ISHM: April 13 – 19, 2018

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi Foreign Minister, Protesters Condemn U.S. Airstrikes on Syrian Government Targets – On April 14, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning U.S., French, and British airstrikes in Syria earlier that day. According to the statement, “such actions could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced in to Syria…” Thousands of protesters in Basra, Dhi Qar, Wasit, Maysan, Najaf, Diyala, and Baghdad provinces demonstrated peacefully on April 14 and 15 in condemnation of the airstrikes on Syria. According to some reports, protestors in Baghdad were heard chanting anti-U.S. slogans. more…
  • Candidates for Parliament Attacked in Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Anbar – On April 15, an IED was detonated in the city of Kirkuk, targeting Turkmen Front Parliamentary candidate Ammar al-Kahya. The attack killed one civilian and injured nine others, though Kahya was unharmed. Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Jan Kubis condemned the attack in a statement, and referenced several other recent incidents including a Turkmen candidate’s motorcade coming under fire on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road on April 13, another candidate from the al-Wataniya Coalition whose motorcade came under fire south of Baghdad, and an attack earlier this month on the al-Hal party offices in Hit (as previously reported in ISHM). On April 19, the Baghdad home of Jawad al-Saadi, a Parliament candidate with the Sairun Coalition, was attacked with an IED which resulted in material damage. more…
  • Arab Summit Calls for Turkey to Respect Iraqi Sovereignty – At the conclusion of the 29th Arab League Summit held April 14-15 in Saudi Arabia, representatives issued a resolution reaffirming the League’s support for Iraq on its efforts to eradicate terrorism and calling on Arab League member states to urge Turkey to withdraw any of its troops from Iraq and to respect Iraqi sovereignty. The Summit included representatives from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen who also pledged support for returning displaced persons to their places of origin and for Palestine. more…
  • World Bank Forecasts Positive GDP Growth in Iraq for 2018 – The World Bank published the latest Middle East and North Africa Economic Monitor, which projects an increase in the regional growth rate from 2% in 2017 to 3.1% for 2018. In Iraq’s country report, the World Bank projects continued improvement for the Iraqi economy and a return to positive GDP growth for the year, citing a more favorable security environment and a gradual increase in reconstruction investment. On April 18, Iraqi Minister of Planning, Salman Jumaili, signed an agreement with the European Union for $18.6 million, which complements a World Bank investment of $51.4 million for the modernization of Iraqi financial management systems. more…
  • Campaign Spending Criticized – Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission has set campaign spending limits in Baghdad at $1 million per candidate and $144 million per party, and in Basra at $450 thousand per candidate and $16 million per party. Campaign spending in the lead-up to the May 12 elections has been criticized by some as “aristocratic” for a country that receives international financial assistance. more…
  • HRW, NYT Report on Sham Trials of Suspected ISIS Sympathizers – On April 17, The New York Times reported on the trials of suspected ISIS sympathizers who, in some instances, are afforded only a ten minute trial and unprepared legal counsel before being sentenced to death. According to Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher for Iraq, Belkis Wille, who has observed dozens of terrorism trials, the trials are usually biased from the beginning and are particularly prejudiced against foreign nationals. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has faced public pressure to ramp up the pace of prosecutions of suspected ISIS militants and their accomplices, despite the effect that doing so has on the rule of law. 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.


Iraqi Foreign Minister, Protesters Condemn U.S. Airstrikes on Syrian Government Targets

On April 13, Saad al-Hadithi, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, expressed the Prime Minister’s hope that Iraq not become embroiled in increasing military escalation in neighboring Syria. The leaders of most Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) have remained silent about the conflict escalation in Syria, while the “resistance factions” expressed their support for the Syrian regime. Akram al-Kaabi, founder of the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba Movement, addressed U.S. President Donald Trump saying that “we will wait for you in Syria and we will fight you and we will win over you and the terrorism you created, like [Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)] and the other blasphemous groups.” Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba is an Iraqi Shia militia created in 2013 by sheikh Akram al-Kaabi, co-founder of the Iraqi Shia militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq. The groups operate both in Iraq and Syria. According to observers, groups like al-Nujaba could destabilize Iraq by threatening political stability and other U.S. interests.

