Russia’s New Super Nuclear Bomb

Russia’s Satan Nuclear Missile Said Capable of Destroying Countries, but It’s Taking a Long Time to Get Right

By Tom O’Connor On 7/10/17 at 3:37 PM

Russia has faced numerous delays in building its “Satan 2” nuclear missile said to be capable of taking out entire countries at once, but another devastating weapon of mass destruction system may soon be in the works as well.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Thursday that Moscow’s defense ministry was immediately prepared to begin work on both the oft-delayed  RS-28 Sarmat (NATO calls it the SS-X-30 “Satan 2”) and on the Barguzin railroad combat missile complex, a train system said to be able to deliver nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to targets thousands of miles away. Both weapons, which have origins in the country’s Soviet past, may soon be resurrected amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington—if Russia’s government and technological capabilities allow.
The RS-28 Sarmat and Barguzin are “on the level of absolute readiness…for their implementation, should the relevant decision be made to include the projects in the state armament program,” Rogozin told Pravda, the official newspaper of Russia’s Communist Party.
RTR2Q7LY Visitors walk past an R-36 or SS-18 SATAN intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the Strategic Missile Forces museum near Pervomaysk, some 186 miles south of Kiev, Ukraine, August 22, 2011. Russia has been working on a new and improved version of the nuclear-capable missile known as “Satan 2” for some time, as well as a train-based system capable of launching thermonuclear ICBMs from a mobile platform. Gleb Garanich/Reuters
The RS-28 Sarmat can reportedly hold up to 10 nuclear warheads, enough to effectively decimate an area the size of the entire state of Texas, or even the whole of France. Despite Rogozin’s remarks, however, the missile’s production has been continuously delayed since being announced in 2014, and Russia’s Defense Ministry last week said testing would be further postponed until later this year, according to another report by Pravda. The missile is intended to replace the R-36 Voevoda, dubbed “Satan” by NATO in the 1970s. It was supposed to enter service between 2019 and 2020, but setbacks and bugs may affect this projection.
The Barguzin is also said to be an improvement on a previous design, known to NATO as “Scalpel.” Earlier versions of the railroad-based weapon were first considered in the 1960s and later developed in the 1980s, but the systems were largely forgotten after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now the so-called ghost trains may be brought back to life, as a new and improved nuclear weapons system capable of traveling across the largest country on Earth, significantly protecting it from detection. The Barguzin can reportedly be equipped with up to six 55-ton RS-24 Yars thermonuclear ICBMs, an upgrade from the previous three, and it could be seen in the field by 2019, according to The National Interest. Missile testing for the weapons system reportedly took place in November.
With an estimated 7,300 and 6,970 warheads, Russia and the U.S, have the largest and second-largest nuclear weapons arsenals in the world, respectively. These massive nuclear stockpiles were largely developed amid a post-World War II arms race that saw the world’s leading superpowers compete for global military dominance. The rivalry cooled after the fall of the Soviet Union, but has picked up again in recent years as the U.S. backs Western military alliance NATO in a regional battle of influence with Russia over the political future of Europe.
Amid these deteriorated relations, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Friday for the first time during the highly anticipated G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. The two vowed to cooperate more closely on various issues, such as their countries’ roles in the conflict in Syria and cyber crime, which the U.S. frequently accuses the Kremlin of sponsoring. In December, Trump and Putin separately called for the expansion of their respective nuclear weapons arsenals.

Sixth Seal: New York City (Revelation 6:12)

EARTHQUAKE HAZARD (Source: US Geological Survey)

NY hazard

New York State Geological Survey
Damaging earthquakes have occurred in New York and surely will again. The likelihood of a damaging earthquake in New York is small overall but the possibility is higher in the northern part of the state and in the New York City region. Significant earthquakes, both located in Rockaway and larger than magnitude 5, shook New York City in 1737 and 1884. The quakes were 147 years apart and the most recent was 122 year ago. It is likely that another earthquake of the same size will occur in that area in the next 25 to 50 years. A magnitude 5.8 earthquake in New York City would probably not cause great loss of life. However the damage to infrastructure – buildings, steam and gas lines, water mains, electric and fiber optic cable – could be extensive.
Earthquake Hazard Map of New York State
Acceleration of the ground during an earthquake is more important than total movement in causing structural damage. This map shows the two-percent probability of the occurrence of an earthquake that exceeds the acceleration of earth’s gravity by a certain percentage in the next fifty years.
If a person stands on a rug and the rug pulled slowly, the person will maintain balance and will not fall. But if the rug is jerked quickly, the person will topple. The same principle is true for building damage during an earthquake. Structural damage is caused more by the acceleration of the ground than by the distance the ground moves.
Earthquake hazard maps show the probability that the ground will move at a certain rate, measured as a percentage of earth’s gravity, during a particular time. Motion of one or two percent of gravity will rattle windows, doors, and dishes. Acceleration of ten to twenty percent of gravity will cause structural damage to buildings. It takes more than one hundred percent of gravity to throw objects into the air.

