ISHM: February 2 – 8, 2018

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Key Takeaways:

  • U.S. Begins Drawing Down in Iraq, Encourages Greater Role for NATO – The United States has begun to draw down its military presence in Iraq, already transitioning some equipment and personnel to Afghanistan. U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, said that the U.S. “presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need, and in coordination with the Iraqi government.” U.S. and Iraqi officials have stressed that the drawdown will be slow and well-coordinated. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has called for NATO to take on training Iraqi forces as part of a semi-permanent or permanent mission. Meanwhile, certain militias and political affiliates such as the Badr Organization and the terrorist group Kataib Hezbollah, have demanded that all U.S. presence be withdrawn. more…
  • UNAMI Launches Recovery Program, International Community Presses Private Sector Investment Ahead of Kuwait Conference – The UN Assistance Mission to Iraq published information on a new two-year Recovery and Resilience Programme (RRP) designed to “fast-track the social dimensions of reconstruction” in partnership with the Iraqi government and UN Development Programme. The RRP will be coordinated with the Iraq Reconstruction Fund and managed by a steering committee. The UN is seeking US$ 482 million for the program’s first year. It includes nine core components targeting social and community level development. Meanwhile, at least 70 countries and 2300 private sector companies are expected to attend the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq to be held February 12-14. The Conference is organized to attract foreign investment for Iraq’s reconstruction that will, in turn, stimulate job creation and help alleviate poverty. more…
  • Electricity Minister Questioned by Parliament – The Iraqi Parliament concluded its questioning of Minister of Electricity Qassim al-Fahdawi on allegations of mismanagement and corruption. The questioning came at the request of Members of Parliament Razaq Muhaibis and Hanan al-Fatlawi, an ally of Vice President Nouri al-Maliki. The condition of Iraq’s electricity infrastructure has plagued parts of the country for decades and is notoriously unreliable. The interrogation of the Minister did not include a vote to remove him from his position. more…
  • Three Kurdish MPs Suspended Amid Budget Impasse – Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri suspended the membership of three Kurdish MPs for fifteen days, citing their disruption of proceedings that would have allowed Parliament to vote on a federal budget. The MPs, Masoud Haider, Sirwan Abdullah Ismail, and Abdullah Ahmed, will also be referred to the Committee for Parliamentary Conduct. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aram Sheikh Mohammed and Kurdish factions asserted that Jabouri did not have the authority to suspend members, calling on him to reverse his decision. Meanwhile, Kurdish factions and Members of Parliament from oil-producing regions are demanding greater allocations of the federal budget, threatening boycotts if their demands are not met. more…
  • Security Forces Target “White Flags,” ISIS in Hamrin Mountain Region – Iraqi Security Forces announced the launch of military operations to track down and clear militants in the Hamrin Mountain areas of Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salah ad-Din Provinces. Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces also took part in operations to track militants east of Tuz Khurmatu. In addition to ISIS, members of the Kurdish militant group the “White Flags” are also being tracked and identified. The White Flags are ostensibly affiliated with ISIS and operate primarily near Tuz Khurmatu on the Kirkuk border with Iraqi Kurdistan. The group has emerged more prominently in recent months, after Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Shia Popular Mobilization Units pushed Kurdish authorities out of the disputed territories in northern Kirkuk Province. more…
  • France Will “Intervene” if French Citizen ISIS Members are Sentenced to Death – On January 29, French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet announced that Paris “would intervene” if the death sentence is imposed on three French women on trial for ISIS affiliation. French and German authorities have suggested that any of their citizens accused of ISIS affiliation should be tried in Iraq, assuming access to a free and fair trial, but that the death penalty is contrary to their own constitutions and should not be considered. The subject will be increasingly scrutinized as Iraqi authorities continue to adjudicate detained ISIS foreign fighters. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


U.S. Begins Drawing Down in Iraq, Encourages Greater Role for NATO

On February 3, United States (U.S.) Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that the U.S. would not make the same mistake of an early withdrawal from Iraq, referring to the 2009 withdrawal of U.S. troops which likely contributed to the proliferation of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Sullivan noted that “Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on December 1 the elimination of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq, but that does not mean that the organization is no longer a problem, and remnants will continue to be a problem.”

