War Correspondents Describe Recent U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen   Malak Habbak March 22 2017, 2:58 p.m.


Photo: Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesSentiment in Washington may not reflect that the U.S. is at war, but two war correspondents described the astonishing extent and toll of recent U.S. military strikes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen on Intercepted, the weekly podcast by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill.

Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher,and other platforms. New to Podcasting? Click Here.

In Iraq, U.S. forces are helping Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers in their months-long battle to drive ISIS out of western Mosul. As many as 600,000 civilians are trapped there, amid widespread hunger and destruction, and more than 1,000 civilians were killed or injured last month in Iraq.

“There are American special forces on the ground but much more important than that is U.S. airpower, without which the Iraqi forces would not be able to get very far,” explained author and journalist Anand Gopal.

“And they’ve been hitting pretty much everything in sight and there’s been an extraordinary number of civilian casualties — just kind of gone through the roof in the last couple of months especially coming into Mosul.”

Gopal explained that the western half of the city, where the fighting is now, is the older part, with densely packed neighborhoods.

The “houses are really close together and so you can have a case where an ISIS sniper is on a house and the Americans are dropping bombs on the house and killing everybody inside including families that are cowering in the basement, people who are being shot on the street in sight. It’s a real humanitarian disaster that’s unfolding as we speak.”

The United States is also building up its own troop strength in Syria. “There the U.S. is allying with Kurdish forces — with the YPG — in the push towards Raqqa, and then if you look at the pattern of where the U.S. is deploying — where its airstrikes are hitting in Syria — what you see is the entire U.S. effort in Syria is to attack the enemies of [President] Bashar al-Assad,” Gopal said.

In Palmyra, for instance, U.S. warplanes in February carried out 45 strikes to help the Syrian government forces — the only forces on the ground — recapture the city from ISIS.

“You know, we tend to think that the U.S. is supporting regime change in Syria but on the ground it’s not the case,” Gopal said. “In fact, the U.S. has been avoiding doing anything to antagonize the Syrian regime and instead has been really focusing its fire on ISIS or on other enemies of the Assad regime.”

Article continues:

Fighting ISIS: Emmy-Nominated VICE on HBO (Full Episode) – Published on Aug 15, 2016


The invasion of Iraq was supposed to turn the country into a democracy that posed no threat to the United States, or the rest of the world. Thirteen years later, Iraq has collapsed into three warring states. A third of the country is controlled by ISIS, who have also taken huge amounts of territory in Syria. VICE correspondent Ben Anderson gains exclusive access to the three front lines in Iraq, where Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish forces are fighting for their lives. Anderson visits with the Russian military forces in Syria, meets captured ISIS fighters in Kurdistan, and interviews US policymakers about how the situation in Iraq spun out of control.

VICE on HBO is nominated for three Emmys in 2016, including Outstanding Informational Series or Special. For your consideration, VICE and HBO are releasing three full episodes, starting with Fighting ISIS. Fighting ISIS received two Emmy nominations, Outstanding Picture Editing and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Non-Fiction Series.

Baghdad bombings kill 83 people – Associated Press in Baghdad Sunday 3 July 2016 04.26 EDT


Isis claims responsibility for car bombing in shopping district of Iraqi capital that killed 78, as second bomb kills five

The site of the car bombing in the Karrada shopping area of Baghdad.

At least 83 people have been killed and 176 wounded in two separate bomb attacks in Baghdad, Iraqi officials have said.

In the deadliest attack, a car bomb hit Karada, a busy shopping district in the centre of the Iraqi capital, killing 78 people and wounding 160, according to police and hospital officials. It struck as families and young people were out on the streets after breaking their daylight fast for the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday morning.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online, saying it had deliberately targeted Shia Muslims. The statement could not be independently verified.

Firefighters were still working to extinguish the blazes and bodies were still being recovered from charred buildings at dawn on Sunday. Many of the dead were children, according to reporters at the scene. Ambulances could be heard rushing to the site for hours after the blast. A witness said the explosion caused fires at nearby clothing and cellphone shops.

Hours after the bombing, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, visited the blast site. Video footage uploaded to social media showed an angry crowd, with people calling Abadi a “thief” and shouting at his convoy.

In the second attack, an improvised explosive device went off in eastern Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 16. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The casualty figures were confirmed by police and hospital officials, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorised to release information to the press.

Article continues:

The Road to Fallujah (Trailer) – Vice News Published on Jun 2, 2016


In 2014, Islamic State militants swept into Western Iraq’s Anbar Province, overrunning Iraqi security forces, enslaving minorities, and causing thousands to flee for their lives.