On April 13, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said that any U.S. airstrikes on Syrian government installations would mean a “disaster” and a threat to Iraq as a whole. Jaafari also said that there was no coordination between Iraq and Turkey for a joint military operation against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements in northern Iraq.

On April 13, the United States (U.S.) forces in Iraq warned Iraqi Shia militias close to Iran not to interfere with their position on possible airstrikes against the Syrian regime. An anonymous source said that “the U.S. forces will not hesitate to respond to any hostile action against their positions or the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and they have warned those factions.” The source added that the militias are on the U.S. terrorism list and that their exposure to U.S. forces inside Iraq would lead to direct confrontations.

On April 14, PMUs spokesman Karim Nouri stated that the PMUs follow and support Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in his position concerning the Syrian crisis. Nouri said that “there will not be any individual decisions in the [PMUs] in this regard, because it is up to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Haider al-Abadi.” He added that “if there are Iraqi parties who have fighters in Syria, they have nothing to do neither with the [PMUs] nor with the government.” Nouri also pointed out that “the [PMUs] were and still are ready to defend the Iraqi border from terrorism.”

On April 14, Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying that the airstrikes carried out by the U.S., France and the United Kingdom (U.K.) earlier that day mark a “very dangerous development.” The statement read that “such actions could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and the stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria…” The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs also called on Arab leaders to discuss the situation at the 29th Arab League Summit to be held in Saudi Arabia on April 15, 2018. The Foreign Ministry stressed the need for a political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people.

On April 15, hundreds of citizens demonstrated in Basra, Dhi Qar, Wasit, and Maysan Provinces in protest against the U.S. airstrikes that hit Syria. In Basra, hundreds of protesters marched on the Corniche Street, in downtown Basra, in condemnation of the airstrikes targeted at Syrian military installations, and to show their unity with Syrian people. In Dhi Qar, hundreds of citizens came out in a large demonstration in the central city of al-Nasiriyah in protest for the same reason. In Wasit, hundreds also demonstrated in Tigris Street in the city of Amara, against the bombing in Syria.

On April 15, hundreds of citizens demonstrated in the center of Najaf to protest the airstrikes on Syria. The protest was attended by the leader of the Sadrist movement, Moqtada al-Sadr.

On April 15, Reuters reported that hundreds of citizens demonstrated in Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad to protest U.S. airstrikes on Syria. The correspondent reporters from Alsumaria added that the demonstrators raised the Iraqi and Syrian flags as a sign of solidarity with the Syrian people, while chanting slogans against the United States and its allies. Earlier this day, security forces began cutting roads near Tahrir Square in the center of the capital Baghdad, while strict measures were imposed to coincide with the launch of the demonstration.

On April 15, dozens of residents of Diyala protested in front of the Provincial Council in central Baquba in opposition to U.S. airstrikes on Syria. A local anonymous source said that “dozens of people of Diyala took part in a peaceful demonstration in front of the building of the Diyala Council in central Baquba to reject the aggression on Syria.”

On April 18, Iranian Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, arrived in Baghdad for a two-day visit. Hatami was received at the Baghdad International Airport by Mohamed Jawad, Secretary-General of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. An official source revealed that the purpose of the visit would be to develop military and security cooperation between the two countries, and to discuss the recent airstrikes in Syria.

On April 19, the Media Office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi released a statement saying that the Iraqi Air Force carried out deadly airstrikes against ISIS positions in Syria, on the Iraqi-Syrian border. The statement explained that “these strikes will help speed up the elimination of [ISIS] in the region, after we defeated them militarily in Iraq.” The Iraqi military affirmed in another statement that carrying out airstrikes against [ISIS] in Syria is necessary because of the dangers posed to Iraq and serves as proof of the improved capabilities of Iraqi Security Forces.