On February 3, Major General Yahya Rasul al-Zubaidi, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, announced the launch of Iraqi military operations on the border with Saudi Arabia to target sleeper cells and ISIS militants. He said that “the operation was launched today with the participation of the Anbar Military Operations Command and the Border Guard Forces, supporting tribal gatherings and securing the air cover of the Iraqi forces and the International Coalition.”

On February 4, General Mazhar al-Azawi, Commander of Tigris Operations, announced the launch of a joint operation with the Iraqi Army, Federal Police and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Diyala Province, to track down ISIS remnants in the region. He added that this operation comes as part of Tigris Operations Command strategy to maintain security in Diyala and reassure the residents.

On February 5, Major General Saad Maan released a statement saying that the Federal Police arrested an ISIS militant who had escaped from Ninewa Province after its liberation from ISIS and was living in Baghdad, working at a restaurant. Maan pointed out that the terrorist admitted carrying out several terrorist attacks in Ninewa Province.

On February 5, Captain Ahmed al-Jabouri said that the Federal Police carried out various actions against ISIS in Hawija, killing six ISIS militants. He added that the troops have purged 75 percent of Hawija from ISIS remnants.

On February 5, Iraqi security officials announced that they are preparing the launch of an operation to consolidate control over the Hamrin mountains region, near the border with Iran, pointing out the concerns over armed groups that are active in the region. This area will be used to transport Iraqi oil from Kirkuk Province to the refinery at Kermanshah by truck, which was scheduled to begin last week, but was delayed due to technical problems.

On February 5, the United States began reducing their military presence in Iraq for the first time following the declaration of victory against ISIS in December 2017. According to Associated Press, informed sources said the U.S. military has started moving weapons, equipment, and military personnel from Iraq to Afghanistan. Iraqi government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said, “the battle against [ISIS] has ended and so the level of the American presence will be reduced.” He clarified that the drawdown is still in its earliest stage and it does not mark the beginning of a complete U.S. forces pull out. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) spokesman, U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, affirmed that “CJTF-OIR presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need, and in coordination with the Iraqi government. Coalition still training, equipping, providing intel to Iraqi Security Forces partners to defeat Daesh.” An Iraqi senior official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Associated Press that 60 percent of U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq, leaving about 4,000 soldiers training the Iraqi military.

On February 6, the British Ministry of Defense confirmed the death of one of its officers in Iraq.  Captain Dean Sprouting of the Adjunct General Corps at Al-Asad Air Base, Iraq, died on January 31. The British Ministry of Defense said the incident is under investigation but confirmed that it was a non-combat related incident.

On February 6, Police Chief of Diwaniyah Province Farqad al-Issawi said that the provinces of Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah and Muthanna have formed a higher security committee and have agreed to dig a security trench. This trench will be used to detect booby-trapped vehicles entering these four southern provinces, without having to pass through security checkpoints. He added “a meeting will be held next week to determine costs of the security trench and the entities responsible for maintaining security in each [province].”  

On February 6, a security adviser to the Iraqi government, Saeed al-Jayashi, said that a security commission would be formed to manage the tasks of the U.S.-led international coalition in Iraq. He explained that the commission’s work would focus on rearranging the mission of the U.S.-led international coalition from combat to training of the Iraqi Security Forces. Jiyashi said the commission would be chaired by Faleh al-Fayyad, Iraq National Security Agency chief, together with security ministries and representatives of the U.S.-led international coalition.

On February 6, two major Iran-backed Shia PMUs demanded that all U.S. forces leave Iraq, opposing the government’s plan to maintain American troops in Iraq for training and advisory purposes. Kareem Nuri, spokesman for the Badr Organization, said “the two governments should coordinate to ensure a full withdrawal. U.S. presence will be cause for internal polarization and a magnet for terrorists.” Jafaar al-Husseini, spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, affirmed that “we are serious about getting the Americans out, using the force of the arms because the Americans don’t understand any other language.” Kataib Hezbollah is a militant, secretive, and anti-American group, who has threatened and carried out attacks against U.S. forces multiple times in the past and describes any American presence in Iraq as an occupation. The U.S. considers Kataib Hezbollah a terrorist group.

