The Iraqi Civil War is an ongoing armed conflict in the Middle East. In 2014, the Iraqi insurgency escalated into a civil war with the conquest of Fallujah , Mosul , Tikrit and major areas in northern Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or IS). This has resulted in the forced resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister , Nouri al-Maliki , airstrikes by the United States, Iran, Syria, and at least a dozen other countries, [242] the participation of Iranian troops [243] and military aid provided to Iraq by Russia. [242]

Belligerents

Both the Iraqi Armed Forces , Kurdish Peshmerga and various Turkmen Muslim , Assyrian Christian , Yezidi , Shabaki , and Armenian Christian forces are facing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant . Although some 35,000 Kurdish Peshmerga are incorporated into the Iraqi Armed Forces, most Peshmerga forces are operating under the command of the President of Iraqi Kurdistan in the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq . [246] Assyrian Christian forces include; Syriac Military Council , Nineveh Plain Forces , Nineveh Plain Protection Units , Qaraqosh Protection Committee , and Dwekh Nawsha , among others.

Timeline

2014

In the course of their Anbar campaign , ISIL militants seized at least 70% of the Anbar Province by June 2014, [2] including the cities of Fallujah , [3] [46] Al Qaim , [198] and half of the provincial capital of Ramadi . [47] ISIL forces also infiltrated Abu Ghraib in Baghdad Governorate . [18]

In early June 2014, following further large-scale offensives in Iraq , ISIL seized control of Mosul , the second most populous city in Iraq, the nearby town of Tal Afar and most of the surrounding Nineveh province . [50] ISIL also captured parts of Kirkuk and Diyala provinces [53] and Tikrit , the administrative center of the Salahuddin Governorate, [251] with the ultimate goal of capturing Baghdad , the Iraqi capital. [252] ISIS was believed to have only 2,000–3,000 fighters up until the Mosul campaign , but during that campaign, it became evident that this number was a gross underestimate. [253] There were also reports that a number of Sunni groups in Iraq that were opposed to the predominantly Shia government had joined ISIS, thus bolstering the group's numbers. [254] [7] However, the Kurds —who are mostly Sunnis—in the northeast of Iraq, were unwilling to be drawn into the conflict, and there were clashes in the area between ISIL and the Kurdish Peshmerga . [255] [256]

ISIL executed 1,700 Iraq soldiers who had surrendered in the fighting and released many images of mass executions via its Twitter feed and various websites.

In late June, ISIS militants captured two key crossings in Anbar, a day after seizing the border crossing at Al-Qaim . According to analysts, capturing these crossings could aid ISIL in transporting weapons and equipment to different battlefields. [258] Two days later, the Syrian Air Force bombed ISIL positions in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated: "There was no coordination involved, but we welcome this action. We welcome any Syrian strike against Isis because this group targets both Iraq and Syria."

At this point, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Obama administration had requested US$500 million from the US Congress to use in the training and arming of "moderate" Syrian rebels fighting against the Syrian government, in order to counter the growing threat posed by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. [260]

On 29 June, ISIL announced the establishment of a new caliphate . Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed its caliph , and the group formally changed its name to the Islamic State. [261] Four days later, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the new Islamic State, said that Muslims should unite to capture Rome in order to "own the world." [262] [263] He called on Muslims the world over to unite behind him as their leader. [264]

On 24 July, ISIL blew up the Mosque and tomb of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah) in Mosul, [265] with no reported casualties. Residents in the area said that ISIS had erased a piece of Iraqi heritage. Jonah's tomb was also an important holy site in the Jewish heritage as well. [268] A few days later, ISIL also blew up the Nabi Shiyt (Prophet Seth ) shrine in Mosul . Sami al-Massoudi, deputy head of the Shia endowment agency which oversees holy sites, confirmed the destruction and added that ISIS had taken artifacts from the shrine to an unknown location. [269]

In an August offensive , ISIL captured Sinjar and a number of other towns in the north of the country. Almost 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis , managed to flee from the fighting in Sinjar city, [22] about 50,000 of them fled into the Sinjar Mountains , [22] where they were trapped without food, water or medical care, [271] facing starvation and dehydration. [22] They had been threatened with death if they refused conversion to Islam. A UN representative said that "a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar." [272] By the end of the month, ISIL massacred 5,000 Yazidi men , with killings running in the hundreds in different villages. [273] In addition, during this latest offensive, the Islamic State advanced to within 30 km of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil in northern Iraq. [274] [275]

Prompted by the siege and killings of the Yazidis, on 7 August, President Obama authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq against ISIL , along with airdrops of aid. [138] The UK offered the US assistance with surveillance and refuelling, and planned humanitarian airdrops to Iraqi refugees. [276] The US asserted that the systematic destruction of the Yazidi people by the Islamic State was genocide. [140] The Arab League also accused the Islamic State of committing crimes against humanity. [277] [278]

On 13 August, U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish forces broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar. [280] [281] Also, five days later, Kurdish Peshmerga ground troops, with the help of Iraqi Special Forces and the US air campaign, overran ISIL militants and reclaimed the Mosul Dam. [283]

