An open letter from Galileo to Ted Cruz

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8

 
Belgium’s foreign minister dresses up in blackface

By Ishaan Tharoor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Books as decor: Versatile but meaningful design elements

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

 
Today in History: March 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: March 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes: March 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

My elderly mother is so stingy I’m finding excuses not to visit her

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

 
The newest fitness trend: Mixing it up

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

.

Entertainment

‘Stomp’ stopped by NYC blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Mannequin museum show hits New York

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
‘Teen Mom’ star charged in picture posting case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

People: Zane Malik

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Larry David Broadway role handed to Jason Alexander

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Notre Dame beats Stanford women 81-60, advances to Elite Eight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
New Rodriguez head football coach introduced

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1

Curry, Thompson lead Warriors in rout over Grizzlies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Evans helps desperate Pelicans end skid vs. Kings, 102-88

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Ranuado goes 6 for Rangers’ but A’s rally for 7-6 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
A-Rod’s cousin pleads guilty in Florida steroids case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Durant to have another surgery, miss rest of season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Chicago rooftop owner charged with trying to defraud Cubs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Gift returns: Sterling wife wants house, $1 million

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Shaq acknowledges regret about decision to leave Magic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NASCAR topic: Cheating with tire pressure, or just hot air?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hot Rod Hundley, former NBA player and Jazz announcer, dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Area resident Jimmy Walker takes lead in Texas Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Logano wins Martinsville pole; Elliott to start 27th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for March 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Helen Kalis

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Robert Roberts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Carol A. Vose

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Janice Jewel Thompson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Home Seller 3/28/2015

Books as decor: Versatile but meaningful design elements

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

Real estate transactions for March 28, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2