Making Way For the Antichrist (Revelation 13)

What Comes After ISIS?
The Islamic State stands on the brink of a twin defeat. Mosul, the largest city under its control, has almost entirely fallen from its grasp, and Kurdish-led forces are advancing into its de facto capital of Raqqa. Now, as the saying goes, comes the hard part. The Islamic State’s territorial setbacks have introduced new questions about the basic future of the Middle East. Foreign Policy has assembled a group of policymakers and regional experts to answer them.
Iraqi forces pose for a picture with an upside down Islamic State flag in Mosul on July 8. (Photo credit: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
By Elliott Abrams
The defeat of the Islamic State as a “state” will leave two serious questions facing the United States. The first is: Who will fill the spaces from which the jihadi group is driven? There is a clear effort by the new Iran-Hezbollah-Shiite militia-Russia coalition to reply: “We will.”
That is an answer the United States should reject. Such a development would cement an anti-American coalition in place, threaten Jordan and Israel, and leave Iran the dominant power in much of the region. To reject this challenge verbally would be a joke, however; it must be resisted on the ground, through the use of force by a coalition that must be built and led by the United States.
The conflict in Syria has destroyed any possibility of an easy formula for putting that country back together, but in the medium term, one can envision a discussion with Russia of how our interests and theirs can be accommodated while bringing the violence down to a level that allows many refugees to return home. But that discussion will achieve nothing unless American power first gains Russian respect and the Russians come to realize that compromise is necessary.
Even in the best-case scenario, with the Islamic State defeated and losing its control over a “state,” it may continue to exist as a terrorist group — and in any event al Qaeda and other jihadi groups will not disappear. So the second question is: How do we proceed against Sunni jihadis who continue to plot against the United States? It should be clear that Shiite domination of the region will help fuel these Sunni groups and assist in their recruiting at home and in distant Sunni lands. And the perception of American acquiescence or complicity in that domination will help make the United States a larger target.
The defeat of the Islamic State will not end our involvement in Middle East conflicts and may in fact lead it to increase.
All of this leads to an unwelcome conclusion — unwelcome surely in the White House and to many Americans. The defeat of the Islamic State will not end our involvement in Middle East conflicts and may in fact lead it to increase. There will be no repeat of the Iraq wars, with vast American armies on the ground, but there will need to be a long continuation of the sort of commitment we see today: perhaps 5,000 troops in Iraq, 1,000 in Syria, 1,000 to 2,000 in Jordan, and many more in the 6th Fleet and in bases in the region from which we can exert power.
As long as Iran tries to dominate the entire region and Sunni jihadi groups target the United States, the defeat of the Islamic State changes — but does not diminish — America’s stake in Middle East power politics.
Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His new book, Realism and Democracy: American Foreign Policy After the Arab Spring, will be published in September.
The War After the War
By Robert Malley
For most of the United States’ allies in the Middle East, the war against the Islamic State never was the primary concern. Even as Western nations decreed this struggle a universal priority, these nations largely humored Washington, echoed its alarm, joined its international coalition — and looked the other way. Almost from the start, their gaze was fixed on the wars after the war against the Islamic State.
For Turkey, what mattered was the fight against Kurds, and for Kurds a self-determination struggle; for Saudi Arabia and Iran, their regional contest took priority; within the Sunni Arab world, competition between the more Islamist (Qatar and Turkey) and the less so (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates) was viewed as existential; among Iraqis, a sectarian and ethnic race for post-conflict spoils had pride of place. The counter-Islamic State campaign always served as an imperfect cover for regional conflicts and contradictions. With the Islamic State increasingly in the rearview mirror, these will be laid bare.