On February 6, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi revealed a plan to gradually reduce U.S.-led international coalition presence in Iraq. Abadi said there is “a governmental plan drawn to gradually reduce the number of international coalition forces in Iraq.” He also added that “Iraq still needs the airforce of the coalition.”   

On February 7, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) carried out a preemptive operation in the provinces of Diyala and Kirkuk, dismantling a network linked to terrorist organizations and arresting 15 people. The terrorist network was involved in several murders and kidnappings in Diyala and Kirkuk. Judge Abdul Sattar Birqdar, spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council, said in a statement that the Nasiriyah Court of Investigation on Terrorist Matters had confirmed the dismantling of a terrorist cell and the arrest of its seven components. The terrorists admitted to participating in several terrorist actions and preparing car bombs to target southern provinces. He added that they also admitted to running their criminal activities from Al-Bukamal and that one of the members confessed his involvement in the killing of Lieutenant Colonel Nemr Sultan Shiblawi, an intelligence officer of the 5th Brigade who was killed during a terrorist attack in 2012.

On February 7, the Baghdad Operations Command released a statement saying a female suicide bomber was killed by the ISF. The statement said that the woman was found in a school in Tarmiyah, 56 kilometers north of Baghdad. When she refused to give herself up to the authorities, the security forces opened fire, causing the belt to explode immediately and killing the woman.

On February 7, Reuters reported that the U.S. is renewing pressure on The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to establish a long-term train-and-advise plan in Iraq. In January, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent a letter to NATO headquarters calling for a formal NATO mission in Iraq with a semi-permanent or permanent command to train Iraqi forces. Mattis had suggested in his letter developing military academies and military doctrine for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. The Defense ministers of NATO are expected to discuss the matter next week in Brussels and possibly make a decision at a summit in July. The ministers will be provided with multiple options for the mission. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has already discussed the matter with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is supportive of the mission. The size of a potential NATO mission has not been discussed.

On February 7, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi received the Syrian Interior Minister, Major General Mohammed al-Shaar in Baghdad. During the meeting they discussed strengthening the security cooperation between the two countries. They also discussed the opening of the border at Qa’im during the meeting.

On February 8, the Russian ambassador in Iraq, Maxim Maximov, expressed Russia’s willingness to provide the Iraqi government with S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, as well as other weapons. Maximov was quoted by the Russian media agency Sputnik saying that Russia had already supplied Iraq with large quantities of military equipment. He said “when we receive a suitable request from the Iraqi government, we will discuss it.”

On February 8, the Military Intelligence Directorate announced the arrest of two ISIS militants in Kirkuk Province. The Directorate said in a statement that the operation was carried out following accurate intelligence information.


UNAMI Launches Recovery Program, International Community Presses Private Sector Investment Ahead of Kuwait Conference

On January 31, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) published information on their new Iraq Recovery and Resilience Programme (RRP). The aim of the two-year Recovery and Resilience Programme is to fast-track the social dimensions of reconstruction, building on existing efforts of the Iraqi government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). RRP is designed to help ensure that people see tangible improvements in their daily lives at the start of the reconstruction process. The RRP will be implemented under the auspices of Iraq’s National Reconstruction Taskforce and closely coordinated with the Iraq Reconstruction Fund. Funding for the RRP can be channeled directly to coordinating UN agencies or through an RRP Funding Facility, which will be managed on behalf of the UN Country Team by UNDP, and governed by a steering committee co-chaired by the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers and the UN Resident Coordinator. The UN is seeking US$ 482 million for the first year of the RRP. There are nine components, including three specifically targeting Preventing Violence Extremism, Revitalizing Communities, Restoring Agriculture and Water Systems, in order to lay the foundations in the social sectors and at the community level that will allow Iraq to reach the objectives set out in the country’s Vision 2030 and the Government’s National Framework for Reconstruction and Development.

On February 4, the Supreme Committee for Investment and Reconstruction announced the Iraq Poverty Alleviation Strategy (2018-2022). Planning Minister Salman Jumaili noted that the Ministry is trying to adopt a scientific approach to alleviate poverty throughout the country. He also added that this report was based on comprehensive data from a socio-economic survey of families and provided reliable data on the living conditions of these families. The strategy is compatible with the vision of Iraq’s Sustainable Development 2030, but operates with more flexibility and executive power.

