ISHM 41: December 3 – 10, 2015

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ISHM_Logo_2016Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Ramadi cleared al-Matheeq area to the east of the city, and al-Tamim, 8th Shbat, and al-Qadisiyah neighborhoods to the south, of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). ISF forces were also successful in clearing al-Qassim bridge and the Anbar Operations Command Headquarters of ISIS.
  • Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and President Fuad Masum denounced the presence of 150 Turkish troops, and over 20 tanks, in Ninewa province. While Turkey claimed that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) granted them permission to enter the province, the KRG denied these allegations. It is important to monitor these developments and evaluate how the central government in Iraq is going to respond.
  • Officials are preparing for 15,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to areas that have been cleared of ISIS in Ramadi. On the other hand, however, the Parliamentary Committee on Migration and Displacement announced a new wave of nearly 380,000 displaced families who are fleeing violence in Anbar and seeking refuge in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
  • Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Planning, warned that poverty in Iraq has increased from 13% in 2013 to 22.5% in 2014, in reference to the worsening economic conditions in the country. Al-Hindawi noted that this is due to security conditions and the fight against ISIS, as well as the plummeting price of oil.
  • Germany pledged 70 million euros to help reconstruct areas that have been cleared of ISIS. On the other hand, Sweden is providing 4 million dollars in assistance to IDPs as well as improving the humanitarian conditions of areas cleared of ISIS. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the U.S. State Department have partnered to distribute 17,000 barrels of fuel to IDPs and refugees across Iraq to use for kerosene heaters during the winter.

ISF Makes Significant Progress in Ramadi, Encircles City Center

On December 4, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) units made progress in several areas in Ramadi. ISF units cleared the al-Matheeq area to the east of the city, while in the south, they reportedly seized control of al-Tamim, 8 Shbat, and al-Qadisiyah neighborhoods.

On December 8, ISF’s 8th and 16th brigades managed to clear the al-Qassim bridge, to the south of Ramadi, of ISIS, opening up the road between the areas of Humera and the Tamim neighborhood. To the north of the city, the ISF reportedly seized control of the Anbar Operations Command Headquarters, a fortified building that had been one of the major holdouts north of the city.

On December 9, 200 U.S. special forces troops reportedly arrived at al-Assad Airbase in central Anbar. It is alleged that the U.S. troops are to help the ISF forces in fighting ISIS throughout the western part of Anbar. In response to news reports, the U.S. Embassy stated, on Thursday, December 10, that while “the United States supports deployments of US military inside Iraq [under] the explicit consent of the Iraqi government….reports that claim the arrival of 200 members of the US combat troops to Assad air base [is] simply unfounded.”

Turkish Troops in Kurdistan Cause Crisis

On December 5, President Fuad Masum denounced the entry of 150 Turkish troops and 20-25 Turkish tanks into Ninewa province, calling it a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. Masum urged Turkey to “withdraw its military force from Iraqi territory” and threatened to “take actions in accordance with the international laws and norms” if Turkey refused. It has been alleged that Turkish troops entered Iraq with the consent of the Peshmerga and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). However, according to Muhsin al-Sadoun of the Kurdistan Alliance, “the [KRG] had nothing to do with the entry of Turkish troops to the city of Mosul” and that “such force existed originally and has a base area [in] Amerli northern Iraq, according to an agreement between Turkey and the regime of Saddam Hussein.” al-Sadoun also noted that “the Turkish force that went to Mosul, were not a fighting force” and its “mission was to deliver equipment and technicians.”

On December 7, Prime Minister al-Abadi stated, in a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “the importance of stopping the smuggling of oil by” ISIS, the majority of which is smuggled through Turkey. PM al-Abadi also denounced the entry of turkish troops into Iraq, calling it “unacceptable and…without the knowledge or consent of the Iraqi government.”

On December 7, a Turkish official announced that “Ankara does not intend to withdraw its troops from Iraq, despite the 48-hour deadline set by the Iraqi authorities to do so.”

On December 8, Ghaleb Zamili of the Baghdad Provincial Council declared a “boycott of Turkish products in protest against the Turkish intervention in Iraq.” According to Zamili, “the Council also voted on a resolution to stop all projects undertaken by Turkish companies in Baghdad” until they agree to withdraw from Iraq.

