ISHM: December 8 – 14, 2017

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Key Takeaways:

  • Abadi Declares “End of War Against ISIS” – On December 9, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that Iraqi Security Forces “fully control the Iraqi-Syrian border, and thus we can announce the end of the war against [ISIS].” He continued, “Unity is our weapon, and we must adhere to this unity and strengthen it with all possible [resolve].” The announcement followed several days of security operations in remote portions of Anbar Province, as well as operations in Salah ad-Din and Ninewa Provinces, aimed at capturing or killing remaining ISIS militants. Abadi’s remarks were heavily criticized by Kurdish political parties for not specifically giving credit to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga. Abadi issued revised remarks that mentioned the Peshmerga a few days later. U.S. Army Lt. General Paul E. Funk II, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve congratulated Iraq, but warned that “much work remains, and we will continue to work by, with and through our Iraqi partners to ensure the enduring defeat of [ISIS] and prevent its ability to threaten civilization, regionally and globally.” On December 11, influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered Popular Mobilization Units associated with his leadership, including the Peace Brigades, to hand over all of their weapons to the Iraqi government and disband within 45 days. Sadr urged the Iraqi government to find jobs for those militia members as soon as possible. more…
  • WSJ: Lack of Aid Funding Could Lead to Resurgence of ISIS – The Wall Street Journal reported that insufficient reconstruction aid poses a threat to a resurgence of ISIS militants in areas recently cleared in Iraq. UN officials have said that an additional US$ 300 million is needed beyond the US$ 770 million already pledged by members of the U.S.-led international coalition and UNOCHA reports that the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan is 83 percent funded as of December 8. Thomas Staal, Counselor for USAID, reported that despite proposed cuts to aid funding by U.S. President Donald Trump, humanitarian aid to Iraq would actually increase, particularly for ISIS victims. A pledging conference for international donors to support Iraq is planned for early 2018 in Kuwait. more…
  • KRG Continues Push for Dialogue with Baghdad – Iraqi President Fuad Masum met this week with Vice Presidents Nouri al-Maliki and Iyad Allawi, as well as with Deputy Speaker of Parliament Sheik Humam Hamoudi, to discuss a resolution to the ongoing dispute between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the federal government in Baghdad. On December 12, 77 Iraqi civil society organizations signed on to a memorandum calling on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to lift the international flight ban to and from the Kurdistan Region, imposed in the weeks after the September 25 referendum on Kurdistan’s independence held against the wishes of the federal government. The Kurdistan Regional Government has also pressed for dialogue, which continues to be stonewalled by Abadi. more…
  • Erdogan Organizes Meeting in Response to Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem – On December 13, leaders of majority Muslim countries met in Turkey at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial announcement that the United States would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari headed the Iraqi delegation. 22 heads of state were in attendance at the meeting and 23 other nations sent lower-level delegations. more…
  • UN Concludes Oil-for-Food Program – On December 8, the UN Security Council concluded that all provisions of the Iraqi oil-for-food program had been met, including the final transfer of funds (US$ 14.3 million) from the program’s escrow account to the Iraqi government. The oil-for-food program began in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell its oil in exchange for humanitarian goods for civilians and prevent the regime of Saddam Hussein from enhancing its military. The program was plagued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement and was unofficially terminated following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. 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.


Abadi Declares “End of War Against ISIS”

On December 8, an anonymous source reported that a large coalition of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) had mobilized to clear the desert in Anbar, Salah ad-Din, and Ninewa Provinces of remaining Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants. Major General Abdul Amir Rashid Yaarallah confirmed that a large-scale operation was underway. Earlier that day, a Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) had also reported the operation.

On December 8, Major General Abdul Amir Rashid Yaarallah disclosed that ten villages had been cleared of ISIS militants. Yaarallah listed the areas cleared as Um Al-Azam, Kuwait, Sakhirat and Bir, Al-Muharasin, Wadi al-Taweel, al-Kharar, Abu Hayat, al-Qaydain, Srib, and al-Basala. Later that day, Yaarallah announced the clearance of 35 villages and 4300 square kilometers.

