ISHM: March 30 – April 5, 2018

ISHM LOGO

Key Takeaways:

    • Reports Conflict on PKK Presence in Sinjar – On April 1, Fahad Amir Omar, head of Sinjar District, confirmed that Iraqi Security Forces, including the Iraqi Army, Popular Mobilization Units, and local police are deployed throughout the district and along the road to the Syrian border. Omar stated that there are no Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements in the city. Two days later, Haydar Qasim Shesho, leader of the Yazidi Protection Force, said that more than 500 PKK fighters have not yet left Sinjar and suggested that they are embedded with PMUs. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkish army “may enter Sinjar at any time” if the PKK presence continues, although the Iraqi government is also committed to ousting the U.S.-identified terrorist organization. more…
    • Abadi Rejects Peshmerga Redeployments to the Disputed Territories – On March 29, Secretary-General of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry, Jabar Yawar, told NRT that he met with a delegation from the U.S.-led international coalition, and that the coalition expressed support for a return of Peshmerga forces to the disputed territories in Kirkuk and Ninewa Provinces. Rumors then spread across various outlets that the Peshmerga were being redeployed to Kirkuk, some suggesting that it was with U.S. support. Major General Maan al-Saadi, head of security in Kirkuk Province, denied the reports saying that “the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces [Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi] did not give the green light in this regard and he did not agree to it.” On April 5, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, tweeted that “there are erroneous reports that claim [OIR] has confirmed/directed movement of forces in northern Iraq. DON’T BELIEVE IT. The Government of Iraq is the SOLE authority regarding deployment of forces within Iraq. Full Stop.” Shortly thereafter, Yawar acknowledged during a press conference that the return of Peshmerga forces to the disputed territories would require Baghdad’s approval. more…
    • Council of Ministers Approves Five Year National Development Plan – The Council of Ministers approved a five-year National Development Plan for Iraq (2018-2022) which seeks to promote private sector development, provincial reconstruction, and poverty alleviation. The plan projects an economic growth rate of 7%, which would coincide with a nearly US$ 100 billion increase in GDP over the five year period. The oil industry would account for nearly 60% of projected foreign investment. more…
    • Electronic Voting Machines Prepared Ahead of May Elections – The Independent High Electoral Commission is prepared to deploy an electronic vote counting system contracted to a South Korean company at a cost of US$ 97 million, ahead of May elections. The 59 thousand vote-counting devices will be distributed to 54 thousand polling stations throughout Iraq. More than 300 thousand employees will conduct the election and be trained on the use of the devices. more…
    • Abadi Visits Japan to Solicit Investments – Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Japan on a two-day visit intended to “boost bilateral cooperation, open investment horizons,” and entertain new ideas for job creation and vocational training for Iraqi citizens. During the visit, Abadi discussed a deal with Toyota-Tshuho Corporation to construct fixed and mobile power stations in Muthanna and Maysan provinces, which may help alleviate electricity production problems that plague the country. 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.


Reports Conflict on PKK Presence in Sinjar

On March 30, the United States (U.S.) Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a press conference that the U.S. understands Turkey’s concern about the presence of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements in Sinjar, Iraq. Nauert affirmed that “we understand that Turkey has expressed its concern over the presence of [the PKK] in northern Iraq. Sinjar and the United States expect that any operations in Iraq would be done with the approval of the Iraqi government,” adding that “if Turkey is coming into Sinjar, they need to coordinate with the government of Iraq.”

On March 30, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed the possibility of Turkish forces launching attacks against PKK elements in Ninewa Province, Iraq. Erdogan said that both Turkey and Iraq aim to end PKK activities in Iraq and that Ankara is hoping to work on this mission with Baghdad. Erdogan added that to achieve this goal “we may enter Sinjar at any time,” adding that Turkey is already preparing operations against insurgents in Kobane, Ras al-Ain and Tel Abiad, Syria, all the way to the Iraqi border.