When the dust settles, Washington will confront a Middle East struggling with familiar demons. It will also face its own familiar dilemma: How deeply should it get involved? Allies will plead for it to leap into the fray. They know Washington’s current predilections and will cater to them, dressing up raw power plays in more appealing garb. President Donald Trump’s administration is preoccupied with countering terrorism, combating Iran, and — no less important — doing whatever former President Barack Obama did not. That’s how America’s allies will frame their respective pursuits.
There is evidence already. Saudi Arabia and the UAE presented their war in Yemen as pushback against Tehran and their attempt to bring Qatar to heel as an anti-Iranian and anti-terrorist gambit. Syria’s Kurds, fearful of being jettisoned by Washington once their utility in the anti-Islamic State fight is exhausted, champion themselves as long-term bulwarks against Iranian influence and Turkish-inspired Islamism — while Ankara paints those same Kurds with a broad terrorist brush. Egypt masquerades its indiscriminate intolerance of all Islamists as a holy battle against terrorism.
All assert that the particular brand of U.S. activism they crave contrasts with Obama’s alleged passivity, which they bemoan. They know their target audience. They play to it.
The Trump administration will be tempted to take sides and take the plunge, but it would be a losing bet. The optimal way to secure U.S. interests in a post-Islamic State world is not to join or intensify conflicts over which it has little ultimate say and that would unleash the very chaos and sectarianism from which the terrorist group was born and on which it thrives. It is to de-escalate proxy wars, broker a Saudi-Qatari deal, press for an end to the Yemen war, stick to a measured stance toward political Islam, and lower tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran — indeed, for that matter, between the United States and Iran.
That is not what America’s regional allies want. But if they truly yearn for leadership, better to lead them where the United States believes they should go than where, stubbornly and recklessly, they already are headed.
Robert Malley is the vice president for policy at the International Crisis Group and served in former President Barack Obama’s administration as special assistant to the president, senior adviser to the president for the Counter-ISIL Campaign, and White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region.
The Islamic State Will Survive
By Cole Bunzel
How are the Islamic State’s territorial losses going to affect the landscape of transnational Sunni jihadism? Many suggest it could usher in a radical transformation: Perhaps the damage to the Islamic State’s brand will be so severe that al Qaeda reasserts itself as the uncontested leader of the jihadi movement, or perhaps the two groups set aside their differences and seek a rapprochement for the sake of keeping the flame of jihad alive.
These predictions — of an al Qaeda triumph or a jihadi merger — have been made repeatedly over the past year in light of the Islamic State’s seemingly terminal decline. Yet neither of them has begun to pan out — and there are reasons for remaining skeptical of both.
The first of these predictions relies on the assumption that al Qaeda is strong, resilient, and guided by a prudent strategy of winning over populations and subverting local conflicts to its own ends. But how accurate is this picture, really? To be sure, al Qaeda still exerts some control over a network of affiliates from North Africa to India. But it recently lost its strongest and most successful affiliate of all, Syria’s Nusra Front (known now as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), which was seen as the epitome of this hearts-and-minds strategy.
When the Nusra Front cut ties with the mother organization back in July 2016, to many it seemed a ruse. But later it emerged that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was not consulted and did not approve of what happened. This followed al Qaeda’s loss, only two years earlier, of its former affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, which went on to rebrand itself and declare the caliphate. None of this speaks to a brilliant long-term strategy.
And then there are al Qaeda’s apparently declining terrorist capabilities. Zawahiri continues to insist in his numerous pronouncements that attacking the West remains his top priority. But when was the last time al Qaeda pulled off a major attack in the West or even something on the scale of the attacks in Manchester or on London Bridge? It has been years. The Islamic State remains far more capable in this regard.
The idea of a jihadi reconciliation is even more difficult to fathom than that of an al Qaeda triumph. The level of mutual animosity between the Islamic State and al Qaeda cannot be overstated. These groups and their respective followers revile each other. Al Qaeda loyalists describe Islamic State partisans as “extremists,” “Kharijites,” and “takfiris”; the Islamic State, in turn, has dubbed al Qaeda devotees as “the Jews of jihad” and loyalists of the “Sufi” leader of the heretical Taliban. This split is simply unbridgeable. It may appear to be of recent vintage but is in fact rooted in theological and strategic differences in the jihadi world that go back decades.
