ISHM: October 6 – 12, 2017


Key Takeaways:

  • Hawija Declared Cleared of ISIS as Most Militants Surrender to Peshmerga – On October 5, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the “liberation of the city of Hawija” from ISIS militants, adding that ISIS’s presence in Iraq is now limited to the Syrian border area in western Anbar. The Pentagon characterized Iraqi Security Force operations in Hawija as “swift and decisive,” and reported the capture of over one thousand ISIS militants. Most suspected ISIS affiliates surrendered to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces north of the city, fearful of extrajudicial killings by Shia Popular Mobilization Units who approached the city from the south. The International Organization for Migration reported more than 33 thousand displacements during the operations. ISIS held Hawija since 2014 and reportedly carried out some of the militant group’s most traumatizing atrocities there. more…
  • Dialogue Pushed as Next Steps in Easing Erbil-Baghdad Tensions – The Kurdistan Regional Government offered to negotiate with Iraqi federal officials on the status of airports, border-crossings, and banks in the Kurdish region, but a spokesperson for the Iraqi government in Baghdad said that negotiations can only take place if the KRG recognizes federal authority “over all of Iraq’s territory.” Out of retribution for a recent referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq, the federal government has suspended most direct international flights to airports in the Kurdistan region, halted currency exchange with Kurdish banks, and has insisted on control of border-crossings between the Kurdish region and Turkey and Iran. Responding to allegations by Kurdish officials that Iraqi Security Forces and Shia militias are preparing to attack Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reaffirmed that he will not use force against the Kurdish region, saying “We will not use our army against our people…it is our duty to preserve the unity of the country, implement the constitution, and protect citizens…” Meanwhile, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council ordered the arrest of Kurdish officials in charge of organizing the recent referendum for independence for violating a previous court order which banned the September 25 vote. more…
  • Iran, Turkey Unite in Disdain for Kurdish Independence – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to express his disdain over the recent Kurdish independence referendum, warning Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani of “a lonely stay” in the Kurdish region – a reference to the potential closing of Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish borders and economic isolation. Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildrim announced his intention to hold talks on the future of regional relations with Iraqi Kurdistan, noting that Barzani’s administration “lost its friendship with Turkey and Iran.” Military leaders from Baghdad, Ankara, and Tehran have held talks and coordinated joint military exercises in recent weeks in an attempt to intimidate Kurdish separatist sentiment. more…
  • Diyala Security Situation Remains Tenuous as Focus Shifts – On October 10, Iraqi commander of Tigris Operations Lieutenant General Mozhar al-Azzawi, announced the launch of a large-scale operation to track and clear ISIS militants in the Nada Basin (approximately 45 kilometers northeast of Baquba in Diyala Province). Iraqi Army Units, Air Force, and Popular Mobilization Units are expected to take part in the operations, having recently cleared the nearby Zour Basin. ISIS insurgents in Diyala Province have plagued the region since 2014, especially along the Diyala border with Salah ad-Din Province. more…
  • Schools Reopen in Mosul; HRW Condemns Forced Detentions – NPR published a story this week on the reopening of schools in Mosul and the challenges facing educators whose students received little or no education for nearly three years under ISIS occupation. Nearly half of the Mosul region’s 600 public and private schools were destroyed in the fight against ISIS. On October 5, Human Rights Watch condemned reports that families with suspected ISIS affiliations are being forcibly detained at displacement camps in violation of Iraqi law. Addressing the unmet educational needs of a generation of young Iraqis and deciding how to repatriate ISIS-affiliated families are just some of the many questions posed as Iraq recovers post-ISIS. 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.

Hawija Declared Cleared of ISIS as Most Militants Surrender to Peshmerga

On October 5, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the “liberation of the city of Hawija” from Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), adding that ISIS’s presence in Iraq remains only near the border with Syria. Abadi delivered the announcement during a press conference in Paris, where he was meeting with French President Emmanuel Macaron. The offensive to clear Hawija, in Kirkuk Province, began on September 21, and was completed in three weeks in two “phases.” After the fall of ISIS in Mosul and Tal Afar, Hawija was the last place in Iraq where ISIS had a major stronghold. Their presence still remains in Anbar Province, where Iraqi forces have been conducting operations simultaneously to their offensive in Hawija.

On October 5, a spokesperson for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) stated that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) had a “swift and decisive” victory over the ISIS in Hawija. CJTF–OIR announced that the ISF had captured over 1,000 ISIS militants. In the statement, Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the Inherent Resolve commanding general, said, “Our Iraqi partners fought bravely and professionally against a brutal and determined enemy, safeguarding innocent civilians throughout the entire campaign.” According to CJTF–OIR statistics, ISF cleared more than 160,000 square miles of territory of ISIS militants.