The jihadist group captured Iraq’s largest city, Mosul, and the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, where hundreds of US troops died fighting the Islamic State’s predecessor.

Now, two years later, the Iraqi security forces, with help from Iranian-supported Shiite militias and US military advisors and warplanes, are fighting to take back towns and cities in Anbar, one battle at a time.

But it’s a difficult task: Anbar has been the crucible of Iraq’s insurgency, and is the country’s Sunni heartland — long marginalized
by and hostile to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

VICE News embedded with Iraq’s Golden Division Special Forces unit as they fought their way into the villages surrounding the city of Hit, where they encountered ambushes, sniper fire, and tried to sort suspected Islamic State operatives and sympathizers from innocent Iraqi civilians.

Watch “What It’s Really Like to Fight for the Islamic State” – http://bit.ly/1UhTYU1

I’m a refugee from Iraq, and I’m tired of being a pawn in a political debate – by Zainab Dabbagh on November 25, 2015


Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The first time I came to America, I was a student, filled with excitement about living in a place I knew through my favorite television shows. The second time, I was a refugee, fleeing my home country of Iraq after the rise of ISIS.

These two experiences could not be more different: When I was a student a decade ago, people asked me questions born out of ignorance — it was clear that my new friends knew very little about what it was like to be Muslim or Arab, and they wanted to learn more. But now the innocent ignorance I observed in my classmates has evolved into menacing attitudes that present physical danger to Arabs and Muslims, refugees and Americans alike. What was once curiosity has turned into hatred and fear.

Life as a student: Slurpees, new friends, and silly questions

In 2005, two years after the US invasion of Iraq, I faced the possibility of not being able continue my education due to the deteriorating security in Baghdad. New groups surfaced that claimed religiosity and perpetuated sectarianism. My uncovered hair and outspoken and opinionated disposition made me a target. A note, along with a bloody bullet, was thrown into my yard threatening my family and me to leave, or else. We fled to Jordan.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/25/9794326/iraq-refugee

Brussels deserted as threat level goes to maximum, with attack ‘imminent’ – November 21, 2015 4:47PM ET by Lisa De Bode


Residents were asked to avoid crowded spaces as the city shut down, fearful of attack

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The streets in Brussels were deserted Saturday evening after authorities raised the city’s threat level to four —the maximum, indicating that the risk of an attack is “serious and imminent,” according to the country’s security committee.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said “relative precise information” led investigators to conclude there is a risk that several individuals are planning Paris-style attacks in the capital, “maybe even on several places at the same time.” He added, “potential targets are commercial centers, streets and public transportation, but also places where crowds of people are.”

Officials cited as one concern that Salah Abdeslam, a prime suspect in the Paris attacks who is still being sought, was last seen in Brussels and would have plans, along with others, to stage a similar attack on multiple locations in the city.

Security Minister Jan Jambon on Saturday evening told Flemish broadcaster VRT that “the threat is larger than only one figure,” referring to Abdeslam. “We’re assuming larger actions are underway,” he said.

For Russia, Links Between Caucasus and ISIS Provoke Anxiety – By NEIL MacFARQUHAR NOV. 20, 2015


Muslims after praying at a mosque frequented by Salafis, ultraconservative Islamists whose strict interpretation of religious texts has inspired extremism, in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. James Hill for The New York Times 

BEREKEI, Russia — A handsome, new, white brick house, still lacking windows, sits deserted in the middle of this quiet agricultural village in Dagestan, the homeowner having slipped away midconstruction with his wife and three small children to join the Islamic State.

He was not the first. That came in January, soon after leaders of the long-running Islamist insurgency here in Dagestan, Russia’s southernmost republic, began pledging allegiance to the self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Around 30 men and women, townspeople say, have melted away this year.

“When they lived here they were all followers of one extremist line of Islam, so when one left, he became an example and the others left, too,” said Capt. Abbas Karaev, 27, the village policeman, sitting in Berekei’s squat municipal building, a structure so dilapidated and dusty it appeared abandoned. “They were told it was a jihad in Syria, and they would go to paradise if they died in this war. That is all they had in their heads.”

Much like the disaffected Muslim communities in Europe, the Caucasus region and the swath of former Soviet republics across Central Asia have become a vital recruiting ground for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Law enforcement officials estimate that there are at least 2,000 fighters from the Caucasus among up to 7,000 recruits from Russia and the former Soviet Union now in Syria and Iraq.

Article continues: