Today’s clashes in Ninewa and Erbil are just the latest in a recent series between Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed Shia militias, and Kurdish Peshmerga forces over disputed areas in northern Iraq.
As each side converges on the Islamic State-held city of al-Bab, a military confrontation between Turkish-led rebels and pro-regime forces appear inescapable. In the meantime, tensions between Ankara and Moscow are rising yet again, risking pulling the United States and NATO further into the Syrian theater.
On Nov. 2, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi called for attacks inside Turkey as retribution for Turkish operations in Iraq and Syria. Earlier today, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a car bombing in the city of Diyarbakir, which is in southeastern Turkey.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has claimed 729 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq, Syria and Libya since the beginning of the year. The figures for August indicate that 81 suicide attacks were carried out in these three countries. If the statistics are accurate, then the self-declared “caliphate” is carrying out suicide bombings at a historically high rate.
Despite being forced largely underground in Iraq, Ansar al Islam continues to operate in Syria against regime and now Kurdish forces.
Kurdish forces have entered the Iraqi town of Sinjar, which was seized by the Islamic State in August 2014. The offensive in Sinjar is part of a broader operation intended to disrupt the Islamic State’s supply lines running from Iraq into Syria.
Kurdish forces and fighters from the Free Syrian Army have seized a military base and a town just 30 miles north of the city of Raqqa, which is the seat of the Islamic State’s so-called “caliphate.” The losses are problematic for the Islamic State, which claims that its territorial rule is “remaining and expanding.”
The Islamic State has released a propaganda video featuring John Cantlie, a British photojournalist who is being held hostage by the group. Cantlie is made to rebut Western claims about the efficacy of airstrikes in Kobane, a town that sits on the border of Syria and Turkey.