Candidates for Parliament Attacked in Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Anbar

On April 13, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated during the funeral for five Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) fighters in the village of Sedira, approximately 308 kilometers north of Baghdad, in Salah ad-Din Province, leaving 16 people killed and 14 people injured. Salhuddin Shaalan, head of the municipal council of the mainly Sunni village of Sedira, said that “after mourners arrived at the village cemetery, two bombs exploded, killing 16 and injuring 14.” Officials reported that some of the wounded could not be taken to the hospital because of the night time darkness and citizens’ fear of finding gunmen on the Salah ad-Din roads. This is the deadliest attack since January 15, 2018, when two Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) suicide bombers killed 38 people and injured 105 in Tayaran Square, Baghdad.

On April 13, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, strongly condemned the April 13 bombing that left many casualties among mourners attending a funeral in the village of Asdira in the Sharqat district of Salah al-Din Province. Kubiš said, “This just once again shows that savagery of [ISIS] and their Takfiri ideology is beyond humanity, that for them nothing is sacred. This despicable attack against peaceful citizens signals their determination to exact maximum casualties among the Iraqi people and undermine peace and stability.”

On April 15, a vehicle-based IED was detonated in the city of Kirkuk, targeting the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, Ammar al-Kahya. The attack took place as the Parliament candidate’s convoy was passing. Kahya survived the attack, but the blast killed one civilian and injured nine others, including two of Kahya’s guards.

On April 15, the SRSG for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, strongly condemned the bombing which targeted the motorcade of a Turkmen Front candidate for the parliamentary elections in Kirkuk Province, which caused a number of casualties. Kubiš said in the statement that “This is very disturbing news and a matter of serious concern. This latest attack comes two days after a Turkmen candidate’s motorcade was shot at on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road. Also today, the car of a candidate from Al-Wataniya Coalition was reportedly fired upon south of Baghdad. None of the candidates were reported hurt today, but earlier this month a candidate for the Al-Hal party was injured in suicide bombings that targeted the party offices in Hit in Anbar [Province].” He called on the Iraqi authorities to ensure the security of candidates and voters and urged extra vigilance during the coming election period.

On April 19, security sources and eyewitnesses reported that two armed attacks were carried out at the homes of a Sadrist Movement candidate for the Parliament and a journalist in Baghdad. The home of Hasan Juma, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Al-Nahar was attacked by gunmen. The home of the candidate, Jawad al-Saadi with the Sairun Coalition, was attacked with an IED, which resulted in material damage. Qahtan al-Jubouri, official spokesman for the Sairun Coalition, said in a statement that “the campaign organized on targeting others, whether targeting a number of candidates in Baghdad and Basra, or attempting assassinations, is a serious escalation which cannot be tolerated.” He called on “responsible government agencies not only to denounce, but to take urgent action by opening a quick investigation on such incidents,” in order to “know the parties behind them and bring them to justice so that the [election] remains honest and within the rules of democratic game.”


Arab Summit Calls for Turkey to Respect Iraqi Sovereignty

On April 13, Foreign Ministers from Arab League nations released a series of draft resolutions they adopted at the end of the preparatory meeting for the 29th Arab League Summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The draft resolutions condemned the operations carried out by Turkish forces in the city of Afrin, northern Syria, suggesting that it “undermines the ongoing efforts to find solutions for the political crisis in Syria.” The meeting also condemned “Iranian interference” with the affairs of Arab countries, with respect to Syria, in particular. Several countries accused Tehran of supporting the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, considered a terrorist group in Yemen, allegations that Iran denied. On the Palestinian issue, several countries reiterated their opposition to the United States (U.S.) decision to transfer the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, suggesting it constituted a “serious breach of international law, Security Council resolutions and the UN General Assembly.” The ministers stressed that East Jerusalem “is the capital of the Palestinian state,” and calling for the activation of “financial safety net” of US$100 million per month to protect the capital.

On April 14, Iraqi President Fuad Masum travelled to Saudi Arabia, leading the official delegation to participate in the 29th Arab League Summit. On April 15, Saudi Arabia would host the summit meeting of the League of Arab States at its 29th ordinary session amid major threats and challenges facing Arab national security. Representatives from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen would attend the meeting.