On April 1, Fahad Amir Omar, head of Sinjar District, confirmed that Iraqi Security Forces, including the Iraqi Army, Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and the local police, are now deployed throughout Sinjar District, along the road to the Syrian border. Omar stated that there are no PKK remnants in the district. He added that “all the checkpoints along the way are under the protection of the Iraqi Security Forces and there is coordination between the Iraqi Army and the [PMUs].” According to a report published by The New York Times, in January 2018, 26 checkpoints controlled by different forces populated the road leading to Sinjar from Dohuk. The first checkpoints were controlled by Peshmerga forces; when entering Ninewa Province, the checkpoints were under the control of the Iraqi Army to the Mosul Dam, where the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service was in control. The report reads that from Tal Afar, the checkpoints were controlled by Iran-backed Shia PMUs until the last two checkpoints controlled by the Ezdikhan Protection Force (HPE), the Yazidi militia led by Haydar Shesho.

On April 2, witnesses reported that Turkish warplanes carried out airstrikes in the Sidakan area, 144 kilometers northeast of Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The witnesses said that “intense bombardment” hit the villages of Klee Curta, Mukhar and Khua Kurk in the Sidakan area.

On April 3, Kurdish Member of Parliament (MP) Abdulbari Zebari, head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, said that Turkey’s continuous airstrikes in Iraqi territory are meant to show Iraq’s weakness concerning its interventions and difficulties. Zebari said he was surprised by the statements released by some Iraqi Members of Parliament (MPs) on reaching an agreement and cooperating with Turkey against PKK members in Iraq. He added that “the Iraqi government cannot adopt any security agreement with other countries against the Iraqi [Parliament] and [without] its approval because it is a violation of the Iraqi constitution.”

On April 3, the Turkish newspaper Ahval reported that Turkish forces had penetrated the KRI’s territory by 17 kilometers. According to Ahval, Turkish forces also began to build roads and military bases in Iraqi territory.

On April 3, Haydar Qasim Shesho, leader of the Yazidi militia Protection Force of Ezidkhan (HPE), revealed that more than 500 PKK fighters have not yet left Sinjar. Shesho said that “the number of [PKK] may be up to 1000 fighters, but what we are sure of is that they exceed 500 fighters who were part of the force called Yibsha in the [PKK] but they receive support, weapons and salaries from the [PMUs].” He added that “the government is cooperating with Turkey on one hand, but on the other hand it is not putting pressure on the PKK forces, especially those who are inside the [PMUs].”

On April 4, General Babakir Zebari, commander of the Western Tigris Front of the Peshmerga forces, affirmed that Turkish artillery shelled the borders of Zakho District, Dohuk Province in KRI. The shelling caused the closure of the border crossing between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria.

On April 5, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that Turkey rejects the presence of PKK elements in the Iraqi district of Sinjar. He said during a press conference in Istanbul that “we cannot accept the existence of the PKK terrorist organization in Sinjar district,” adding that “the Iraqi authorities are aware of our position on this matter and they also reject the presence of the organization.”


Abadi Rejects Peshmerga Redeployments to the Disputed Territories

On March 29, Secretary General of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry Jabar Yawar told Nalia Radio and Television (NRT) that he met with a U.S. and U.K. joint delegation to discuss the latest developments in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Yawar said, “One of the topics of the discussion was in regard to the potential return of Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas, which they had controlled beginning in 2014 […] The Global Coalition has also expressed support for the decision,” according to Yawar.

On March 31, Peshmerga forces Chief of Staff Jamal Iminiki disclosed a proposal made by the International Coalition to redeploy Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas from which they withdrew in October 2017. Iminiki said that “ [the U.S.] and the International Coalition have received our observations concerning the establishment of a joint force in the Kurdish areas outside the administrative borders of the so-called disputed areas.” He added that “so far there there has been no dialogue between us and Iraqi forces, and there is no coordination in this regard.” Following the Kurdish independence referendum of September 25, 2017, the Iraqi Security Forces retook all of the territories in Ninewa and Kirkuk provinces which the Peshmerga forces had advanced into as part of the military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), filling a void left by the Iraqi Army in 2014.   

On April 1, the Saudi newspaper, Okaz, revealed that the Kurdistan Regional Parliament provided guarantees on the the return of the Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk Province. According to the article, “the Members of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament have given Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji guarantees to control the Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk once they return to the province.” The guarantees include the control of Peshmerga forces upon their return to the province, and the formation of a joint security operation with Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) to target terrorist operations in southern Kirkuk, all under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Defense.