Jihadism, in short, will remain divided. The Islamic State, which has been around in one form or another since 2006, will almost certainly survive. So will al Qaeda. Neither will swallow the other, and neither will make amends.
Cole Bunzel is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and the author of “From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State.”
Syria’s Kurds Gamble on Washington’s Staying Power
By Noah Bonsey
As an American visitor in northern Syria, you get the question all the time: Will the United States eventually abandon its Kurdish friends? The answer may hinge on how President Donald Trump’s administration weighs four competing priorities: minimizing open-ended commitments abroad, repairing its strained alliance with Turkey, protecting against jihadi resurgence, and countering Iranian influence.
The U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State relies on an unlikely partner in Syria: the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a military formation with close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgent group at war with NATO ally Turkey. The YPG dominates the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, rules much of northern Syria, and is an indispensable partner against the Islamic State.
For the YPG, the importance of U.S. support extends far beyond the fight against jihadis. The presence of Americans deters major attacks by the powerful Turkish army and protects against pro-regime forces with which the YPG competes for territory. Should the United States withdraw from Syria, these could pose existential threats. The YPG is betting that Washington will ultimately extend its protection via political and military “guarantees,” which would help secure the substantial degree of autonomy established in areas under its control and which it promotes as a model for a future federal arrangement in Syria.
This risky gamble has persuaded the YPG to prove its utility to the United States by fighting in Raqqa and potentially beyond, progressively farther away from its Kurdish popular base. Yet, paradoxically, defeating the Islamic State in Syria would enable the United States to consider reducing its role there, leaving the YPG dangerously exposed. That option may appeal to a Trump administration keen to limit expenditure and avoid further damage to its alliance with Turkey.
Much will depend on whether the United States is prepared to extend its role past the defeat of the Islamic State in an effort to prevent jihadi resurgence. As the Islamic State’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, demonstrated so dramatically, radicals can rebound quickly if fundamental threats to stability are left unaddressed. Limiting that danger in Syria would require continued U.S. engagement focused on averting escalation between Turkey and the YPG and on promoting sustainable governance in areas the latter liberates from the Islamic State. For its part, the YPG could improve its appeal as a partner in stabilization by implementing necessary changes to its governance model.
Iran is another factor that could spur sustained cooperation. The YPG depends on transportation links controlled by Tehran’s proxies and Damascus and would likely gravitate closer toward that axis (and Russia) if the United States withdraws support. But the YPG also views growing Iranian power in northern Syria as a threat and seeks to limit the Syrian regime’s footprint there. If Washington aims to maintain leverage in Syria vis-à-vis Tehran while avoiding direct confrontation, it may see value in continuing its investment in the YPG.
Noah Bonsey is the senior analyst for Syria at the International Crisis Group, an independent conflict prevention organization.
Syria’s Festering Wounds Will Spark a Jihadi Renaissance
By Amr al-Azm
As the Islamic State loses ground, the United States and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria are likely to turn their guns on what they perceive as the gravest threat remaining — each other.
The U.S.-backed, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have steadily driven the jihadi group back in Raqqa, and previous examples indicate that the Kurds will allow the regime and its state institutions to gradually return to the city and begin providing basic services. The SDF would in turn provide the necessary security for the area. This partial handover of the city to the regime, however, is a temporary marriage of convenience.