On April 15, the final statement from the Arab League Summit held in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, reaffirmed its absolute support for Iraq on its efforts to eradicate “terrorism” and called upon the Arab League member states to urge Turkey to withdraw its troops from Iraqi territory. It was stated in the final communiqué, “the importance of promoting joint Arab action to confront the threats facing Arab states and safeguard their security and stability” is essential. The final statement also included “working to support strategies for the maintenance of Arab national security, pledging the necessary action to support the Palestinian cause, and the nullity and illegality of the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” It was also stressed during the Summit that the Arab League is making efforts to secure the return of the displaced persons.


World Bank Forecasts Positive GDP Growth in Iraq for 2018

On April 16, the World Bank Group (WBG) published the latest Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Economic Monitor, which projected the regional growth rate to increase from 2% in 2017, to 3.1% in 2018. It reported that “The increase in growth is expected to be broad based, driven by a favorable global economic environment, stability in the oil market at slightly higher prices, and the resumption of post-conflict reconstruction.” Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President for MENA region said, “There are grounds for optimism. Now is the time to focus on creating more jobs and economic opportunities for youth. The positive outlook is an opportunity to speed up reforms for a renewed private sector as an engine of growth and job creation.” In Iraq’s country report, the WBG predicted that Iraq’s growth outlook is expected to improve under a more favorable security environment, and the gradual increase of investment for reconstruction. The report assesses that Iraq’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is projected to return positive in 2018, and “reconstruction is slowly replacing oil production as a driver of growth in the wake of the twin shocks of the ISIS war and oil revenue decline which caused a deep recession in the non-oil economy.”

On April 15, the Commander of Baghdad Operations, Lieutenant General Jalil Al-Rubaie, announced the reopening of Corniche Utaifuyya Street adjacent to the Tigris River towards the 14th Ramadan Bridge. The street was closed 12 years ago for security reasons. Rubaie pointed out that “the decision to reopen the street came after the improvement of the security situation in the capital by the efforts of both security forces and the cooperation of the citizens.”

On April 18, Iraqi Minister of Planning, Salman Jumaili, signed a financial agreement with the European Union (EU) for 15 million euros (approximately US$ 18.6 million). Jumaili said on the sideline of the signing press conference, that “the EU will cooperate with the World Bank to implement this initiative. And these amounts will be complementary to the World Bank program, which amounted to 41.5 million euros (approximately US$ 51.4), launched in 2017 as the modernization of financial management systems in Iraq.” Better public finance management and effective use of donor assistance were cited as improvements that led to the agreement.

On April 18, the Sunni Endowment Bureau in Diyala Province announced the reopening of 113 mosques closed for security reasons inside the province mostly after June 2014, and confirmed efforts to reopen more mosques throughout the province.


Campaign Spending Criticized

On April 17, according to Alsumaria, the Independent High Electoral Commission has set campaign spending limits in Baghdad at US$ 1 million per candidate and US$ 144 million per party, and in Basra at US$ 450 thousand per candidate and US$ 16 million per party. The law allows electoral coalitions to exceed the limit by hundreds of millions by pooling limits together, according to the article. Critics of the election campaign spending suggested that in a country that repeatedly calls for international financial help, the system of campaign spending can be “aristocratic.”

On April 17, Alsumaria reported the results of a public opinion poll conducted by the Rafidain Center for Dialogue. It indicated that for the first time, most voters revealed a tendency to choose their candidates on the basis of their political agenda, and not their sect, clan, or party identification. Zaid Talaqani, Director of the Rafidain Center for Dialogue, said “The questionnaire revolves around the mechanism of elections. Will people vote for the [political] agenda or for the clan or for the sect or for the party? Most of the results showed that the tendency in these elections is different from the previous elections.” Some speculate that the defeat of ISIS has strengthened national unity and the public interest.