On October 5, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) united to help women and girls inside cleared areas of Hawija. Together, the agencies have deployed five Gender-Based Violence units to camps receiving internally displaced people (IDPs) from Hawija. UNFPA is also operating 35 Reproductive Health facilities for IDPs from Hawija.

On October 6, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that more than 33,000 people were displaced during the recently completed offensive in Hawija. Of these, more than 15,200 Iraqis are still displaced. The rest have returned to their areas of origin. Many of the still displaced people fled to Haj Ali camp. As of October 4, 30,156 individuals were living there.

On October 6, a spokesperson for CJTF–OIR announced that they had conducted 10 airstrikes consisting of 36 engagements in Iraq against ISIS yesterday. These included eight airstrikes in Hawija that engaged three ISIS tactical units as well as destroyed nine vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), four vehicles, three weapons caches, and an ISIS-held building.

On October 6, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Ambassador Brett McGurk, congratulated the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on the liberation of Hawija. However, he noted that “More surprises are on the way.” While ISIS has lost much of the territory it once controlled in Iraq, ISF still need to clear areas in Diyala and Anbar as well as lingering pockets of insurgents in other parts of the country. McGurk’s comment suggests that those plans are already underway.

On October 7, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Rashid Yaarallah declared that the second phase of the Hawija operation had been completed. He said that “the federal police and rapid response units and the third and fourth brigades of the popular mobilization complement their objectives within the second phase and complete their tasks in the liberation of Hawija.” Yaarallah also said that 150 villages had been cleared and 385 ISIS militants killed in the Hawija operation. The ISF also detonated and dismantled 422 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and 95 vehicle-based IEDs.

On October 8, the Federal Police Command reported that five ISIS members were killed and three arrested in Hawija. The Command also seized explosive belts and RPG-7 missiles.

On October 9, the Iraqi Air Force announced that it had located the bodies of two pilots who were killed in Hawija more than a year and a half ago. The two pilots were killed after their aircraft, a Cessna 208 Caravan, was shot down by ISIS fighters shooting a 57mm Anti-Aircraft gun southwest of Kirkuk on March 16, 2016. It is believed that ISIS hid the pilots’ bodies. On Saturday (October 7, 2017), the ISF discovered 10 mass graves of civilians and soldiers in Hawija.

On October 9, an anonymous source reported that after the success of the operation in Anah, Anbar Province, and Hawija, Kirkuk Province, ISIS began to relocate members and supplies to the deserts in west Anbar. That same day, the Iraqi military destroyed a large camp of ISIS militants in Anbar Province. The Air Force bombed the camp, destroying 15 vehicles and three generators.

On October 10, Kurdish Gen. Chawrash Hakim announced that they had captured nearly 1,000 suspected ISIS fighters who had attempted to flee with civilians from Hawija. “Most ISIS militants have surrendered to our forces, but some of them were detained after they tried to sneak in among their families,” said Hakim. “We know them. We have a long list of names. They can’t hide from us.”

Dialogue Pushed as Next Steps in Easing Erbil-Baghdad Tensions

On October 6, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was buried in Sulaimania Province, where he was born and had spent most his life. Accompanied by his wife and son, Talabani’s body arrived at Sulamania’s airport on a plane from Germany. Thousands attended his funeral, including current Iraqi President Fuad Masum and President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani. Talabani’s funeral became political and controversy broke out as it was revealed that Talabani’s body had been covered by the flag of Kurdistan for the burial rather than the flag of Iraq. Several Iraqi deputies left the funeral in protest of the flag of Kurdistan covering the former Iraqi President. One of them, Member of Parliament (MP) Haider Mawla, said that switching the flag was against the protocol of the funeral, and a “stab” to the unity of Iraq. Talabani served as Iraq’s President from 2005 to 2014. He died in Germany on October 3.

On October 7, Iraqi MP of the Turkmen Front, Jassim Mohammed Jaafar, accused former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s wife, Hero, for conspiring with President of the KRG Masoud Barzani to wrap her late husband’s coffin with the flag of Kurdistan instead of an Iraqi flag during his funeral. Jaafar was not the first to accuse Hero Talabani of this. She was also blamed for not doing the funeral ceremony in Baghdad. The Saudi newspaper, “Life,” wrote that the funeral sparked “a new crisis” between Erbil and Baghdad. However, Mullah Bakhtiar, an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) Political Bureau, told the media that omitting the Iraqi flag in the funeral was not intentional and caused a misunderstanding, explaining that the committee in charge of the funeral was not interfered with by the KRG or anybody else. In addition, she mentioned that an Iraqi flag was placed on Talabani’s tomb and during his wake.

