Updates: January 30-February 6, 2015
- Iraq’s Council of Ministers approved two laws that are intended to address Iraqi Sunni grievances. These laws will now have to be approved by the parliament. The parliamentary debate will likely be tense and may be delayed due to disagreement over provisions in the law drafts among the different political groups. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi lifted a 10-year nightly curfew in Baghdad. However, attacks dominated the city and its environs throughout the week.
- Kirkuk was under a serious threat by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On January 30, ISIS attacked Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga positions around Kirkuk. However, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga were able to repel the offensive and reclaim areas that ISIS briefly held during the offensive. This offensive was ISIS’s most serious push since June 2014 and it underlines ISIS’s intention to control or sabotage oil infrastructure in Kirkuk.
- In Samarra, ISIS and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clashed throughout the week. Samarra is home to the al-Askari shrine which ISIS attacked in 2006, triggering Iraq’s 2006-2007 civil war. ISIS is seeking to force the repositioning of ISF resources by attacking Samarra.
- Violence and falling oil prices continue to have an impact on poverty levels in Iraq and service delivery in southern Iraq which is home for many Internally Displaced (IDP) families
- Reports also indicate that child labor is rising due to displacement and lack of sustained governmental support.
Iraq’s Council of Ministers Approve Two Laws and Prime Minister Abadi lifts Nightly Curfew in Baghdad as City Witnesses Sustained Explosions
On February 3, the Council of Minister approved a draft National Guard Law and approved a set of amendments intended to reform the Accountability and Justice Law, also known as the De-Ba’athification Law. The National Guard Law would create locally-based forces to provide security, empowering local political and tribal leaders to handle security for their own areas. Such a move is welcome among many Iraqi Sunni Arabs who blame the country’s army and national police for a pattern of discrimination and human rights violations in their communities. The proposed reforms to the De-Ba’athification Law are also intended to address Iraqi Sunni Arab grievances, however the amendments failed to gain the support of Sunni Ministers who claimed the reforms did not go far enough. Both draft laws require passage by Iraq’s parliament, the Council of Representatives, where deliberations are expected to be tense and protracted due to disagreement over provisions in the draft laws among the different political groups.
On January 30, two bombs exploded in Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharji market. The attack targeted a section that specializes in selling military clothes and resulted in the death of at least 44 people and injury of 70 people. On January 31, one member of the Iraqi Army was killed and three others were injured when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded near their patrol in the Arab Jubur area south of Baghdad. An IED explosion also killed two civilians in the Madain area south of Baghdad. An IED exploded near a tea shop in the Amin area in eastern Baghdad killing two civilians and injuring ten others.
On February 2, an Adhesive Explosive Device (AED) attack killed a Federal Police (FP) major in the Sulaikh area north of Baghdad. The attack also resulted in the injury of the officer’s son and nephew. On February 2, an IED exploded in the Saydiyah area south of Baghdad, killing one person and wounding six others. On February 3rd, an IED exploded in the Khansa village of the Nahrwan area, east of Baghdad. The attack resulted in killing one person and wounding six others, including three women. Another IED attack in the Talibiyah area, east Baghdad resulted in the death of two people and injury of four. On February 4, a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) resulted in the death of three people and injury of ten others near a restaurant in Baghdad’s Karrada area. Subsequent reports indicated that it may have been three simultaneous IEDs exploded in the attack and that it was not a VBIED.
On February 4th, four bodies were found in the Fahama area, north of Baghdad. The victims had been shot and there was evidence of torture. On February 5, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi issued an order to lift the nightly curfew in Baghdad that has in place since 2004. The lifting of the curfew comes as the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) released the casualty number for January. The report stated that 1375 people were killed by violence and that 790 of those killed were civilians. 1469 civilians 771 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) members were wounded. According to the UNAMI figures, Baghdad witnessed most of the casualties with 256 civilians killed and 758 injured.
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga Repel Major ISIS Offensive in Kirkuk
On January 31, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga were able to clear the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) from the Mulla Abdullah village in southern Kirkuk. ISIS was able to take control the village on January 30 when it launched a major offensive. During the same offensive, ISIS also captured the Khabaz oilfield in western Kirkuk and subsequently detained 24 employees of the Kirkuk-based North Oil Company.
