Following the fall of Mosul on Tuesday, the ISIS offensive has seized more territory, as the Iraqi Army continues to fold like a cheap suit.
On June 10, a 60+ vehicle convoy rolled into Bayji, set fire to government buildings and police headquarters, and besieged the Bayji oil refinery, which is the largest refinery in Iraq. A short while later, the 250 Iraqi security forces holding the refinery agreed to withdraw. A great deal of ISIS logistical clout lately has come from de facto control of several of Iraq’s western oil facilities.
Following the seizure of Bayji, ISIS forces continued on to Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, and took control of the city, reportedly capturing the provincial governor, Ahmad Abdullah. Even more prisoners have been released from prisons in Tikrit, adding to the 1400-2500 released in Mosul on Tuesday.
Video of the ISIS entry into Tikrit:
By nightfall on Wednesday, the Iraqi Army had pulled out of Kirkuk, leaving the southern half of the city to ISIS. The Kurds, however, still control the north of the city, and have shown no sign of backing down.
The Times UK has reported that Iran is sending IRGC Qods Force to help reinforce the Iraqi Government. The US has also pledged “security assistance,” though what form that might take has yet to be seen.
ISIS’ social media accounts are trumpeting the “rejoicing” of the inhabitants to be “liberated” by ISIS, but the 250,000 refugees created by the offensive further puts the lie to their propaganda.
Overall, none of this should be that much of a surprise. ISIS is a Taliban-style army of hard-core Islamist fanatics–true believers. They are opposed by a poorly-reconstituted army fighting (or not fighting as the case may be) for a government that no one has much or any faith in. The result is something of a foregone conclusion.
UPDATE: The Kurdish Peshmerga have completely occupied Kirkuk, moving into the abandoned Iraqi Army positions. Rudaw reports that ISIS has begun shelling Peshmerga positions south of the city. Kirkuk has historically been a flashpoint between the Kurds and the Iraqi Arabs, as the Kurds claim it as part of their territory, while Baghdad has not wanted to relinquish the oil fields in and around it. The collapse of the Iraqi Army’s resistance to ISIS has ultimately determined the city’s ownership. The Peshmerga have also pushed into areas of Diyala province. There was a small firefight between Peshmerga and Iraqi SWAT in Jawlala, as the Kurds moved to secure that town in Diyala, demonstrating that even in the face of the ISIS offensive, the bad blood between the Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds is still in play.
Also, Iran has deployed units of the IRGC Qods Force to Mosul; they are already on the ground. More on that is coming.
UPDATE: The Iraqi Army has stiffened at Samarra, stopping an attacking convoy and halting the second attack on the city in a week. Iraq state TV announced the use of airstrikes. The ISIS forces did not manage to enter the city.
UPDATE: The Iraqi Air Force is evacuating the American trainers from the Iraqi Air Academy at former Joint Base Balad. There are unconfirmed reports floating around the internet from an unnamed contractor that the contractors are surrounded and trapped. However, the only confirmed information is that they are evacuating Balad.
UPDATE: New reporting: the Iraqi government has blocked social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, making communications from the contractors in Balad problematic. It is unknown at the moment how many have gotten out, and fewer and fewer commercial airlines are willing to fly in due to the security situation.
Also, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani has issued a call to arms for young Shi’a men to resist ISIS, leading to widespread recruiting in Baghdad. Also, Ahlul Bayt News Agency has reported that the Iraqi Army has retaken Tikrit.