On April 1, the head of security in Kirkuk Province, Major General Maan al-Saadi, denied Baghdad’s approval of the redeployment of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas from which they withdrew in October 2017. Saadi said that “there might be discussions about the matter and they may be supported by statements issued by the [KRI], but the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces [Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi] did not give the green light or the notice in this regard and he did not agree to it.” Saadi also denied the existence of “agreements sponsored by the International coalition in this regard.”

On April 2, Muzahim al-Hewitt, spokesman for Arab Ninewa tribes, demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should redeploy Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas. Hewitt said that “Abadi should accept the initiative of the U.S. forces and the International Coalition to redeploy Peshmerga forces in all the disputed areas under a Joint Operations Chamber between Baghdad and Erbil to fight [ISIS] and sleeper cells in all regions.” Hewitt said that Iraqi Security Forces are not able to maintain security in the disputed areas. He added that when the Peshmerga forces were in control of those areas, they had accurate information about any ongoing operation, stressing the Peshmerga’s role in the liberation of Mosul.

On April 2, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Tikrit, where he addressed rumors concerning Peshmerga redeployments to the disputed territories. Abadi said “attempts to stir up differences among the Army, [PMUs], and the Peshmerga have failed, and they stood a heroic stand,” stressing that “I invite you not to listen to those who try to spread despair in the hearts of citizens.”

On April 3, an official with the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Kirkuk, Mohammed Simon, denied the possibility of the return of the Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas in Kirkuk or Tuz Khurmatu. “The allegations and rumors that the Peshmerga forces could return to the disputed areas of Kirkuk or Tuz Khurmatu…have no basis,” Samaan said in an interview with Alsumaria News. “The Peshmerga forces must learn that they are part of the national defense system and that they must listen to the orders of Baghdad and maintain the borders of the region from terrorist infiltration or military operations,” he added.

On April 3, the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga released a statement saying that it welcomed the International Coalition’s alleged proposal to redeploy Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas. Major General Bakhtiar Mohammed, an adviser to the Ministry of Peshmerga, said that “now the ball is in the federal government’s [court],” adding that the KRG needs to be included in talks over how to implement this proposal, which is still lacking a clear plan.

On April 4, Al-Hurra television quoted an anonymous and unconfirmed Pentagon official as saying that Peshmerga Special Forces groups have entered the disputed city of Kirkuk. According to the alleged source, these groups consist mostly of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) members and their redeployment to Kirkuk was coordinated with the Iraqi federal government.

On April 4, Ali al-Husseini, spokesman for the northern axis of the PMUs, released a statement saying that the redeployment of Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas “does not exist on the ground.” He added that “there is no coordination between the federal forces and the [PMUs] on one side, and the Peshmerga on the other side.”

On April 5, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon stated that all the claims and rumors concerning the CJTF-OIR confirming or directing movement of forces in northern Iraq are not true. He wrote on Twitter that “there are erroneous reports that claim [CJTF-OIR] has confirmed/directed movement of forces in northern Iraq. DON’T BELIEVE IT. The Government of Iraq is the SOLE authority regarding deployment of forces within Iraq. Full Stop.”

On April 5, Ministry of Peshmerga Secretary-General Jabar Yawar said during a press conference that the Ministry of Peshmerga has not held any talks with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense concerning the return of Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas. Yawar confirmed the existence of talks with the International Coalition concerning the security situation in the disputed areas, pointing out that the return of Peshmerga forces would require prior agreements between Erbil and Baghdad.


Council of Ministers Approves Five Year National Development Plan

On April 1, the Information Office of the Prime Minister announced that the Council of Ministers approved a five-year National Development Plan (2018-2022). The Office said that the Council passed the plan based on its efforts to promote private sector development, provincial reconstruction, and poverty alleviation. The Plan aims to achieve an economic growth rate of 7%, raising gross domestic product to 292.5 trillion Iraqi dinars (approximately US$ 245.7 billion) in 2022 from 182.2 trillion Iraqi dinars (approximately US$ 153 billion) in 2015. The expected revenue during the coming five years is approximately 440 trillion Iraqi dinars (US$ 369.6 billion), consisting of 370.2 trillion Iraqi dinars (approximately US$ 311 billion) of oil revenues and 70 trillion Iraqi dinars (approximately US$ 58.8 billion) in non-oil revenue. The Plan would require investment of 220.6 trillion Iraqi dinars (approximately US$ 185.3 billion), including 132 trillion (approximately US$ 110.9 billion) in oil investments (60% of total investment).