The next critical phase will be the recapture of the strategically important city of Deir Ezzor, the last remaining major urban center under Islamic State control in Syria. The Syrian regime and its allies have been positioning themselves to move against the city and recapture it from the Islamic State, which would also bring the regime very close to the Iraqi border — an important objective of Iran, its principal ally.
The elimination of the Islamic State from eastern Syria can only be achieved with the recapture of Deir Ezzor. This however is unlikely to sit well with the U.S. administration, which is now seeking to actively minimize Iran’s influence. The United States, however, has few options at its disposal. The elimination of the Islamic State from eastern Syria can only be achieved with the recapture of Deir Ezzor, and the SDF are unlikely to be willing to move against the city while the U.S.-allied Free Syrian Army factions in southern Syria are too weak to launch such a major offensive — leaving the regime and its allies as the only viable option. Furthermore, the Iranians have rightly assumed that the United States will not engage in a full confrontation with the regime’s forces over this matter.
Therefore, in the immediate aftermath of the Islamic State’s defeat in eastern Syria, the emerging winners will be the Syrian regime and its Iranian ally. The ongoing arrangement with the Kurds in cities like Raqqa and Manbij is temporary at best and will eventually break down, causing continued instability and uncertainty in the region.
While it is unlikely that the Islamic State will have any operational capability in Syria in the immediate aftermath of the current campaign, the ongoing challenges of partition and regional dynamics ensure that festering ethnic and sectarian tensions will continue to fuel extremism, eventually allowing the next reincarnated version of the Islamic State to re-emerge in both Syria and Iraq.
Amr al-Azm is a history professor at Ohio’s Shawnee State University and a member of the Syrian opposition.
Iraq’s Power Struggles Are Just Beginning
By Renad Mansour
To many Iraqis, the destruction of Mosul’s iconic al-Hadba minaret this month symbolized the defeat in Iraq of the so-called Islamic State. It was under this minaret, in al-Nuri Mosque, that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had declared his “caliphate” — and now it has been destroyed by the jihadi organization in the face of the Iraqi security forces’ advance. Yet the shape of this defeat, and the likely trajectory of a “post-Islamic State” Iraq, remains unclear.
Although its stint in state-building has ended, the Islamic State will continue to exist. A restructured organization that does not control territory represents new challenges. Militarily, the group is resorting to guerrilla warfare, including attacks against civilians in densely populated areas of Iraq. Unlike in the past, it also has plenty of resources and has shifted to mafia-esque tactics, laundering its massive cash reserves through seemingly legitimate businesses including currency exchanges and pharmaceuticals. Until recently, that also included exchanging Iraqi dinars for U.S. dollars via the Central Bank of Iraq’s currency auctions.
Underlying conflicts among Iraq’s many political forces will also come to the fore as the common cause of defeating the Islamic State recedes. Simmering disputes over land in northern Iraq are set to flare up: The leadership of Iraqi Kurdistan, Shiite Arab and Turkmen paramilitary groups affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), local political leaders, Sunni Arab tribal fighters, and regional actors will compete for greater influence in critical hotspots such as Kirkuk, northern Nineveh, and the Iraqi-Syrian border area.
In Baghdad, an intra-Shiite power struggle among Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and Shiite populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is also set to burst out into the open. U.S. and Iranian policies are at odds here: Tehran will work to empower its trusted allies, including Maliki and senior PMF leaders such as Hadi al-Ameri, Qais Khazali, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Meanwhile, Washington is focusing on strengthening Abadi’s hand. Importantly, the Abadi-Maliki-Sadr contest is fueled by an increasingly aggrieved population that now believes corruption, not sectarianism, is the root cause of the Islamic State.
For Iraq to navigate these challenges, it must strengthen local and federal state institutions to combat the power of violent nonstate actors and reach a new understanding of local power-sharing. Only then can the state address the root causes for the rise of the Islamic State and work to translate the current military victories into long-term political settlements — and ensure that Iraq is not destined for another round of conflict.
Renad Mansour is a fellow at Chatham House, and the author of the recent paper “Iraq After the Fall of ISIS: The Struggle for the State.”