On December 9, a statement for the PMUs announced the completion of the military operations begun the day before as well as control of the Iraqi-Syrian border. Later that day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed the PMU statement.

On December 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared, “Our forces fully control the Iraqi-Syrian border, and thus we can announce the end of the war against Daesh.” In terms of territorial control, the Iraqi-Syrian border concluded the ISF’s efforts to clear ISIS. However, Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, estimated that there were still 20,000 hardcore ISIS supporters in Iraq hidden mixed in with Iraq’s many IDPs, especially in remote western areas. “Unity is our weapon,” Abadi exclaimed in his victory speech, “and we must adhere to this unity and strengthen it with all possible [resolve].” He stated that Iraq’s future goal was to reconstruct the “liberated cities,” and he called on politicians to “refrain from returning to [the] inflammatory and sectarian discourse,” which, he explained, led to the rise of ISIS. “Our people have paid dearly for their security…Millions of families have suffered the hardships of displacement…we must turn this page forever.”

One December 9, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki shared his congratulations on the victory over ISIS, first giving credit to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the PMUs (whose creation was heavily influenced by Sistani’s Fatwa in June 2014). In addition, Maliki credited the Iraqi Armed Forces, Federal Police, Air Force, and all of the citizens and political forces that supported the effort. He said, “our victory in Iraq had a positive reflection on All fronts facing terrorism, especially in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt…We thank all the countries that have stood up against terrorism and thank the government and the security ministries that have borne the consequences of jihad against terrorists.” Maliki called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to “maintain this victory” through reconstruction efforts, returning displaced persons, caring for those whose family members died in the war, and achieving political consensus.

On December 9, Iraqi President Fuad Masum congratulated the Iraqi people for the “complete and final victory” over ISIS. Masum praised the “bravery and sacrifice” of units that participated in the fight against ISIS; he named many such units in his remarks: the Army units; police and security forces; the Peshmerga forces; the PMUs; the Airforce and Army Aviation; the armed engineering, medical, and logistical support; volunteers; “and all citizens who contributed in any way to achieve this eternal victory.” Additionally, Masum thanked international organizations that supported Iraq, including the U.S.-led international coalition, the United Nations, and international humanitarian organizations. Looking ahead, Masum stressed the need to achieve “a dignified return for all displaced people,” implement reconstruction plans in liberated areas, increase the much-needed attention to bereaved families, and continue combating “terrorist ideas” to prevent the return of ISIS.

On December 9, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for not giving the Peshmerga forces credit during his speech declaring victory over ISIS. The statement that the Ministry issued said, “[Abadi] congratulated all Iraqi armed forces without mentioning the name of the Peshmerga and its role in any way.” The Ministry asserted that Abadi marginalized the role of the Peshmerga forces, without which ISIS would have controlled a much larger area of Iraq.

On December 9, the United States (U.S.) Department of State issued a statement applauding the Iraqi Government’s victory over ISIS in Iraq. “The Iraqi announcement signals the last remnants of ISIS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Iraq have been erased and the people living in those areas have been freed from ISIS’s brutal control,” the statement read. It also recognized that the fight against ISIS was not over in other places worldwide. The statement said that the U.S. was proud to support the fight against ISIS through the U.S.-led international coalition, and to help meet Iraq’s humanitarian needs through nearly US$ 1.7 billion since 2014. It concluded, “Working ‘by, with, and through’ the Government of Iraq, we will continue to help our displaced Iraqi friends return to their communities and support them as they begin to reestablish their lives.”

On December 10, the U.S.-led international coalition congratulated Iraq on its defeat of ISIS. Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “Much work remains, and we will continue to work by, with and through our Iraqi partners to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh and prevent its ability to threaten civilization, regionally and globally.”

