Political intrigue in Baghdad as crisis escalates

Islamic State faces down Kurdish fighters and targets country’s dams

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:00

Marching north

Those deficiencies were apparent in fighting in recent days, as the Islamic State captured several towns over the weekend and continued its march north.

Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province, whose capital is Mosul, said in a telephone interview after fleeing that the Islamic State secured the dam after what he called an “organised retreat” of the peshmerga. In a statement issued on a social media account believed to belong to the Islamic State, the group claimed it had captured the dam and vowed to continue its offensive northward as it consolidates control and continues to realise its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate that bridges the borders of Syria and Iraq.

“Our Islamic State forces are still fighting in all directions and we will not step down until the project of the caliphate is established, with the will of God,” the statement read. The dam, which sits on the Tigris river and is about 30 miles (48km) northwest of Mosul, provides electricity to Mosul and controls the water supply for a large amount of territory.

A report published in 2007 by the US government, which had been involved with work on the dam and spent nearly $30 million (€22 million) on repairs, warned that should it fail, a 65ft wave of water would be unleashed in northern Iraq.

Stuart W Bowen Jr, the former special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, who oversaw the 2007 report on the dam, said the Islamic State could use the dam as a weapon of war, but that it could also use it as a means of finance, by extorting money in exchange for water or electricity.

Submerged homes

The Islamic State has already used Iraq’s water supply as a weapon. Earlier this year it seized control of the Fallujah dam, in Anbar province, and flooded a vast area that sent thousands of refugees fleeing, submerged hundreds of homes and several schools and interrupted the water supply to southern Iraq.

Ammar Jassim, a 35-year-old resident of Fallujah, fled the city earlier this year not because of the fighting but because of the flooding. “We lost everything,” he said. “It was a water invasion.”

If the Mosul dam were to be damaged, “it would be like a tsunami coming down the Tigris,” said Azzam Alwash, a prominent environmentalist and engineer and the founder of Nature Iraq, a non-profit group.

The Islamic State is also battling for control of the Haditha dam, Iraq’s second-largest, which is also in Anbar province. As of Thursday, it was still under the control of the Iraqi security forces and allied tribal fighters. – (New York Times service)

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