On December 10, Niazi M’maar Oghlu of the Parliamentary Commission on Security and Defense reported that Farouk Kaymakci, the Turkish Ambassador to Iraq, has voiced “his country’s readiness to withdraw its troops from Iraq” if the Iraqi government agrees to protect the Turkish troops stationed in the town of Bashiqa near Mosul. Turkey’s Intelligence Director and Undersecretary to the Foreign Minister are scheduled to visit Baghdad to discuss avenues for a Turkish withdraw as well as “the incursion of US forces in Iraqi territory.”

Economy in Iraq Continues to Suffer as Government Steps up General Aid

On December 8, Abdul-Zahra al-Hindawi of the Ministry of Planning reported a rise in poverty in Iraq since 2013, stating that “the poverty rate in 2013 was 13% and increased in 2014 to 22.5%.” This rise is attributed to the country’s decreasing “security and economic conditions.” Al-Hindawi also confirmed that poverty levels are rising the most in areas occupied by ISIS. However, it is important to note that Anbar, Salah ad-Din, Mosul, Diyala, and Kirkuk have also experienced an increase in the poverty level.

On December 9, the Information Office of the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the allocation of 250 billion dinars of urgent financial assistance to the province of Basra.

On December 6, President of the Wasit Provincial Council Zamili Mazen reported the distribution of 6.78 million dinars to more than 2,500 families of the wounded and the martyrs of the ISF and PMU.

The Latest Updates on the Displacement Crisis in Iraq

On December 9, Amal al-Fahdawi of the Anbar Provincial Council stated that the province is preparing for the return of 15,000 displaced families to areas of Ramadi cleared of ISIS. The local government, in coordination with the ISF, has “ensured the lifting of all improvised explosive devices from the main roads and dismantling booby-trapped houses.”

On December 3, the Parliamentary Committee on Migration and Displacement announced a new wave of displacement as civilians from Anbar province are migrating to Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Committee Member Liqa Wardi claimed, “the number of IDP families registered with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration amounted to 380,000, there are other families not registered.” According to Wadi, “the Finance Committee called for the allocation of 3 trillion dinars for the displaced” and for the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, which is suffering from a lack of staffing.

On December 5, Badi al-Kheon, Mayor of the al-Jibayish district, confirmed that 135 families were displaced due to drought and poor water resources in Dhi Qar. The mayor stressed that the Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for the water crisis, “poor water management by the ministry was one of the main reasons to aggravate the suffering of the population of the marshes.” al-Kheon is calling on the Moqtada al-Sadr to put pressure on Minister of Water Resources Mohsen al-Shammari to help the province.

On December 4, the Municipal Council in Khanaqin stated that it is addressing 90% of the repercussions of the IDP crisis, without government support. President of the Council of Khanaqin Samir Mohammed Noor confirmed, “the number of displaced people in the judiciary exceeded 50% of the number of indigenous people.” Khanaqin has received tens of thousands of displaced people after the June events in Diyala.

On December 5, Member of Parliament Khaled Mafraji stated that the Ministry of Migration and Displacement will “allocate part of [its] budget to the University of Kirkuk” in support of displaced students.

The International Community Steps up Assistance Efforts

On December 7, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, during a joint conference between him and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim al-Jaafari, stated that the German Parliament has decided to give 70 million euros of humanitarian aid to the areas cleared of ISIS, “in addition to its assistance through the United Nations.” The German parliament has also agreed to train and arm security forces in northern Iraq, ”provide fuel jets to help in the aerial campaign, and protect French aircraft carrier stationed in the Mediterranean.”

On December 8, Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced that Sweden is providing 4 million dollars of humanitarian aid to the areas cleared of ISIS “to improve the conditions and the normalization of life.”

On December 8, the Iraq Mission of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) reported the distribution of 17,000 barrels of fuel (200 litres of fuel/barrel) to Syrian refugees, displaced Iraqis, and other vulnerable host community families to use in kerosene heaters during the winter season. The project, funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in the US State Department, has distributed fuel to families in Dahuk, Erbil, and Sulaimania to-date. The project is scheduled to span from mid-November to mid-December.