On December 10, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, Jan Kubis, congratulated Iraq for completely clearing its territory of ISIS militants. Kubis said, “This historic victory over Daesh, came at a very high cost, the result of years of sacrifices. It would not have been possible without the people’s unity that is equally essential in the post-Daesh period.” Kubis commended the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Peshmerga, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for their work in protecting citizens. He concluded his statement by saying, “I am certain with the concerted efforts of Iraq’s leaders, political forces and its people of all ethnic and religious groups and their patriotism, assisted by the continued support of the international community, the Iraqis will be able to weather also these post-Daesh challenges and build a better future, a common destiny for all in a united, democratic and federal country.”

On December 10, five major Kurdish political parties, namely the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Gorran, Islamic Union, and Islamic Group, jointly criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s failure to give credit to the Peshmerga forces during his declaration of victory over ISIS. They called for a correction and apology from the Prime Minister. The parties said, “We have listened attentively to Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi as he reads a speech on behalf of us all and to celebrate the victory of all Iraqis against the gangs of terrorism and crime…Today we are again shocked by the behavior of the Prime Minister. He mentions all aspects of the Iraqi security system, except for the Peshmerga forces, which are part of the Ministry of Defense system, which is a public disregard for the sacrifices of tens of thousands of martyrs, wounded, prisoners and victims of the Peshmerga.” They noted that the Peshmerga forces fought “to defend all Iraqis” and that they “filled the vacuum” when the ISF retreated when ISIS first rose.

On December 11, the KRG Presidency issued a statement to the press on behalf of the KRG Council of Ministers congratulating Kurds and Iraqis on the victory over ISIS in Iraq. The statement credited the Peshmerga forces, the people of Kurdistan, the Iraqi people, and the Iraqi Armed forces, and it praised the role of the U.S.-led international coalition. The statement emphasised the role of the Peshmerga, noting that they were the first force to defeat ISIS.

On December 11, influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr directed the PMU in his leadership, the Peace Brigades, to hand over all the weapons in their position to the state as soon as possible, and no later than 45 days from his announcement, with one exception: Samarra. The Peace Brigades in Samarra could keep their arms for now, according to Sadr. Samarra is home to al-Askari Shrine, one of the most important Shia shrines in the world. The shrine was attacked and damaged twice by al-Qaeda affiliates in 2006 and 2007.

On December 12, Spokesperson of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office, Saad al-Hadithi, explained that Abadi neglected to give credit to the Peshmerga forces during his victory over ISIS speech because of an “unintended typographical error.” Hadithi pointed to an amended version of Abadi’s December 9 remarks, which include credit to the Peshmerga and are available in Arabic, Kurdish, and English. These remarks appeared on Abadi’s public Facebook Page. Abadi’s post stated, “I salute all the victors: our heroic forces of the army, the police, the security services, the popular crowd, the anti-terrorist apparatus, the air force, the air force, the peshmerga forces and all the types and formations of our armed forces, engineering, medical and logistical support and supporters of clans and citizens in liberated areas who cooperated with their army.”


WSJ: Lack of Aid Funding Could Lead to Resurgence of ISIS

On December 8, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a humanitarian bulletin on Iraq. The bulletin discussed the earthquake in November, displacements in Anbar, involuntary returns, and impediments to humanitarian access. OCHA also provided an update on the funding for the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan. As of December 8, the plan was 83 percent funded, with a shortfall of US$ 163 million. A new plan for 2018 will be drafted and released later this month.

On December 10, the Government of Germany donated EU€ 30 million (US$ 34.8 million) to the Iraq Humanitarian Fund. This donation brings Germany’s total contribution to US$ 45.7 million. Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said, “More than 125 projects targeting 4.2 million Iraqis in nine governorates have received funding through the IHF in 2017 alone.”

On December 10, Thomas Staal, the Counselor of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), reported that, despite a budget cut by U.S. President Donald Trump, humanitarian aid to Iraq would actually increase, particularly for ISIS victims. Thus far, the U.S. has provided around US$ 1.7 billion in aid to Iraq.  