On February 4, Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi announced that Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would participate in the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, scheduled to begin February 12. Masjedi confirmed that Zarif would attend the conference together with major Iranian companies. He asserted that “Iran will support strongly the process of development and construction in Iraq.”

On February 4, the Government of Denmark contributed an additional US$ 21.4 million to the UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), which finances fast-track initiatives to stabilize areas liberated from ISIS. This brings Denmark’s total contribution since 2015 to US$ 38.1 million.

On February 5, a new national strategy aimed at poverty alleviation in Iraq launched with the support and funding by the United Nations and the World Bank. Reports said that this 2018-2022 Iraq Poverty Alleviation Strategy would focus on health, education, and housing sectors in addition to the establishment of the social development fund to support poverty elimination projects in Iraq within five fiscal years. The World Bank explained that the strategy stressed the necessity of activating the private sector to create jobs for the poor and the displaced, and other unemployed young people. The World Bank promised US$ 300 millions to finance the projects, which provides the appropriate environment for Iraq to ease poverty levels.  

On February 5, the Information Office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed with the envoy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel that a German delegation will participate in the coming Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. The envoy expressed his country’s desire to work with Iraq in various sectors, including energy, finance, education, automation services, and management of reconstruction projects.

On February 5, British Ambassador to Iraq, Jon Wilks CMG, expressed Britain’s aspirations to contribute to the Iraq reconstruction efforts. According to a statement from the Information Office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May sent Abadi a letter inviting him to London, and stressed Britain’s desire to make more contributions to Iraq’s reconstruction effort on the coming Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.

On February 5, the head of Iraqi Journalists Syndicate Muayad al-Lami, arrived in Kuwait as part of the Iraqi media delegation to complete preparations for the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. Kuwait will host the conference and donor countries with the aim of attracting foreign private sector investment in Iraq’s reconstruction.

On February 6, the chairman of Iraqi Journalists Syndicate held a meeting in Kuwait. During the meeting, adviser to the State of Kuwait Mohammed Abu Hassan confirmed that 2300 major international companies and more than 70 countries will attend the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.

On February 5, Japan announced that it would provide US$ 100 million to the liberated areas of Iraq, for projects implemented by the United Nations and international aid organizations. The Japanese Embassy in Iraq announced that the Japanese government had proposed this new package as part of a supplementary budget for the fiscal year 2017. The announcement comes ahead of the Kuwait International Conference on the Reconstruction of Iraq from February 12-14. This grant is part of Japan’s pledge made at a July 2016 donors conference held in Washington to extend levels of support for Iraq through 2017 and 2018. Japan has provided approximately US$ 460 million for displaced people, refugees, and communities affected by ISIS.

On February 6, the World Bank approved US$ 300 million for the Social Fund for Development (SFD) that will finance community level subprojects to improve the living conditions of over 1.5 million poverty-stricken households in Iraq. World Bank Regional Director, Saroj Kumar Jha said that “The Social Fund for Development emphasizes the Government of Iraq’s efforts toward stabilization and recovery. It builds on the results of the comprehensive social protection reform program launched in 2014 and is in line with the Iraq Poverty Reduction Strategy which aims to alleviate poverty, promote equity, and foster opportunities for the Iraqi people.” This SFD project will increase access to basic service for vulnerable people in Iraq at the community level in education, health, water, small-scale economic infrastructure, and access to markets and create jobs.

On February 6, the Humanitarian Community in Iraq launched the Real-Time Accountability Partnership (RTAP), a multi-agency initiative for addressing gender-based violence (GBV) in emergencies. The RTAP aims at institutionalizing actions to address and prioritize GBV across humanitarian response endeavors. RTAP is a joint collaboration among six key humanitarian agencies that all aim to harness the collective power of the humanitarian community to ensure the protection of women and girls from GBV-related threats across the country. Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said, “RTAP promotes high-level concrete action to address gender-based violence, particularly to keep women and girls safe in emergencies. Together, we can hold ourselves accountable so that humanitarian action considers and responds to the unique needs of women and girls in conflict.”

