ISHM: JUNE 15 – 21, 2018

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Key Takeaways:

    • Negotiations Continue to Form an “Inclusive National” Government – Following last week’s announcement of the political alliance between Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon and Hadi al-Ameri’s Fatah blocs, Iraqi and Kurdish political leaders issued a series of statements outlining plans to move ahead with government formation negotiations. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for a meeting between the major political factions within the Iraqi government, to be held after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and declared his support for the Sairoon-Fatah alliance. Abadi’s statements were met with criticism from State of Law Coalition chief Nouri al-Maliki, who accused the Prime Minister of political opportunism and failing to offer a “real solution” to Iraq’s “political crisis.” Meanwhile, Kurdistan’s two major political parties, the KDP and PUK, announced their intention to form an alliance ahead of government formation negotiations in Baghdad, excluding the region’s smaller political parties. more…
    • Angelina Jolie Visits Western Mosul, Highlighting Ongoing Reconstruction Challenges – On June 16, UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visited still-unreconstructed areas of western Mosul, which had been liberated in late-2017. Her visit highlighted the ongoing challenges facing local residents attempting to rebuild their homes, particularly in Mosul’s heavily-damaged western Old City. Unmet reconstruction needs inside Mosul exist within the broader post-ISIS context in areas previously liberated from the militants. These challenges are further exacerbated by the continued presence of Syrian refugees inside Iraq. On June 20, UNHCR Representative in Iraq Bruno Geddo noted the immediate need for assistance in “helping refugees rebuild their lives” as Iraq “shelters 300,000 refugees,” the majority of whom are from Syria. On the same day, the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) issued an information sheet that ranked Iraq fourth within the top ten countries of IDPs, hosting 2,615,988 IDPs as of 2017. more…
    • Diyala Security Deteriorates; Counter-ISIS Operations Continue – Security forces in Diyala undertook a series of counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations last week, in an effort to expunge remaining ISIS militants from the province. Local commanders stressed the need to provide security along the strategically-important Kirkuk-Baghdad road running through Diyala and which has been subject to a series of ISIS attacks in recent weeks. Meanwhile, security forces in Baghdad and Anbar Province have reported ISIS-related security incidents, particularly in Qaim District along the Iraq-Syria border. Although these areas have been previously declared cleared of ISIS militants, continued attacks have undermined local security. Within this environment, leaders of Iraq’s prominent Shammar tribe asked Baghdad for weapons and military assistance against ISIS cells operating in Anbar and Salah al-Din Provinces, which target Shammar tribal members due to their cooperation with Baghdad against the militant group. more…
    • Clashes Erupt Between Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Units – On 20 June, fighters from Kata’ib Hezbollah – a powerful Iran-backed militia that is part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Unit organization – fired on members of the Iraqi Federal Police in Baghdad following a traffic stop. Iraqi police subsequently raided Kata’ib Hezbollah facilities in the capital. The incident highlights ongoing tension between members of the government security forces and organizations within the PMU umbrella. more…
    • Turkish Military Strikes PKK Positions in Northern Iraq – Turkish warplanes and artillery struck a series of PKK positions in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, focused around the Qandil Mountains and areas in Erbil Province. Turkey has conducted similar strikes against PKK targets in Iraq for several years. Following these incidents, Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildirim said that Turkey had taken control of 400 square kilometers of northern Iraqi land in its operations against the PKK, despite protestations from Baghdad. more…
    • Water, Electricity Shortages Prompt Protests – Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture has banned eight crops during this year’s growing season due to continued water shortages in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers – the country’s primary source of irrigation water. The announcement comes amid an ongoing water crisis, prompted in-part by the construction of dams inside Turkey, which diminish the amount of water that reaches Iraq through the Euphrates River. Meanwhile, unnamed protestors attacked an electricity distribution node in Baghdad, highlighting growing anger regarding utility and resource shortages as summer temperatures rise across 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.


Negotiations Continue to Form an “Inclusive National” Government

On June 14, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called upon top political blocs to meet shortly after the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. Abadi said that these discussions would be “responsible meetings” to determine the goals and projects of “state administrations and all its institutions.” He went on to say that the meetings could be used to move forward past the election fraud debacle and instead lay groundwork for Iraq’s future government formation.

On June 15, Head of the State of Law Coalition, Nouri al-Maliki, issued a statement criticizing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s call for a meeting between top political blocs to discuss plans for the future government of Iraq. Maliki said that “without a solution to the political crisis” the meeting is mere “propaganda.”