On 31 August, the United States, France, United Kingdom and Australia began humanitarian aid drops, like food, water and medical supplies, to help prevent a potential massacre against the Shi'a Turkmen minority in Amirli. The US also carried out air strikes on ISIS positions around and near Amirli. Iraqi officials stated that they had reached Amirli and broken the siege and that the military was fighting to clear the areas around the town. This is known to be the first major turning point against the ISIL in Iraq . [285]

In September, the United States sent an additional 250 US troops to protect American personnel, [286] while the first engagement of the British military against IS targets took place when a British Panavia Tornado jet dropped a Paveway IV bomb on "a heavy weapon position" operated by ISIS in northwest Iraq at the end of the month. [287] [288] In addition, Australia offered 200 special forces to the Kurds and 600 Australian troops landed in the UAE. [289] [290] The following month, Australia authorized its special forces troops to go to Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS coalition that day, [291] as well as authorizing airstrikes. [159]

Mid-October, ISIL forces captured the city of Hīt , after the 300-strong Iraqi Army garrison abandoned and set afire its local base and supplies and about 180,000 civilians (including refugees of the previous Anbar offensive) fled the area. [292] [293] Later that month, Operation Ashura is launched by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militas, scoring a major victory and retaking the strategic town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad, and securing the way for millions of Shia pilgrims who were going to Karbala and Najaf On the Day of Ashura . Kurdish forces, meanwhile, recaptured Zumar . [294]

On 21 October, ISIL seized terrain north of the Sinjar Mountains, thus cutting the area's escape route to Kurdish areas. The Yazidi militias then withdrew from there into the mountains, where the number of Yazidi civilian refugees was estimated at 2,000–7,000. [295] The mountains had once again been partially besieged by ISIL.

In mid-November, Iraqi forces retook control of most part of the strategic city Baiji from the Islamic State [16] [16] and breaks the siege of the nearby oil refinery. [16] However, by the following month, ISIL recaptured Baiji and reestablished the siege of the refinery. [16] [16] [16]

On 17 December, Peshmerga forces, backed by 50 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on ISIL positions, launched an offensive to liberate Sinjar and to break the partial ISIL siege of the Sinjar Mountains. In less than two days, the siege was broken. After ISIL forces retreated, Kurdish fighters were initially faced with clearing out mines around the area, [303] but quickly opened a land corridor to those mountains, enabling Yazidis to be evacuated. The operation left 100 ISIL fighters dead.

Late on 21 December, Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters south of the mountain range reached Peshmerga lines, thus linking their two fronts. The next day, the YPG broke through ISIL lines, thus opening a corridor from Syria to the town of Sinjar. By the evening, the Peshmerga took control of much of Sinjar.

2015

In late January, Iraqi forces recaptured the entire province of Diyala from the Islamic State. [16] Also, beginning of the Mosul Offensive in which Peshmerga forces captured large amount of territory surrounding Mosul . [24]

On 2 March, Second Battle of Tikrit began [24] and after more than a month of hard fighting, government troops and pro-Iranian Shiite militias overcame ISIL fighters and took Tikrit. This success was off-set in late May, by ISIL's capture of the provincial capital of Ramadi in Anbar province.

On 17 July, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in a crowded marketplace in the city of Khan Bani Saad during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, killing 120–130 people and injuring 130 more. Twenty more people were reported missing since the bombing. [24] [24]

On 13 August, a suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb in a crowded marketplace in Sadr City , Baghdad , killing at least 75 people and injuring 212 more.

On 27 August, a suicide bomber assassinated General Abdel Rahman Abu Ragheef, deputy commander of operations in the province of Anbar, and Brigadier Safeen Abdel Majeed, a divisional commander. [24]

ISIL forces lost Sinjar on November 13 to Kurdish forces.

On December 16–17, ISIL forces mounted a major offensive north-east of Mosul against Kurdish position but were repelled. [24]

Starting December 22, the Iraqi Army began a campaign to recapture Ramadi .

On December 28, Iraq declared Ramadi liberated from ISIL forces and under the control of the Iraqi government. [24]

2016

Iraqi forces regained control of Hīt and Ar-Rutbah in offensive operations in 2016 and then Fallujah as well in the Third Battle of Fallujah ending in June 2016.

On 16 October 2016, Battle of Mosul (2016-17) began.

2017

Human rights

Nearly 19,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in ISIL-linked violence between January 2014 and October 2015. [191] ISIL executed up to 1,700 Shia Iraqi Air Force cadets from Camp Speicher near Tikrit on 12 June 2014. [191] The genocide of Yazidis by ISIL has led to the expulsion, flight and effective exile of the Yazidi people from their ancestral lands in northern Iraq. [191]

According to Newsweek , Amnesty International claimed that "Iraqi government forces and paramilitary militias have tortured, arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared and executed thousands of civilians who have fled the rule of the Islamic State militant group". [191] The report, titled ‘’ , alleges that thousands of Sunni men and boys have been forcibly disappeared by Iraqi government forces and militias. [191]

See also