On February 6, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) published a report indicating that as many as 750,000 children in Mosul and surrounding areas were struggling to access basic health services. In the post-ISIS conflict era, less than 10 percent of health facilities in Ninewa Province are functioning at full capacity. Those that are operational are stretched to a breaking point. Three years after the intensive conflicts in Iraq, the health facilities have been devastated since the conflict escalated in 2014. In Mosul, UNICEF has rehabilitated the pediatric and nutritional wards of two hospital centres, provided refrigerators to store vaccines for up to 250,000 children, and supported vaccination campaigns to immunize all children under five years old. Most health centres in the governorate have also re-started vaccination services for children. UNICEF is appealing for US$ 17 million to support rebuilding health facilities for children in Iraq in 2018. Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq said after a visit to the largest hospital in the city, Al Khansa hospital, in Mosul, “The state of Iraq’s healthcare system is alarming. For pregnant women, newborn babies, and children, preventable and treatable conditions can quickly escalate into a matter of life and death. Medical facilities are strained beyond capacity and there are critical shortages of life-saving medicines.” The Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq, beginning on February 12, is a unique opportunity for the Government of Iraq and the international community to put children at the heart of reconstruction, including through increased budget allocations to services for children.

On February 8, the Government of Sweden contributed an additional US$ 12 million to UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), which finances initiatives for rapid stabilization of areas liberated from ISIS. This brings Sweden’s total contribution since 2015 to US$ 26 million.


Electricity Minister Questioned by Parliament

On February 3, Iraqi Member of Parliament (MP) from the National Alliance Razaq Muhaibis, who pushed Parliament to question Electricity Minister Qassim al-Fahdawi, said that Fahdawi’s testimony to a Parliament Committee was “unconvincing.” Muhaibis reported that “the questioning…showed legal irregularities in implementing the instructions of government contracts, waste of public funds, and a lack of responsibility for some projects.” Muhaibis added that she would call for Fahdawi’s dismissal. The Iraqi Parliament has been questioning Fahdawi on allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the Electricity Ministry since January 31. The interrogation began at the request of MP Hanan Al-Fatlawi and MP Muhaibis but had been postponed by Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri. Several MPs from the State Law Coalition have accused Jabouri of delaying the questioning unnecessarily.

On February 3, the Iraqi Parliament decided to end the questioning of Minister of Electricity Qassim al-Fahdawi and resume on Monday. The Parliament also postponed the reading of a second amendment to the Election Law.

On February 3, the Federal Police leadership strongly condemned the statements released by the Ninewa Province MP Jamila al-Obeidi, where she accused the Federal Police forces of being involved in smuggling electricity transformers and water pumps from Mosul to Erbil. The statement released by the Federal Police expressed the rejection of those accusations, alluding to the fact that those claims conceal personal interests and that MP Obeidi should not worry about security issues, but focus on her campaigns.

On February 7, MP Hanan Al-Fatlawi accused Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri of handling the questioning of Electricity Minister Qassim al-Fahdawi unprofessionally. She claimed that Jabouri had cut her questioning short. She said that if MPs were objectively and fairly questioning Fahdawi that the MPs should be able to vote on a conviction.


Three Kurdish MPs Suspended Amid Budget Impasse

On February 2, a Member of Parliament (MP) for the State Law Coalition, Zeinab al-Khazraji, said that the Federal Budget would not be passed in the absence of the oil-producing provinces. Khazraji stated that the government has “oppressed and stolen the rights” of the oil-producing provinces under the pretext of falling oil prices. While most media has focused on Kurdish objection to the budget, MPs from oil-producing provinces have also had several complaints. According to MPs for these provinces, the new budget undervalues the price of oil barrels in the global market at US$ 46 per barrel when the actual market is around US$ 70.

On February 3, Kurdish Finance Committee Member Masoud Haider said that the Kurdish Alliance had discussed adding an additional 10 trillion dinars (approximately US$ 8.5 billion) for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Haider said, “during the meetings held by Prime Minister Haider Abadi with the Kurdistan Alliance blocs, it was agreed to form a committee to discuss the demands of the Kurdish budget, which we believe is necessary to continue the political process and ensure the rights of [the Kurdistan Region of Iraq].”

On February 5, Parliament resumed its session and Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri reported that the budget was ready for a second reading. Jabouri said that if a quorum was present, the budget would be voted on. Jabouri also disclosed the readiness of Parliament to set a date for local elections.