The Little Horn Is Finally Crushed (Daniel 8)

Mosul Liberated as Islamic State Faces Total Defeat in Iraq

Caroline Alexander and Donna Abu-Nasr 3 hrs ago

An Iraqi federal police member waves his country's national flag as he celebrates in the Old City of Mosul on July 9, 2017 after the government's announcement of the 'liberation' of the embattled city.© AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images An Iraqi federal police member waves his country’s national flag as he celebrates in the Old City of Mosul on July 9, 2017 after the government’s announcement of the ‘liberation’ of the embattled city. (Bloomberg) — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi traveled to Mosul to declare it liberated from Islamic State, three years after the city’s abrupt fall to the jihadists alerted the world to the group’s growing strength, territorial ambitions and barbarity.

Abadi congratulated the Iraqi people and fighters on a “great victory” as the last pockets under Islamic State control were being retaken, according to a tweet from his media office.
The campaign to free Mosul from Islamic State entered its final phase in the narrow streets of the Old City in mid-June, eight months after thousands of Iraqi troops and Kurdish fighters backed by U.S.-led airstrikes began their offensive. Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the coalition, has described it as the toughest urban warfare he has seen in 34 years of service.
Retaking Mosul marks a major blow against Islamic State, whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first speech as self-proclaimed caliph from one of the city’s mosques in 2014. The group is now diminished, having lost much of its territory spanning northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. Its ability to attract foreign fighters is also dented, although it continues to inspire militants abroad who have staged terrorist attacks from London to Tehran. For Abadi, whose government has struggled to overcome political and sectarian challenges and rebuild an economy stripped of oil revenue, it’s a major success.
There have been scenes of jubilation as Iraqi forces have slowly taken back control of Mosul, removing the black banners of the jihadist group. The United Nations says as many as 150,000 residents were trapped in the Old City when the battle there began, with illness and disease spreading as clean drinking water, food and medicine ran low. Islamic State used those who stayed as human shields, according to the UN. Over the last few months, it has massacred hundreds who attempted to flee the city in an attempt to deter others from doing the same.
Brutal Punishment
In one of its final acts of defiance, Islamic State blew up the Great Mosque of al-Nuri on June 22. The monument, whose iconic leaning minaret is pictured on Iraq’s 10,000-dinar note, once towered above the historic city center. It was there that Baghdadi made his first sermon as self-proclaimed caliph and called on the world’s Muslims to obey him, dressed in a black robe and turban to signify his claim of descent from the Prophet Muhammad.
As the group sought to entrench its strict interpretation of Islam, it meted out brutal punishments to those who opposed it. Children were trained to be fighters. It also destroyed ancient sites it said were heresy to its ideology — apart from the Great Mosque, Mosul also lost the Tomb of Jonah. Its museum was ransacked.
Lightning Assault
Mosul was Islamic State’s most important bastion along with Raqqa in Syria, its self-styled capital. It featured in its propaganda videos, many filmed in the style of television news reports. British hostage John Cantlie appeared in at least five that sought to portray the city as an example of utopian governance with a bustling economy. In reality, residents described shortages and struggles to cope with rising prices for basic foods and fuel.
An estimated 2.4 million people lived in Mosul before the war, making it northern Iraq’s largest city. Hundreds of thousands fled after it was captured and as operations began to retake it in October 2016, with many seeking refuge in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and camps nearby.
Islamic State evolved from al-Qaeda in Iraq, which U.S. troops and Sunni militias defeated after its powers peaked in 2006 to 2007 in a campaign that was known as the Awakening. It was able to expand in 2013 in Syria, where a civil war has raged for more than six years, attracting fighters from Chechnya, Afghanistan, North Africa and Europe.
The extremists took advantage of the poor military performance of Iraqi troops — portraying themselves as a champion of Sunni Arabs who felt alienated by a Shiite-led government — in a lightening assault across northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. The group then headed south toward Baghdad, triggering fears of the country’s breakup as ethnic and sectarian tensions surged.
Last Stronghold
Iraqi forces and militias supported by Iran had pushed Islamic State into reverse with months-long battles in key cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi, before moving on to Mosul. The air power, artillery, and intelligence provided by a U.S.-led coalition helped secure the city’s eastern neighborhoods in January. Residents returned to their homes, children went back to school, and shopkeepers reopened stores, free to sell whatever they choose.
Battlefield progress then slowed as fighting moved deeper into the Old City, as Iraqi forces entered dense neighborhoods and faced persistent counterattacks. With the offensive from the south stalling, Iraqi troops repositioned to begin a new offensive from the north in May.
While Mosul was Islamic State’s last main urban center in Iraq, it still controls several areas in the west and northeast part of the country, including Hawija near Kirkuk.
Noureddin Qablan, vice chairman of the council in Nineveh province, whose capital is Mosul, said by phone on July 3 from the city that Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders have met to prevent the eruption of sectarian or nationalist conflicts. “There are possibilities, but they are weak,” he said, citing the absence of violence in parts of the city freed months ago.
Territory Losses
Keeping the peace won’t be easy, said Kamran Bokhari, a fellow with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Local leaders need to prevent the spiraling of tensions over sectarian differences and the region’s political and economic plight, which Islamic State would look to exploit, he said. “But will they be able to?”
As Islamic State’s territory has shrunk, the group has shifted its emphasis from state building and governance to survival, and analysts say battlefield losses don’t spell the end of its ideology. A cappella hymn, or nasheed, released this month insists the jihadist group won’t vanish despite the setbacks: “Oh people of error, it (the state) is remaining, not vanishing, Anchored like the mountains.”
The message is “clearly addressing the current losses faced by the Islamic State amid the coalition campaign against it,” said Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, an analyst at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, who translated the nasheed.
“Military defeat and the loss of territory in Syria and Iraq will be insufficient to sway the views of Islamic State supporters,” IHS Markit, a London-based information and analytics group, said in a June 29 report. “The group’s video productions have declined in frequency, suggesting that it is less capable of disseminating its messages. However, it has already prepared its followers for the loss of territory.”
(Updates with comment from local official in 15th paragraph.)
To contact the reporters on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at, Donna Abu-Nasr in Beirut at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at, Mark Williams, Ros Krasny
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