On October 7, the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee formed to address repercussions following the Kurdish independence referendum, voted to oust ten Kurdish Members of the Iraqi Parliament who participated in the referendum. Whether the Committee has the authority to do so remains unclear.

On October 7, President of the KRG Masoud Barzani met with Iraqi Vice Presidents Iyad Allawi and Osama Najafi in Sulaimania. They agreed to start dialogue and meetings “between the main political parties in Iraq to calm the situation,” and stressed the need to lift sanctions immediately.

On October 8, Iraqi Vice President Osama Najafi announced that he launched an initiative to “dismantle the crisis” and reach a resolution on the differences between Baghdad and Erbil. Similar initiative were launched previously by Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi and by Iraqi President Fuad Masum.

On October 8, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri met with President of the KRG Masoud Barzani in Erbil. Jabouri’s office stated that the meeting was intended to stop the deterioration of relations between Baghdad and Erbil and to withhold the involvement of regional countries in the referendum crisis. Iraqi MP Haitham al-Jubouri criticized the visit to Erbil, saying it was “disappointing” and gave legitimacy to Barzani.

On September 9, an unknown attacker threw a grenade at the Islamic Dawa Party headquarters in Kirkuk City. The explosion did not cause any damage. The attack is the latest in a series of attacks on headquarters of political parties in Kirkuk and Sulaimania provinces, including attacks against offices of the Turkmen Front and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

On October 9, the Iraqi Parliament held its normal session along with most of the Kurdish Members of Parliament. In the beginning of the session, Speaker of the Parliament Salim al-Jabouri addressed the Members of Parliament in a speech about his meeting with President of the KRG Masoud Barzani the day before and the need to resolve differences between the KRI and the Iraqi federal government. He reminded the Iraqi Parliament that the Kurds are also Iraqi and stressed the opportunity to resolve issues through dialogue.

On October 10, German Ambassador to Iraq, Cyril Nan, met with President of the KRI Masoud Barzani to inform him of Germany’s stance towards the political situation in Iraq, the implications of the referendum, and the importance of Kurdistan for Germany. Nan stated that Erbil and Baghdad should avoid “convulsions” and expressed Germany’s “readiness to help the parties to solve the problems between them.” Previously, on September 5, French President Emmanuel Macaron met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Paris and offered to mediate Iraq’s internal political conflict.

On October 11, the KDP announced that it would withdraw its members’ participation in the Iraqi Parliament if the Iraqi government does not agree to conduct unconditional dialogue with the KRG and stop the policy of punishing the KRI collectively. Further, the KDP criticized the actions of some Iraqi parties and Parliament Members for their actions to punish Kurdish Members, which they claimed is in violation of the Iraqi Constitution.

On October 11, the KRG released a statement in response to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s statement a day earlier, which the KRG interpreted as a threat to attack the KRI. The KRG’s statement concluded, “We say to Mr. Haider Abadi that the problems will not be solved through the siege and collective punishment and cooperation of neighboring countries,” and called for dialogue between the KRG and the Iraqi government.

On October 11, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court responded to the Iraqi Parliament’s request for a Constitutional opinion on whether Parliament can oust Kurdish Members who participated in the recent referendum for Kurdish independence. The Federal Supreme Court responded that it was not within its jurisdiction to give a Constitutional opinion on the matter. Shortly after, the Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad ordered the arrest of officials in charge of overseeing the referendum, on the basis of a complaint filed by the Iraqi National Security Council, headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

On October 11, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near the headquarters of the Turkmen Front in Kirkuk City. No one was harmed. Police have opened an investigation into the incident but the attackers are so-far unknown. The Turkmen Front headquarters in Kirkuk has been subject to several attacks, most recently on October 2.

On October 11, the Iraqi government and the Diyala Province government decided to cut off oil derivatives from four local administrations in Diyala that participated in the referendum for independence in the KRI. The four administrations that were targeted are Khanaqin, Jalawla, Qara Tabbah, and Sadiyah.

