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New ISIS Offensive Targets Lebanon and Iraq's Largest Water Resources

Updated on August 6, 2014
Haditha Dam on the Euphrates River
Haditha Dam on the Euphrates River
Iraq's two main valleys
Iraq's two main valleys
ISIS Controlled Zones
ISIS Controlled Zones
Mosul Dam in precarious condition, built in the 80's.
Mosul Dam in precarious condition, built in the 80's.
Lebanese Army
Lebanese Army
ISIS into Lebanon
ISIS into Lebanon

In case you forgot, there is still the Ukrainian crisis boiling and ISIS in Iraq. The war in Gaza and the Ebola outbreak have conquered the headlines across the globe, but as this occurs, ISIS, the radical, well equipped 10,000 man army in Iraq, launched its new offensive in two unexpected directions: Lebanon and Iraq's two largest dams that control water for millions. Whatever you may think of ISIS, they have a leader similar to the famous WW2 German general, Rommel, who outfoxed and maneuvered British forces between 1941-43 in North Africa using inferior forces.

The ISIS offensive surprised intelligence agencies because all expected ISIS to strike and encircle Baghdad to cut it off. That may be the end game move, but, for now, they did the unexpected by crossing into Lebanon, and in the opposite direction, attacked Iraq's biggest dams, the Haditha and Mosul. Whoever controls the water sources, can control the population. What greater weapon is there than water?

The Haditha dam is a huge complex in western Iraq. It contains six power generators and Iraq's second largest reservoir. Even larger in scale is Iraq's largest, the Mosul dam, located in northern Iraq. The ISIS offensive began with the multiple prong attack on the town of Haditha, only six miles from the dam itself. The 2000-man Iraqi army defending the area was near the breaking point until Sunni tribes who felt ISIS was no longer a friend, came to stall the offensive. ISIS usually is mobile and attacks in groups of several hundred men. The stalemate in Haditha (Anbar province) is probably only a temporary win for Iraq. ISIS has already taken a smaller dam closer to Baghdad. The Sunni tribes actually had saved the situation for ISIS had nearly blown a hole in the last defensive line using suicide bombers and trucks loaded with bombs.

To the north of Mosul, an ISIS held city now, their men are closing in on seizing the Mosul dam by taking the towns of Zumar and SInjar. With little Iraqi troops there (all had fled from the area on June 10th, when ISIS arrived), it is the Kurds holding a tenuous 80-mile long line. ISIS men very well may seize the dam as they fight their way near the dam and along the Tigris River. The fear of losing the battle to ISIS has prompted the Maliki government to make peace with the Kurds, for now, and now provide air support for the Kurds using their small airforce.

Even if ISIS captures either the Mosul or Haditha dams, it will prove to be a disaster to Iraq. ISIS could use water and electricity from either dam to coerce and subdue its foes, use it to destroy crops and farmland by blowing them up, or use them for lucrative income revenue by controlling them for residents downstream. However, the Mosul dam is really the most dangerous. If ISIS take it and decides to blow it up, millions of cubic meters of water would be flooding all along the Tigris valley. Baghdad would be 15-30 feet under water.

ISIS in Lebanon is also startling. There, they have executed many and have seized a town from Lebanon forces. The town of Arsal has 120,000 residents and 80,000 have fled. The ISIS move is a brash move because ISIS is Sunni and Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, is Shiite. Both Lebanese and Hezbollah forces have vowed to destroy ISIS.

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