On April 2, it was revealed that Iraq has not yet received any funds pledged during the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq held in February. The source attributed the reason to “technical aspects and other matters related to the circumstances of those countries.”

On April 2, the mayor of Makhmur District in Ninewa Province, Rizgar Mohammed Ismail, announced the reopening of the road to from Makhmur to Erbil Province. He added that “traffic and movement between the two regions will become normal, which is in the interest of citizens.”

On April 3, the Baghdad Operations Command announced the opening of main and subsidiary roads in the Dora district, south of the capital. The Command announced that they are “moving ahead with the strategic plan to open all streets and roads in the capital Baghdad in order to relieve the burden on the traffic,” owing to an improved security situation in the region.

On April 4, the Mayor of Anbar Province, Ahmed Al-Maslawi, announced the reopening of a bridge over the Euphrates River, which connects the village of al-Obeida to the district of Al-Obeidi in Anbar Province. The bridge was purportedly destroyed by ISIS in 2015. Maslawi said that “the reopening of the bridge was carried out by the efforts of the residents of the village of al-Obeida in cooperation with the local government in Anbar and the eighth division in the Iraqi Army.”


Electronic Voting Machines Prepared Ahead of May Elections

On March 30, Abbas al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Dawa Party led by Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, called for the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to conduct tests of electronic counting and sorting at all of the voting stations in Iraq, in order to reassure citizens of the success and the accuracy of the voting process. Moussawi also stressed the need for manual counting and sorting “after the closure of the ballot boxes in the upcoming elections in the presence of local and international observers in order not to give any chance of doubt the integrity of the elections.”

On April 1, the head of the Movement of Change (Gorran) Party, Omar Said Ali, said that the lack of participation of some stakeholders in the preparation of the Electoral Charter of Honor raises many question. Omar added that “the participation of coalitions and large political parties in preparation of the Charter was selective and the lack of presence of other stakeholders in the leads us to many questions.” The Electoral Charter of Honor is a guide for the campaign process of the election in May, drafted by the UN, western experts, and the IHEC. The Charter includes a pledge to forbid sectarian or ethnic speech, violence, and voter intimidation, and to ensure a peaceful transfer of power following the election’s outcome.

On April 1, the IHEC implemented a computerized system to transfer voter data from 54,000 polling stations throughout Iraq to the national center in the capital, Baghdad. This is the first time that the IHEC has implemented electronic devices in the election, which is believed to reduce the level of manipulation and fraud in the voting process. The electronic system was contracted to a South Korean company, including the purchase of 59,000 vote-counting devices, at a cost of approximately US$ 97 million. More than 300,000 employees will participate in the running of the next electoral process after completing their training on the use of the electronic devices.

On April 1, in an effort to prevent voter fraud ahead of elections slated for May, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reiterated that the sale or purchase of voter identification cards is considered a crime. The crime would carry up to 15 years imprisonment. The Integrity Commission expressed its readiness to “cooperate with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in regard with any attempts to sell or purchase the voting cards,” and called on people and media to report any persons or entities of trying to do so.

On April 2, Member of Parliament (MP) with the National Alliance, Ali al-Badairi, revealed his hesitation about the credibility of the newly-implemented electronic vote-counting devices. He called on the IHEC to conduct a public experiment under the witness of the media to clear any doubts. Badairi cautioned that there may pose a risk of hacking.

On April 3, the Ministry of Justice announced that the Budget Law for fiscal year 2018 was made official. Parliament approved the Federal Budget on March 3 despite objections and boycotting from Kurdish Members of Parliament. Iraqi President Fuad Masum refused to ratify the law citing potential constitutional conflicts. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that “no one has the right to suspend the general budget of the country after the vote by the Parliament.” On March 29, the Iraqi Federal Government announced that the Budget Law would be sent to the Ministry of Justice for publication in the Official Gazette, without the approval of President Fuad Masum.