On October 12, the KRG offered to conduct dialogue with the Iraqi federal government on the status of the Kurdish airports, border-crossings, and banks. The KRG did not set conditions for dialogue as the KDP did the day before, and they mentioned the need to avoid “collective punishment.” Following the referendum for independence of the KRI, the Iraqi federal government imposed sanctions of the Kurdish regions, including the suspension of international flights. Later on Thursday, the Iraqi government set one condition for dialogue: the KRG must recognize Iraq’s “national sovereignty over all of Iraq’s territory,” a government spokesman reported. He specified, the KRG must recognize the authority of the federal government over foreign traded (including oil exports) and security and protection of the borders (including airports). “These constants are the basis for any dialogue required by the [KRG],” he concluded.

On October 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reaffirmed that he will not use the ISF to wage war against Kurdistan. “We will not use our army against our people…It is our duty to preserve the unity of the country, implement the constitution, protect citizens and national wealth,” Abadi said. His statement responded to claims by Kurdish officials that the ISF and PMUs are preparing to attack Peshmerga forces in southwest Kirkuk and northern Mosul.

On October 12, the headquarters of the Islamic Dawa Party in Kirkuk was attacked by a grenade for the second time this week. No injuries were reported. A similar attack on the headquarters occurred on Monday, October 9. Once again, the police have opened an investigation to identify the perpetrators, who remain unknown.

Iran, Turkey Unite in Disdain for Kurdish Independence

On October 6, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmad Mahjoub, said that the ministry had submitted an official memorandum to Iran and Turkey more than a week ago, requesting that the two countries close their border crossings with the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) until they are managed by the Iraqi federal government. The ministry’s request emphasized suspension of commercial transactions, especially oil.

On October 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani in a speech, warning him of “a lonely stay” in the region and “the end of northern Iraq because of this wrong step.” By “wrong step,” Erdogan was referring to the referendum for independence for the Kurdish Regions of Iraq (KRI), which was held on September 25 despite rejection from Baghdad, Turkey, Iran and other international actors. During his speech, Erdogan accused a “former French foreign minister and a Jewish person” for planning to divide Iraq, along with Barzani. He noted that Turkey is cooperating with Iran and Iraq to monitor developments in the KRI.

On October 8, Iran, Turkey, and Iraq established the first stages of a tripartite military alliance in order to increase regional cooperation in defense and security. The alliance was initiated when Chief of Staff of the Iranian Army, General Mohammad Hussein Baqari, led an Iranian delegation to meet with Turkish leaders last month. After the visit, Baqari’s Iraqi counterpart, Army Chief of Staff General Osman Ghanmi, visited Tehran to discuss Baghdad’s role in the alliance. According to an Iranian news source, the creation of the alliance has been expedited by the Kurdish referendum.

On October 10, Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildirim announced his intention to hold talks with Iraq and Iran soon on the next steps towards the KRI. He noted that “Turkey considers this referendum as non-existent,” and that, because of the referendum, the Kurdish Administration “lost its friendship with Turkey and Iran.”

Diyala Security Situation Remains Tenuous as Focus Shifts

On October 6, Iraqi commander of the Tigris team, Lieutenant General Mozhar al-Azzawi, reported that five people were arrested for terrorism. Azzawi said, “joint security forces carried out, today, raids and searches in different areas of Diyala, resulted in the arrest of five wanted to justice for terrorism.”

On October 7, the head of the security council of Diyala Province, Sadiq al-Husseini announced that the Golden Division of the counterterrorism unit in Diyala had carried out a surprise attack in Muqdadiyah District (35 kilometers northeast of Baquba). The attack killed 10 Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants and destroyed a camp.

On October 7, the Diyala Police disclosed that an operation had destroyed five explosive devices and four vehicles of ISIS. The operation took place between the dam in the province of Diyala and Wadi Jharbaz in Salah ad-Din. That same day, Lieutenant General Mozhar al-Azzawi reported that an ISIS leader had been killed by an airstrike elsewhere in Diyala between the villages of Bodega and Kubaisa (23 kilometers northeast of Baquba).

On October 7, the Diyala police arrested a main financier of ISIS in Baquba. He was captured with 300 million Iraqi dinar (approximately US$ 278,000) in funds that he intended to use to support ISIS.

On October 8, Iraqi commander of Tigris Operations, Lieutenant General Mozhar al-Azzawi, announced the end of Operation Azzur. The operation was intend to track ISIS in the Zour Basin (40 kilometers northeast of Baquba). It culminatined in the death of four ISIS militants and the dismantling of four improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

On October 9, Iraqi Member of Parliament (MP) from Diyala Province, Raad Almas, called on the Interior Ministry to intervene to restore security in Diyala. “There is not a single policeman for three consecutive years,” Almas claimed, referring to Jalawla area, 70 kilometers northeast of Baquba.” The presence of police in Iraq is crucial to the implementation of the law as an executive authority.” Jalawla has been cleared of ISIS militants since the end of 2014.

