Was ISIS Capture of Mosul Dam a ‘Virtual’ Event?

Early today we reported, on the basis of reports from other media outlets and a confirmation by Nineveh Governor Atheel Nujaifi, that the Mosul Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in Iraq, was seized by ISIS from Kurdish forces. The following image appears to have been the basis of the story.

Liz Sly from the Washington Post was the first to suggest the story may not have been true, showing photos taken earlier in the day of Deputy Kurdish Premier Qubad Talabani at a conspicuously unconquered Mosul Dam.


Eventually, someone on Twitter “confessed” to having fabricated the original image, and provided an identical photo, same shadows and same angle, without the guy or the tiny little ISIS flag on top of the dam. Even the cloud passing by and the shadows are the same.

We don’t claim to know the truth about what’s going on at the Mosul Dam any more than anyone else, but this underscores a need to be increasingly skeptical about the stories coming out of the area. This is particularly true of stories emerging from Kurdistan (where the governor had fled), as the Kurdistan government is openly lobbying the US into a war against ISIS, and may push false narratives that advance that effort.

  • mindclouds

    It's all about war propaganda. Many western outlets only report about ISIL advances, never about the huge amount of losses that ISIL suffers (reported on iraqinews or farsnews, for example). Propaganda goes both ways, of course.

    • Walter Cole

      Yes, it is all about war propaganda; thanks Mindclouds. In the case of terrorist propaganda, most is produced and supplied by the US Intel community, for the terrorists. For example, the CIA doesn´t want to release a torture report because, "it would inflame the entire Middle East". By their own admission, it means that the heinous actions of our CIA and other Intel community members, supported by the US Military, play into the hands of the ME terrorist community. Stop and think about what a totally fantastic recruiting tool the Abu Ghraib pictures had and are still having on young Muslims around the world – we can be certain that they are still being circulated, because they are too effective to ever lay aside. And the west wonders why so many volunteers are being recruited by our terrorist enemies – it was the US´s “behind the scene warriors” who did the most to support our sworn enemies. This goes way beyond anything Hollywood´s Keystones could have come up with.

      Isn´t it logical that Americans should stop committing and supporting those heinous crimes against humanity, if not just for their own good? To continue to support your enemies is hideous.

  • musings

    The Kurds want independence. They are going to lay it on thick.

    • Andrewp111

      So will the Islamic State. Every report of the IS having great battlefield success brings new jihadist recruits from around the world, and makes the next report a reality. Every young Sunni male with a chip on his shoulder wants to join an invincible army that is conquering the world.

  • Yep


    Arbil Iraq (Reuters) – Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the president of the Kurdistan region, confirmed on Friday that Islamic State militants had seized control of Iraq's biggest dam in their latest offensive in the north of the country.

    Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-iraq

  • Ocean

    Those aren't the quite same, though. The one with the guy also has a red truck in the background.

    • El Tonno

      Yes, but the guy and the truck are gigantic if the fence in front is not meant to keep poodles off the dam.

    • That truck is totally out of scale. Unless that chain link security fence is about two feet high.

  • Watson

    There's also another guy in the photo at the far right, walking away from the camera with a white (bag?) in each hand, and wearing civilian-type clothes.

  • muggles

    Yes, a close inspection shows background images not in the same scale or possible if the photo was real (car, man). A fairly crude fake.
    Again, as some writers at AWC have mentioned on other subjects, where is the dog that didn't bark? This "dam captured" story ran w/o any comment (though some did say that this was unverified) for several days. Why didn't the US usual "spokesmen" at the Pentagon chime in about this falsehood? Surely they have ample means to know who is running the dam site and who isn't. The often anonymous sources or unnamed govt spokesmen frequently are quick to offer refutation of mis-reported "facts" or stories when it suits US govt purposes. Here, as some note, given Obama's ramping up of US involvement, they want to increase concern/tension over ISIS takeover of Iraq. So this obvious fabrication went unmentioned until ordinary skeptics took a close look.
    So the US govt knows everything when it wants to; but conveniently knows nothing when it doesn't. The same startling "lack of knowledge" is evident in the Ukrainian airliner shoot down incident. That dog isn't barking either…

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  • Thomas

    ISIS just released a video showing that they are in full control of the dam. I await retraction of this article. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIE7wrdR6NI

    • El Tonno

      Why? The shopped picture stays shopped.

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