Militants target Iraqi dam

  • Article by: ALISSA J. RUBIN and ROD NORDLAND , New York Times
  • Updated: June 25, 2014 - 7:35 PM

Also, Iraq’s prime minister rejected calls for a power-sharing government.


A federal police officer manned a fortified post on the outskirts of the holy city of Karbala.

Photo: Lynsey Addario • New York Times,

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– Iraqi security officials said Wednesday that fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were advancing on the Haditha Dam, the second-largest in Iraq.

The militants were coming from the north, the northeast and the northwest. The ISIL fighters had already reached the nearby town of Burwana, and government forces were fighting to halt their advance.

Worried that the insurgents would reach the dam on the Euphrates River, about 120 miles northwest of Baghdad, army officers told employees to stay inside and to be prepared to open the dam’s floodgates if ordered to do so, an employee said.

“This will lead to the flooding of the town and villages and will harm you also,” the dam employee said he told the army officer.

According to the employee, the officer replied: “Yes, I know, it will be against us and our enemies.”

This would not be the first time that the Iraqi government and ISIL have engaged in warfare over a dam. Earlier this year, when ISIL fighters seized the Fallujah dam, they opened it to flood fields of crops all the way south to the city of Najaf. The water at one point washed east as well, almost reaching Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad.

The closure of the dam also starved areas downstream in the provinces of Najaf and Diwaniya of water needed for crops. The dam was reopened after several weeks.

Separately Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected calls for a caretaker government, as he has before, but it appeared to be a repudiation of the Western leaders who have asked him to agree to share power with Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds.

In a televised address, he criticized “other parties,” a reference to Sunnis and Kurds, for not doing more to support his government, and he rejected the idea of any government being formed without his participation.

“Despite what we are suffering through, we haven’t heard from our political partners with any support,” Al-Maliki said. “They are not partners in facing the crisis but they are partners in spending the wealth of Iraq.”

Al-Maliki said plans for a “national salvation government” would be a “coup against the constitution.”

His remarks were his first public statements since President Obama challenged him last week to create a more inclusive government or risk his country descending into sectarian civil war.

The prime minister also criticized remarks that the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, Masoud Barzani, made in a meeting Tuesday with Secretary of State John Kerry. The Kurdish leader suggested that gains by the ISIL militants had changed the political landscape.

“Whoever is talking about Iraq before Nineveh and Iraq after Nineveh, it’s against the constitution, it’s a way of taking advantage of what’s happening in the country, of using terrorist attacks to get political benefits,” Al-Maliki said.

Nineveh is the province that includes Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which was seized by militants this month.

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