On December 10, The New York Times published a report on reconstruction in Mosul. According to the United Nations (UN), 600,000 people were displaced, 60,000 homes were uninhabitable, and 20,000 commercial and government buildings were destroyed. “Mosul is a tale of two cities,” said Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. “In east Mosul, more than 95 percent of people are home. On the west side, it’s a completely different picture. Yet people are rolling up their sleeves and determined to get their lives back.” Mosul residents have been pitching in wherever possible to rebuild their city. Mosul University has reopened and Al Khansaa hospital has been delivering four babies a day. A surgeon at Al Khansaa said, “We lived through decades where people did not trust each other in Iraq…That’s the truth and a big challenge facing us now. But somehow, now it’s different. People really are motivated to help one another.”

On December 12, Reuters published a report about water shortages in Iraq. Construction of dams in Turkey and Iran, as well as damage to Iraqi dams, has made Iraq’s water supply fall by about 40 percent. The water shortage has lead to demonstrations and anger by farmers who were unable to plant their winter crop. According to Reuters, climate change has also played a significant role and is causing security threats around the world. Some groups, including the U.S. military have already begun to examine the international security implications of climate change. Sherri Goodman, a senior adviser for international security at the U.S. Center for Climate and Security, said, “There’s a willingness now to understand how these trends – water scarcity, changing climate factors, energy resources – are affecting our broader national security and geopolitical situation.”

On December 12, The Wall Street Journal reported that insufficient reconstruction aid could lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in areas recently retaken. UN officials have said that an additional US$ 300 million is needed beyond the US$ 770 million already pledged by members of the U.S.-led international coalition. The detriments from lack of funding were previously reported on in ISHM.


KRG Continues Push for Dialogue with Baghdad

On December 8, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met with Sheik Humam Hamoudi, President of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, to discuss the crisis between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi Federal Government. According to Hamoudi’s office, Hamoudi stressed the need for the Iraqi Federal Government to abide by the Iraqi Constitution in a timely manner regarding control over the airports and border crossings in the KRI. Delays were “not in favor of a settlement,” he said. Both politicians agreed on the need to stop the tensions between the KRG and the Iraqi Federal Government by conducting “serious dialogues,” based on the Iraqi Constitution.

On December 8, the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs critiqued comments made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on December 6. The statement by the Ministry stated that Abadi considered the “attacks” and “occupation” of Kirkuk City and other disputed territories carried out on October 16 by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) as “great victories” and compared them to the victories against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Ministry expressed “deep regret” that Abadi compared the victories over ISIS to “the attack on the citizens of his country.”  They also noted the important role the Peshmerga forces undertook in the fight against ISIS. Furthermore, the Ministry stated that while Abadi was “proudly boasting” at the victories, “everyone” was waiting for Abadi to engage in dialogue between the KRG and the Federal Government.

On December 8, a statement by the KRG Parliament criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s December 6 remarks. The Parliament’s statement called Abadi’s remarks “irresponsible” and argued that the use of military force on October 16 was in violation of Article 9 of the Iraqi Constitution, which prohibits the use of military force against Iraqi citizens. The KRG Presidency exclaimed that “such statements pose a threat to the future of Iraq as a civilian and democratic country…Dialogue is the only way to end all problems.”

On December 11, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met with Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi to discuss how to resolve the Erbil-Baghdad crisis. According to Masum’s office, the danger of leaving the issue unresolved was expressed in the meeting. Masum and Allawi called for dialogue between the KRG and the Iraqi Federal Government, with the intent of reaching agreements that would provide solutions to “all outstanding problems between the two sides in a way that promotes mutual support and national brotherhood.” Additionally, they stressed the need to increase cooperation between the different factions in Kirkuk to address the province’s administrative, security and economic issues. “there is no solution to the differences except dialogue,” the statement from Masum’s office concluded.

On December 11, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s Security Council Masrour Barzani met with German Ambassador to Iraq Cyrill Nunn. According to Bazani’s office, Nunn stressed the “the need to solve the problems between Baghdad and Erbil in accordance with the Constitution,” and promised that “Germany will intensify its efforts to start dialogue between the two sides.” Barzani stated that Baghdad was threatening stability in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) because it had been evading dialogue and was “still trying to resolve problems through military methods.” He stressed “the desire of the Kurdistan region to conduct dialogue with Baghdad as soon as possible and [to lift] the embargo on the region.”

