After days of on-again, off-again fighting, ISIS has successfully captured the largest dam in all of Iraq, the Mosul Dam in Nineveh Province. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had been defending it in the face of the most recent ISIS offensive in the area.
According to Nineveh Governor Atheel Nujaifi, the Peshmerga conducted an “organized retreat” from the dam after days of fighting. ISIS was advancing on Kurdish-held targets east of Mosul at the same time, limiting the Peshmerga’s ability to reinforce any one position.
The Mosul Dam provides hydroelectric power for much of Iraq, and will also give ISIS the ability to control the flow of the Tigris River downstream into Iraqi territory, potentially flooding out military forces that attempt to retake the region.
The biggest danger, however, may be the outright failure of the dam, which is not in particularly good shape and needs constant grouting operations to keep it functioning. Experts have warned a failure of the Mosul Dam could lead to up to 500,000 civilian deaths, and it remains to be seen if ISIS will be able to keep it from bursting.