Iraqi propaganda was again obfuscating the situation in west Mosul. First, each day the government releases a map of west Mosul showing the disposition of the opposing forces. Yesterday the Saha 1 neighborhood was freed. On the map, it had been colored in liberated for several days beforehand. Second, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued to give different figures on its progress in Zinjali. On June 2 two sources claimed 40% or 60% of the area was taken from the insurgents. June 3 the Federal Police said that 40-50% was cleared beforehand, and an additional 25% was liberated. Another source claimed that 85% of Zinjali was under government control. The commander of the Federal Police General Read Shakir Jawadat told the press that his forces were 800 meters into the neighborhood. Whatever the real percentage is reinforcements arrived to help with the fighting. The conflicting statements have been a trademark of official releases by the ISF. They must report progress every day to support the propaganda effort, and there is little coordination leading to different stories at any given time.
Zinjali was the site of two other controversial reports. There were stories throughout the day that hundreds of dead and wounded were seen in Zinjali the victims of both Islamic State fire and government artillery and air strikes. One man claimed he saw more than 200 casualties. Those hit could not move for fear of being shot by IS. Another report from that neighborhood was that white phosphorus might have been used by either Iraqi artillery or bombs. White phosphorus is supposed to be used to create smoke to cover a force, but it can also be used as an incendiary to burn out an enemy. Kurdistan24 TV filmed what could possibly be one of these types of attacks, and the ISF immediately banned it from being shown again and threatened legal action against any that did. The U.S. led Coalition could have also been responsible as they are providing artillery support to the Iraqis. Due to the Iraqi response, this may be one story that is not confirmed or denied anytime soon. As for the casualties, they have been huge throughout the Mosul battle with civilians making up the brunt of them.
There were other advances inside the city. The army’s 9th Division and Rapid Reaction Division reportedly had 75% of Bab al-Sinjar, which is one of the entrances to the Old City district. There was also continued clashes in Shifa. When the final phase of the Mosul battle began Iraqi officials immediately claimed that the fight was almost over and things would be wrapped up in only a matter of days. The Americans and lower ranking Iraqi officers were more realistic warning that taking on the last section of the city would be the toughest of the whole campaign. The Old City alone held up the Federal Police for roughly four months. IS has its backs up against the wall with the ISF on three sides and the Tigris River on the other. There is nothing left for them to do but go down fighting. That will happen the question is just how long and at what cost to the ISF and civilians.
The best Iraqi unit in the war against the Islamic State has been the elite Counter Terrorism Forces (CTF) otherwise known as the Golden Division. Buzz Feed followed one battalion of the unit from the start of the Mosul campaign up to its entrance into western Mosul at the end of 2016. A few of the CTF officers had been in the unit for years and undergone U.S. training before its withdrawal in 2011. The article was a great long read not only on how this unit fought against the Islamic State, but the losses they suffered along the way, and the comradery that was created.
The ISF recently built a pontoon bridge from west to east Mosul across the Tigris River to allow people to escape to the east and for supplies to be brought into the west. For an unexplained reason the Iraqi forces shut it down. There is another bridge in the city, but it is for military use only. This is a huge burden on people on the east who now have to get boats to cross or go south outside the city to cross at another bridge.
The war of words over the Hashd operation in west Ninewa was still going on. During the day, the Hashd freed a residential complex south of Baaj and surrounded that town on three sides. The day before the Hashd said they had surrounded all of Baaj. Deputy commander of the Hashd Abu Muhandis declared that they had reached the Iraq-Syrian border and would head towards Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next and hoped the Houthis of Yemen would join them. There are many Iraqi Shiites who blame Saudi Arabia’s Wahabism for helping to give rise to the Islamic State, and decry its military campaign in Yemen. It also reflects pro-Iranian propaganda about the axis of resistance standing up to Riyadh. A pro-Maliki parliamentarian from State of Law told President Massoud Barzani and the Peshmerga they should stop their verbal attacks upon the Hashd. He went on to say that any annexation of territory freed from the Islamic State by the Kurds would be illegal. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Peshmerga have condemned the Hashd’s entrance into western Ninewa and the Sinjar district specifically. The party is struggling to re-establish its control over the area against rival Kurdish and Yazidi factions, and the Hashd are only making it worse by freeing Yazidi villages, getting Yazidi militias to join it, and portraying it rather than the KDP as the areas liberators. Many of the Hashd groups are also opposed to the Kurds’ agenda. If the KDP had freed all of Sinjar this would not have been an issue.
Speaking of the Yazidis, some in the town of Bashiqa were repairing one of their temples that was destroyed by the Islamic State. Five families raised money to pay for the affair. There are 20 temples between Bashiqa and Bahzan that the community would like to rebuild. They estimate that it will cost $300-$400,000 to do so. One man said it was important to reconstruct the community to stand up to the militants who tried to eliminate the Yazidis by killing their men, enslaving their women, and destroying their temples and villages. This is another group that is not waiting for the government to step in and help them put their lives back together. Already there are several Christian groups doing the same as the Yezidis in Ninewa. That’s what is happening across the province as Baghdad moves very slowly and lacks the funds to do much other than restore basic services and governance.
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