On April 18, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Ján Kubiš, congratulated Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) political parties and blocs for signing the Electoral Charter of Honour in Erbil Province. Kubiš said, “The credibility of the democratic process lies in the integrity of the electoral process. Thus, an effective Charter of Honour is essential to conducting the elections in a free, fair, impartial, transparent and credible manner.” Kubiš also called for further empowerment and participation of women in the political process. The Electoral Charter of Honor was submitted for signature by candidates on March 24 and was drafted by representatives of the United Nations, western experts, and Iraq’s Electoral Commission to help guide and regulate the campaign process leading up to provincial elections slated for May. 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 19, the Mayor of Hillah, a city 100 kilometers south of Baghdad in Babil Province, announced that they would remove all campaign posters and political propaganda visible from city streets. The mayor explained this “bold” move is under the permission and careful consideration of the citizens and candidates. Alsumaria conducted a street interview about the new policy, indicating it is welcomed by the citizens because they believed the campaign material destroyed the beauty of the city. Other cities may implement a similar policy ahead of May elections.

On April 19, the Secretary General of the Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmen Abbas al-Bayati, and Member of Parliament (MP) Jasim Mohammed Jaafar, said that some political parties have spent millions of dinars to establish “electronic armies” which slander and defame candidates on social network sites, including Facebook, and are funded by paid ads. Bayatai criticized the electronic campaigns and accused some candidates of “forgetting that Iraq is a conservative Islamic society […]” Bayati called on Parliament to legislate against social media exploitation and called on the Ministry of Communications and the media and communications sector on the Electoral Commission to sanction candidates who engage in this behavior.


HRW, NYT Report on Sham Trials of Suspected ISIS Sympathizers

On March 26, Human Rights Watch criticized Iraqi courts for holding rushed and biased trials of suspected Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants who were accused of taking part in atrocities from 2014 to 2015 in Tikrit, Salah ad-Din Province. According to HRW, the Iraqi government has reportedly “detained at least 19,000 people for alleged ISIS ties and Iraqi courts have sentenced more than 3,000 people to death. The trials have been rushed and deeply flawed, including confessions apparently after torture.” HRW also accused Iraqi authorities of forcing family members of suspected ISIS militants into prison camps. “The death sentences after show trials and collective punishment of families,” including destroying some of their homes, “add another layer of injustice to these terrible crimes.” Human Rights Watch called for fair trials, “to build trust in the judicial system, to nudge Iraq toward the rule of law, and to break the cycle of killing and revenge.”

On April 14, Deputy Head of the Court of Appeals for Diyala Province, Judge Abboud Karkhi, died from injuries sustained by an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in Kanaan, east of Baquba in Diyala Province. The following day, President of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court Judge Medhat al-Mahmoud, suggested that the judiciary is often a target of terrorism because it serves as “an effective national symbol” in building the state, consolidating the rule of law, and spreading the principles of justice in Iraq.

On April 17, the New York Times reported on the trials of suspected ISIS sympathizers who, in some instances, are afforded only a ten minute trial and unprepared legal counsel before being sentenced to death. According to Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher for Iraq, Belkis Wille, who has observed dozens of terrorism trials, the trials are usually biased from the beginning. She said, “What concerns me the most in these trials is that the system is fundamentally prejudiced against foreign individuals. The presumption is because you are foreign, and you were in ISIS territory, there is no need to provide more evidence […] Individual circumstances don’t matter. Cooks, medical workers, everyone is given the death penalty.” The suspects do have a state-appointed lawyer, but one who is ill-prepared for the trial and unfamiliar with evidence to be presented by prosecutors. Ali Sultan, one of the state-appointed lawyers, said that his pay is consistent per client, regardless of the trial’s outcome or time spent preparing. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has realized widespread public support for his push to step up the pace of prosecutions, and that the rule of law is of less interest politically. HRW estimated in December that at least 20,000 people accused of ties to ISIS were being held by the Iraqi authorities.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
04/18/2018Khan Bani Saad, 46 kilometers north of Baghdad03
04/17/2018Baqubah05
04/16/2018Ramadi020
04/16/2018Mosul511
04/15/2018Kirkuk19
04/15/2018Hor Rajab, 22 kilometers south of Baghdad01
04/13/2018Sedira, 305 kilometers north of Baghdad1614

 

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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