On April 4, an MP with the State of Law Coalition, Zeinab Aref Basri, suggested that the Budget Law for fiscal year 2018 will not be effective until the elections in May and the formation of the new government, accusing some political parties of putting “obstacles” to the implementation of the budget for the next government. She noted that after the Ministry of Justice published the the budget in the official Gazette, it would be sent to the Ministry of Finance for recommendations and instructions for implementation. This process would usually take about a month or a month and a half, which means the budget will not be effective until the election, according to Basri.


Abadi Visits Japan to Solicit Investments

On April 3, the Information Office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced his trip to Japan as the head of a government delegation for a two-day visit. The office said in a statement that “the visit aims at boosting bilateral cooperation [with Japan] in various fields, opening up investment horizons with Japanese companies and attending the Tokyo conference in supporting job creation, vocational training and reducing the circulation of weapons in Iraqi society.”

On April 3, a political commentator close to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Ihsan al-Shammari, revealed the details about Abadi’s visit to Japan in a interview with Alsumaria. Shammari said that Abadi chose to visit Japan because it has strong economic ties with the world. Moreover, “Japan has not indicated that it has engaged in the polar conflicts in the world or in the Middle East, and this is consistent with the policy of neutrality adopted by Iraq and Abadi.”

On April 3, according to an anonymous source, Iraqi Security Forces arrested Zeidan Khalaf, the engineer in charge of electricity for the city of Mosul. The source said that the reasons for the arrest were unknown.

On April 4, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi said that his visit to Japan falls within the framework of the government’s approach to strengthen Iraq’s relations with the international community. Abadi noted that the “visit was gaining its importance since it coincides with the start of Iraq’s reconstruction process and Iraq’s opening to international investment.” Spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said that Abadi would meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as the Japanese Foreign Minister, Defense and National Security Advisors, and other officials from the Department of Construction, Housing, Labor, Social Affairs and Higher Education. Abadi would also meet representatives from major Japanese companies for the possibilities of future cooperations and investments.

On April 4, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi discussed with the President of Toyota-Tsusho Corporation, Ichiro Kashitani, a deal to provide fixed and mobile power stations in Iraq. Four fixed power stations (400 kV) and 12 mobile stations would be provided (132 kV) in Muthanna and Maysan Provinces. Most of the work would begin this summer in order to increase the electricity production in Iraq.

On April 4, the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) expressed its desire to expand its office in Iraq after the stability of the security situation, while Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stressed the importance of the continuation of the work of Japanese companies which have great experience in many sectors in Iraq. The Chairman of JETRO Hiroyuki Ishige said “there is a desire for Japanese companies to invest in Iraq,” and he expressed his intention to visit Iraq soon for these projects.

On April 4, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with the Japanese company Sumitomo to establish plants for the manufacture of cars and after-sale services in Iraq. Chairman of Sumitomo Trading Company, Kony Haru Nakamura, and his delegation discussed cooperation between the two countries and the potential to create jobs for Iraqis.

On April 5, the Information Office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the Japanese Government decided to reduce its security risk assessment level of a number of Iraqi provinces, while the Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his willingness to support Iraq in the future.

On April 5, the Information Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq announced the signing of two agreements with Japan on the completion of a water project in Basra Province, and reclamation of the land between Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in irrigation areas. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that during his visit, “We have discussed with the Japanese officials developments in oil, energy, electricity, services, education, industry etc., and maximizing the potential of Iraq.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
04/05/2018Dujail, 68 kilometers south of Samarra03
04/05/2018Ain al-Tamur, 58 kilometers west of Karbala00
04/04/2018Al-Ubaidi, 24 kilometers east of Baghdad00
04/03/2018Radwaniyah, 19 kilometers southwest of Baghdad01
04/02/2018Bartella, 21 kilometers east of Mosul04
04/02/2018Qa'im, 261 kilometers northeast of Ramadi12
04/01/2018Bayaa, 7 kilometers south of Baghdad03
04/01/2018Taji, 37 kilometers north of Baghdad02
03/30/2018Tuz Khurmatu, 79 kilometers south of Kirkuk310

 

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.


Subscribe to our weekly ISHM and have the latest developments in Iraq sent straight to your inbox every Thursday and follow EPIC on Twitter to receive updates throughout the week.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email