On December 12, 77 Iraqi civil society organizations signed a memorandum calling on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to lift the aviation ban on the KRI. “The ban on aviation has negatively affected our humanitarian activities in providing services to thousands of displaced and refugees in the Kurdistan Region,” the memorandum stated. It asked Abadi to promote the restoration of good relations between Iraqis in the KRI and those in the rest of Iraq, and to do so by enabling dialogue.

On December 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke on the phone with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and invited him to visit her in London. According to a Downing Street spokesperson, May reiterated the United Kingdom’s (UK) respect of Iraq’s territorial integrity, and that the “UK would continue to fight to protect the identity and rights of the Kurdish people under the Iraqi constitution.” May and Barzani agreed that dialogue between the KRG and the Iraqi Federal Government was important in order to resolve issues such as border control and resumption of international flights to and from the KRI. They also agreed on continued cooperation on counter-terrorism “to keep the people of both Kurdistan and the UK safe.” May’s invitation presented Barzani with an opportunity to meet with a second head of a globally influential state since he assumed leadership over the KRG after the resignation of his uncle, Masoud Barzani.

On December 13, Iraqi President Fuad Masum met with Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi and Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki to discuss political and security developments, the elections, and the budget. The meeting called for the immediate start of dialogue, sponsored by the Office of the Iraqi President, based on the Iraqi Constitution and Federal Court rulings (and with technical support from the United Nations) between the Iraqi Federal Government and the KRG in order to normalize relations between them. It also called on all components of Kirkuk to convene urgently to discuss “normalizing the conditions of the province in a way that guarantees the rights of all citizens.”


Erdogan Organizes Meeting in Response to Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem

On December 8, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri received an official invitation from the Chairman of the Council of the Arab Parliamentary Union (also Speaker of the Moroccan House of Representatives) Habib al-Maliki to attend a summit of the heads of Arab Parliaments in a special session of the Arab Parliamentary Union regarding the status of Jerusalem. Two days earlier, United States (U.S.) President Donald Trump stated that the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — an announcement that has drawn opposition from many Arab leaders around the world.

On December 12, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry reported that Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari would be heading the Iraqi delegation attending an Organization of Islamic Cooperation Summit in Istanbul the next day. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initiated the summit to discuss U.S. President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem.

On December 13, leaders of majority Muslim countries met in Turkey to discuss U.S. President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem. The leaders deemed Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital unlawful and, in the words of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, a “crime.” At the beginning of the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared, “I am inviting the countries who value international law and fairness to recognize occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.” There were 22 heads of state in attendance, and 23 other countries sent lower-level delegations. Abbas also stated that “We are here today to say together and in clear language: Jerusalem was, still is and will always be the capital of the State of Palestine.”


UN Concludes Oil-for-Food Program

On December 8, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) concluded that all the provisions in its oil-for-food program in Iraq had been met. These measures were established in resolutions 1958 (2010) and 2335 (2016) according to Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. In new resolution 2390 (2017), the UNSC lauded the fact that all remaining funds in the escrows accounts had been transferred to the Iraqi Federal Government. The total transferred was US$ 14.3 million. The oil-for-food program was a United Nations program that began in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian needs for civilians without allowing Iraq to increase its military capabilities. The program was introduced by United States (U.S.) President Bill Clinton’s administration. The program was unofficially terminated in 2003 during the U.S. invasion, but wasn’t officially terminated until 2010.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
12/12/17Near Diyala Bridge, southeast Baghdad06
12/09/17Near Diyala Bridge, southeast Baghdad02
12/09/17Rashad district (45 km southwest of Kirkuk)00
12/09/17Jihad neighborhood, west Baghdad10
12/09/17West of Hit (70 km west of Ramadi), Anbar Province40
12/09/17Hasaniyah, west of Hit (70 km west of Ramadi), Anbar Province03
12/09/17Doctors Street in Tikrit, Salah ad-Din Province12
12/08/17Arab Ejbur, Madain District, southern Baghdad Province03

 

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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