On February 5, MP for Basra Province, Hassan Khalati said that an agreement had been reached between Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and representatives of the oil-producing provinces on petrodollar allocations. In addition to Kurdish MPs, MPs for oil-producing provinces have had complaints about budgetary allocations. Oil-producing province MPs have been upset by the budget putting the price of oil at US$ 46 per barrel when the global market is approaching US$ 70. Khalati said, “Our real ambition was to have a clear and real number that is included in the budget and that the government is committed to paying.”

On February 5, Kurdish MP in the national Parliament Zana Said claimed that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that its support of the Iraqi government at the upcoming Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq would be contingent upon the allocation of 14 percent of the budget to the KRI. In the initial budget proposal, 12.67 percent had been allocated to the KRI, down from a requested 17 percent.

On February 5, MP for Ninewa Province Abdul Rahim al-Shammari called for budget discussions to be postponed until after the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. He said, “the request to postpone the budget is not to obstruct the government action, but is supportive in terms of planning and work.”

On February 6, Arez Abdullah, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader in the federal Parliament, accused the Iraqi Parliament of holding a meeting about the budget without a quorum and being unwilling to solve the problems with the KRI stemming from the September 2017 referendum on Kurdish independence. Abdullah threatened to go to the Federal Court or the IMF if Iraq did not amend the budget. He said, “we demanded and we will continue to demand the amendment of allocations. The regions and the Sunni areas and the oil-producing provinces or otherwise we will not attend any meetings devoted to discuss the budget.”

On February 6, Kurdish Finance Committee Member Masoud Haider reported that, if the budget were passed in its current form, the IMF would write a negative report for Iraq, preventing the country from receiving loans at the upcoming Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. Haider also asserted that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had unofficially agreed to Kurdish conditions. He said, “the Prime Minister expressed during his last meeting with us his approval of these solutions, but we must hold a technical meeting with the Prime Minister to finalize them in order to send them to the Council of Ministers for a vote and then to Parliament.”

On February 7, MP for the State Law Coalition Abbas al-Bayati released a statement denying Kurdish assertions that the IMF had provided budgetary stipulations on aid at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. He said, “Iraq is a federal state, the IMF and the World Bank deal exclusively with the federal government” and would not make loans contingent upon federal policy. Bayati’s statement came after certain Kurdish MPs claimed that the IMF would only provide loans to Iraq at the upcoming Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq if the Iraqi federal government allocated 14 percent of the budget to the KRI.

On February 7, three Kurdish MPs (Masoud Haider, Sirwan Abdullah Ismail, and Abdullah Ahmed) had their membership in the Iraqi Parliament suspended for 15 days. The suspension, initiated by Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri, was due to “violating the order in the parliamentary session No. (11).” The MPs were attempting to prevent a second reading of the budget law because they believed that a quorum was not present. According to a document obtained by Al-Sumaria, “the sanctions included the cancellation of [the MPs’] statements from the minutes of the session of [Parliament], and suspension of membership for 15 days, and deducted from the days in which [members could be absent for a] legitimate excuse.” The three MPs were also referred to the Committee for Parliamentary Conduct to further investigate the MPs’ disruption and prevention of a budget reading.

On February 8, Kurdish MP in the federal Parliament Hoshyar Abdullah threatened that Kurdish coalitions would boycott Parliament after the suspension of three Kurdish MPs the day before. Abdullah asserted that Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri did not have the authority to suspend MPs. He said, “the arbitrary decision taken is a clear violation of the rules of procedure of [Parliament] and the rules of conduct that have been voted on by [Parliament].” Abdullah also claimed that Jabouri was “trying to cover his failure to provide any service to the displaced and the people who elected him.”

On February 8, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aram Sheikh Mohammed called on Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri to cancel his decision to suspend three Kurdish MPs. Mohammed asserted that rules of Parliament did not allow Jabouri to suspend MPs.