On February 1, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces regained control of Khabaz oilfield and freed the 24 employees. However, ISIS set fire to some of the oil wells before it was cleared. On February 2, Iraq’s Minister of Oil Adel Abd al-Mahdi visited Kirkuk and inspected the oil field. Between February 1 and February 3, coalition fighter jets launched airstrikes in support of the Peshmerga operations. On February 2, Kirkuk provincial council member Najat Hussein stated that reinforcements of the Popular Mobilization arrived in Kirkuk in coordination with Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The majority of the Popular Mobilization forces are located on the outskirts of the city.
On February 4th, the Secretary General of the Peshmerga Ministry, Jabar Yawer stated that 999 Peshmerga members have been killed and another 4596 have been wounded in the fight against ISIS since early June 2014. Yawer also stated that the Ministry of Peshmerga is also investigating reported recent social media images of Peshmerga forces dragging ISIS members in the streets. Yawer added that a Peshmerga Ministry memorandum was distributed to all units ordering them to treat prisoners humanely.
Situation Escalates in Samarra
On January 30, two suicide bombers wearing Explosive Vests (SVET) targeted a gathering of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) in Samarra in northern Iraq’s Salah ad-Din province. On February 1, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) clashed with ISIS to clear the road stretching between Thar Thar Lake and Samarra, southwest of Samarra.
On February 2, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) discovered three armored ISIS VBIEDs in the Huwayesh area near Samarra. According to unnamed security sources, the VBIEDs were intended to target the al-Askari Shrine and the Samarra Dam. On February 2, 6 members of the Popular Mobilization forces were killed and another 28 were wounded when a truck VBIED exploded at a checkpoint south of Samarra. This attack was reportedly followed by an ISIS attack on the same location. On February 3, Iraqi Security Forces ISF launched operations to clear ISIS from areas, north of Samarra. On February 5, local security sources stated that ISIS moved chlorine canisters closer to Samarra. According to the source, ISIS likely intends to use them in attacks. On February 4, ISIS “kidnapped” 40 residents in the Sharqat area in northern Salah ad-Din Province. ISIS reportedly “accused” the 40 members of supporting and promoting the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs).
Planning Ministry Report: Ongoing Violence Affecting Economy and Will Likely Raise Poverty Levels
On January 31, the Iraqi Ministry of Planning released a report on poverty levels in Iraq. According to senior Iraqi finance and economic officials, the ongoing violence between the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Iraqi government has had adverse economic effects including in possibly rising poverty levels. This is mostly due to internal displacement within the country. According to Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for economic affairs, Rozh Nouri Shawes, previous governments attempted to alleviate poverty in the country but were challenged by “terrorism and financial waste.”
Child Labor Increasing in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah
On February 1, al-Mada Newspaper reported on the rise of child labor in Sulaimaniyah city in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to the report, child labor includes native people of Sulaimaniyah and has increase recently with the arrival of Internally Displaced Persons. According to the report, a majority of the children work in the Sulaimaniyah market district where they sell bags, candy, and shoe-shining business. Local rights activist Saman Assad stated that “we observe significant spread in child labor in the region particularly after the [arrival] of thousands of Arab families to the region’s cities.” Mohammed Hama Salih, the head of the social affairs office in the province stated that there are not many solutions to child labor. But that according to Social Safety law, the government can offer a working child $120 and in return the child will have promise not to return work.
Karbala Health Services Suffering and IDP Housing Crisis in Babil
On February 2, the Karbala Health Department announced that in light of the current budget crises and the austere 2015 budget prediction, over thirty anonymous doctors have agreed to donate time, money, and personal supplies to support the city and its residents. Furthermore, these doctors will begin exploring the potential to do field treatments far from the city center, where many displaced families live in squalor. On February 4, Riyadh Aday, the Chairman of the Migration Committee in Babil province in south central implored the federal government to release the funds allocated for the construction of IDP housing near Babil’s capital of Hillah. The project is supposed to be built in the Wardiyah area, south of Hilla. Aday added that there are 11,000 registered IDP families and that some areas in Babil refuse to receive IDPs due to lack of housing.
Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center. He would like to thank EPIC interns Alec Lynde and Jonathan Fredrickson for their contributions to the research.