On October 10, Iraqi commander of the Tigris Operations, Lieutenant General Mozhar al-Azzawi, announced the launch of a large-scale military operation to track ISIS fighters in the Nada Basin (45 kilometers northeast of Baquba), in Diyala Province. The Iraqi Army, Iraqi Air Force, and PMUs will take part in the operations. Two days prior, the Tigris Operations completed clearing the nearby Zour Basin (40 kilometers northeast of Baquba).

Schools Reopen in Mosul; HRW Condemns Forced Detentions

On October 5, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released an update on the humanitarian situation in Mosul. According to UNHCR, no new displacements from recently cleared areas in Ninewa Province have been reported. However, many families from western Mosul who were displaced to eastern Mosul during the operations there are now being displaced a second time as they run out of financial resources. Many of these families have been forcibly evicted from their homes by the Iraqi Security Forces for being unable to pay their bills.

On October 5, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) announced that the Iraq Internally Displaced Person Information Centre (Iraq IIC), a free hotline for displaced Iraqis, has handled its 100,000th call. The Iraq IIC is a toll-free, confidential hotline that provides Iraqis in hard-to-reach areas information about humanitarian assistance or the ability to report human rights violations.

On October 5, Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared that families of Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) affiliates are being held by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at displacement camps, without freedom to travel. According to Human Rights Watch, this forced detention of ISIS affiliated families violates Iraqi law. Allegedly, the ISF have been forcing aid workers at these camps to provide lists of ISIS affiliated families so that the ISF can “keep an eye on them.” In Anbar Province, some ISIS affiliated families were denied security clearances to return home and are being held indefinitely in the displacement camps.

On October 7, UNHCR released a flash update on the situation in Iraq. It predicted that an additional 50,000 people will be displaced in Iraq in the coming months. However, over 3,500 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps managed by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) have already returned to their areas of origin in Mosul and surrounding areas. In this update, UNHCR also announced that only 34 percent of the US$ 578 million requested to help IDPs in Iraq has been funded.

On October 8, the Directorate of Military Intelligence found 1,600 mortar rounds in the basement of a building in Mosul. The Directorate moved the rounds to a “competent authority.”

On October 9, the Qatar Red Crescent Society, in cooperation with IOM, reported to have provided healthcare for 10,000 Iraqis at a field hospital in Hamam al-Alil near Mosul. The hospital has a capacity of 45 beds, two operating rooms, an intensive care unit, an X-ray unit, and many other services. In total, the hospital performed 548 surgeries and 4,500 pathological tests.

On October 9, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society reported that they distributed more than 1,900 food parcels for families in Mosul. The aid came after the Iraqi Red Crescent Society had conducted an assessment of the numbers of families and their need, and also included psychosocial support.

On October 9, National Public Radio (NPR) published a story about Mosul’s children returning to school for the first time in three years. During ISIS’s control, the only schooling available to Mosul’s children were ISIS-run, which focused on religion and weapons training. To try to counteract the effects of the missed schooling, the Iraqi government has been offering make-up classes and placement exams to try to place children into the correct grade levels. According to a similar report from Theirworld, half of the 600 schools in Mosul were destroyed in the fight against ISIS.

On October 10, a French priest, Patrick Desbois, provided information about his organization, Yahad In-Unum. The organization seeks to help “reclaim” Yazidis by providing counseling and training to women and children who had been captured by ISIS. Every two months, 25 Yazidi women are taught to sew while receiving counseling so that they can rejoin society. So far, the organization has helped 125 Yazidi women.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

10/12/17Malef area, south Baghdad02
10/12/17Rural area, north of Baghdad10
10/11/17Hit (70 km west of Ramadi), Anbar Province1015
10/11/17Baghdad Road, central Kirkuk00
10/10/17Hor Rajab, south of Baghdad, Babylon Province13
10/10/17Nada Basin (50 km east of Baquba), Diyala Province00
10/10/17Kassara, west of Hit (70 km west of Ramadi), Anbar Province00
10/10/17Dora area, south of Baghdad02
10/08/17Sharqat, Salah ad-Din Province11
10/07/17Dora, south of Baghdad10
10/06/17Diyala Bridge area, Baghdad Province02
10/06/17Army headquarters, 35 km west of Ramadi, Anbar Province00


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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