Security Forces Target “White Flags,” ISIS in Hamrin Mountain Region

On February 3, the Deputy Commander of Joint Operations Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah expressed the intention of the armed forces to carry out a joint operation with the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga to target the “White Flags” organization. Yarallah said they will conduct military operations in eastern Kirkuk Province coordinating with the Peshmerga, with the purpose of eliminating this threat, maintaining security in eastern Kirkuk, and ensuring the safe return of displaced residents.The “White Flags” is a Kurdish militant group, ostensibly affiliated with ISIS, primarily active in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, 170 kilometers north of Baghdad in Kirkuk Province. Tuz Khurmatu is one of the disputed areas between Baghdad and and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), where the KRG had resumed control after the withdrawal of the Iraqi Army in the summer of 2014. The group emerged more prominently in the past few months, after the Iraqi forces supported Iran-backed Shia Popular Mobilization Units in driving Kurdish forces out of 95% of the disputed areas and reestablished the 2003-constitutionally agreed border of the Kurdish region. The KRG has denied any sort of affiliation with the White Flags and a Kurdish official told Reuters that the KRG has “strictly no relations whatsoever” with the group.

On February 6, Shakhawan Abdullah, member of Parliament’s Security Committee and affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), responded to the comments of the Chairman of the Committee, Hakim al-Zamili, who had accused the “supports of the secession” of supporting the White Flags. Abdullah said “it is the Iraqi government who allowed these groups transit, in front of the eyes of the people, without resistance from the army, popular militias, and the federal police in a political deal. They are responsible for their presence and they tolerate the presence of these forces in the areas located between Tuz Khurmatu and the Hamrin mountains”. He added that they have given full information about this to the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of the Defense. He also pointed out that “the naming of White Flags is just a formalism, and they are [ISIS] remnants from Rashad, Hawija, Tikrit and Mosul, as well as the Kurds of Iran, and among them are foreigners and Arabs of various nationalities.”

On February 7, Iraqi Security Forces announced the launch of military operations to track down ISIS remnants in the eastern part of the disputed Kirkuk Province. The released statement added that “this morning, we launched an operation to clear the mountains and the hills of Salah ad-Din Province, and that the villages of Balkan al-Sadah, Balkan al-Kabra, Balkan al-Salem, Jabal Sheikh and some hills were cleared.” The statement pointed out that the operations aim to eliminate ISIS remnants from the provinces of Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din, and Diyala. On Saturday, the Deputy Commander of Joint Operations, Deputy Chief of Army Staff Operations, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah announced the intention of the armed forces to carry out joint operations with the Peshmerga against the White Flags organization. However, the Secretary General of the Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry, Lieutenant General Jabbar Yawar denied any meeting or coordination with the Ministry of Defense on any military operation.

On February 7, the Peshmerga forces took part in a military operation to track down ISIS remnants in eastern Tuz Khurmatu. An anonymous source said it was decided that the Peshmerga would participate in this operation and added that the Kurdish forces cleared 20 villages east of Tuz Khurmatu. Earlier in the morning, another joint operations took place east of Tuz Khurmatu, where Peshmerga forces coordinated with the Rapid Response Team and the Popular Mobilization Units.

On February 8, CJTF-OIR spokesman, U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon denied having any information about an Iraqi military operation to secure the transport of oil from Kirkuk to Iran. In the early hours on Wednesday, inspections and clearing operations started in eastern Tuz Khurmatu and the media had said the operations aimed to secure the transport of oil by truck from Kirkuk to the refinery in Kermanshah. Dillon said in his press conference that “we have no knowledge of a military operation to secure a pipeline between Iraq and Iran.”


France Will “Intervene” if French Citizen ISIS Members are Sentenced to Death

On January 25, Almada Newspaper revealed the names and identities of the French women who were accused of being affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) after Iraqi Security Forces ousted the militants from Mosul last July. The three women are awaiting trial in Iraq and the French government is concerned that they may face the death penalty. One of the detainees is a 28-year-old woman who left France in 2015 for the “caliphate” traveling over parts of Syria and Iraq along with her husband, who has reportedly been killed. She is being detained with her daughter, who was born after their arrival. “We do not know what the charge is, what the circumstances of her arrest are, and whether she is capable of defending herself,” said the woman’s lawyer, Martin Pradel. He said he had received “no response” from France’s foreign ministry on the case, for which the Red Cross has been his only source of information. Another woman, a 27-year-old named Melina, also left for the region in 2015, and is being held with her child. Three of her older children have been returned to France. On January 21, the Iraqi judiciary sentenced a German woman to death for providing assistance to ISIS. Iraqi authorities have not officially announced the number of alleged terrorists being held.

On January 29, the French Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet announced that Paris “would intervene” if death sentences were imposed against the French citizens who joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The French government said so far it had supported the trial of these French citizens in the countries where they were captured but requested a fair trial. Lawyers for the French women and children who were detained by Kurdish forces in Syria announced that they filed a lawsuit on Wednesday (January 24) requesting the return of the women to France. The lawyers said in a statement that the “Kurdistan Region in Syria has no legal existence and is therefore not a sovereign institution, and these women and children are being held without any right.”

On February 4, the Iraq Supreme Court announced that they would not hand over any Iraqi prisoners to foreign authorities. Foreign authorities have argued that, according to Article 40(c) of the Riyadh Arab Agreement for Judicial Cooperation, which was ratified by Iraq in 1983, extradition is obligatory when “Individuals convicted in presence or in absentia by the courts of the requesting party in case of a detentive penalty of one year or a more severe penalty in respect of acts punishable by the laws of the requested party.” However, in 2015, the Iraq Supreme Court ruled that Article 40(c) was unconstitutional because it violated Article 21 (1) of the Iraqi Constitution which stipulates that “No Iraqi shall be surrendered to foreign entities and authorities.” In the February 4 statement, the Supreme Court announced that they would uphold the 2015 ruling.

On February 4, the Al-Arabiya news network reported that approximately 100 children of German ISIS militants previously based in Iraq will undergo DNA tests as a requirement for their repatriation to Germany. Germany is cooperating with the Iraqi government on carrying out the DNA tests to prove their relation to their German citizen parents. According to The Telegraph, a 14-month-old boy born in Iraq to a German couple captured fighting for the Islamic State has been allowed to return home to live with his grandparents.The boy was captured along with his parents by Iraqi forces last year, and released into the custody of his grandfather last month. The boy, who has not been named under child protection laws, is the first of the so-called “[ISIS] children” to be allowed to return to Germany.

On February 4, The New York Times reported that according to its classified military and intelligence assessments, thousands of ISIS foreign fighters and their family members had escaped the U.S.-led military campaign, and fled south into the Euphrates River Valley toward the border with Iraq. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said in remarks in Washington last week, that “ISIS fighters are fleeing Syria and Iraq. Jihadists are going underground, dispersing to other safe havens…and returning to their home countries.” Of the more than 5,000 Europeans who joined ISIS, as many as 1,500 have returned home, including many women and children, and most of the rest are dead or still fighting, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s top counterterrorism official. The high figure is in part because the Trump administration intensified its focus on preventing fighters from seeping out of Raqqa and Mosul, their former stronghold in Iraq, and more militants fought to the death than expected. Estimates of how many fighters may have escaped into the deserts of Syria or Iraq and beyond are difficult to quantify, but American and other Western intelligence and counterterrorism analysts with access to classified assessments put the number in the low thousands. With regard to the returning foreign fighters, General Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs suggested that it is highly likely that they still remain affiliated with ISIS, “The thought that these foreign fighters who have participated in this fight now for over two years will quietly leave Syria and return to their jobs as shopkeepers in Paris, in Brussels, in Copenhagen, is ludicrous.” The United States military is concerned that a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F) in Afrin, in northern Syria, has worsened the problem. The S.D.F. has been working with the Americans in former ISIS-held areas to interdict fleeing jihadists, but those efforts have been greatly reduced as the Kurds have shifted resources to reinforce Afrin.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
02/08/2018Ramadi19
02/08/2018Taji, 35 kilometers north of Baghdad12
02/07/2018Hosseinia, 33 kilometers northeast of Baghdad03
02/07/2018Madain, 43 kilometers south of Baghdad04
02/07/2018Tuz Khurmatu, 70 kilometers south of Kirkuk03
02/06/2018Madain, 43 kilometers south of Baghdad02
02/06/2018Hawr Rajab, 20 kilometers south of Baghdad12
02/05/2018Al-Shuala, 16 kilometers northwest of Baghdad11
02/05/2018Madain, 43 kilometers south of Baghdad02
02/05/2018Tarmiyah, 56 kilometers north of Baghdad16
02/05/2018Daquq, 58 kilometers south of Kirkuk11
02/04/2018Zayouna, 13 kilometers east of Baghdad01

 

Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.


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