On June 15, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced his support for the alliance of two political blocs, Sairoon (headed by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) and Fatah (headed by Badr Organization chief Hadi al-Ameri). Abadi stated that this alliance was “a step in the right direction” toward the creation of an inclusive national enterprise that is able to “overcome sect and caste” in order to promote Iraqi nationalism. The Alliance between the Sairoon and Fatah parties was announced on June 12th, and was the first voting bloc alliance to be declared after the May 12th election.

On June 16, the Advisory Council of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) made a statement on the state of politics in Iraq. In the statement, the ICP called upon “the government authorities, forces, and political parties to work both in their position and under their responsibility to spare our country dangerous slippages.” Additionally, the ICP acknowledged the alliance between the

Sairoon and Fatah parties, and reinforced the need for Iraqi politicians to resist foreign influence or interests when outlining their motives and objectives during the government formation process. This statement follows the ICP’s “shock” over the alliance of Fatah and Sairoon expressed earlier this week. The ICP’s initial reaction to this alliance expressed concern that it  could pose a threat to the already existing ICP-Sairoon alliance; however, a spokesman for the Sairoon party assured ICP leaders that the Fatah-Sairoon alliance is purely to facilitate the building of a cooperative and functional state.

On June 17, Shauan Daoudi, an Member of Parliament from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), informed reporters that the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are close to forming a Kurdish alliance that would represent Kurdish interests during the Iraqi government formation negotiations. Daoudi went on to indicate that the main focus of the alliance will be to resolve issues over the governance of Kirkuk Province and other areas disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi Government. Kirkuk has long been disputed between Kurdish political factions and the Iraqi central government; following the September 2017 Kurdish independence referendum, Iraqi Security Forces moved into positions across Kirkuk Province, displacing Kurdish Peshmerga units that had occupied positions there since summer 2014. Sources indicate that there are still some members of the PUK who are unwilling to join any alliance which includes the KDP. Additionally, some Kurdish political parties have announced they will not be a part of  the alliance between the PUK and KDP due to distrust between parties. Kurdish parties which are unwilling to join argue that the PUK and KDP perpetrated election fraud to gain power in parliament.

On June 17, Member of Parliament Mohammed Nuri al-Abed commented on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s call for all political blocs to meet after Eid al-Fitr. Abed clarified that the meetings are to be held in response to the formation of the Fatah and Sairoon coalition, and that they will likely be focused on the formation of additional party blocs and the shaping of the new parliament.

On June 18, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on Sunday announced they are preparing a joint delegation to take part in  upcoming negotiations with parties in Baghdad to help form the new Iraqi government. A statement from Khalid Shwani, a member of the PUK leadership council, noted that, “All parties for the Kurdistan Region should head to Baghdad together and present a united front [when it comes] to the rights of our people.” Shwani also said that “at least the KDP and PUK” – the biggest parties in the Kurdistan Region, along with other Kurdish parties – “should have a shared vision for the future of Iraq.” Kurdish parties remain split over the May 12 election, as many have claimed widespread electoral fraud and violations took place during the voting and counting process, namely in Sulaimaniya Province. Parties in the Kurdistan Region have 58 alloted seats out of 329 in the Iraqi parliament. The KDP leads the pack in the Kurdistan Region, having secured 25 seats, followed by PUK with 18 seats.

On June 19, Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the State of Law Coalition, issued a statement that his party would be reaching out to Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish parties to form a comprehensive alliance to hold a majority in the Iraqi Parliament. Currently the largest voting bloc belongs to the alliance of Fatah and Sairoon, which carries 101 seats 64 short of the 165-seat majority needed to form a governing coalition.

On June 21, Shafaq News published the decision by the Iraqi supreme court on cases brought against the third amendment to the Election Law (as reported in previous ISHMs). In their ruling, the court addressed two primary concerns: (1) the unconstitutionality of canceling voting results in special elections, and (2) whether the recount process was the proper response to electoral fraud. On the matter of canceling special election results, the court found that it was unconstitutional to cancel votes from special elections and that this process was “a waste of votes.” The amendment, which canceled the results of special elections primarily targeted votes from IDP camps and Peshmerga forces, angered Kurdish political actors. The court also ruled that a recount of millions of ballots was the appropriate response to election fraud. Some parties contested the recount process and insisted on a new election to be held in December of 2018. The third amendment to the Electoral Law was passed on June 6 in response to widespread accounts of election fraud and included provisions for the formation of a Judicial committee to oversee the recount process. The amendment included provisions for recounting and appointment of judges to oversee the recount process. Recounting of ballots began shortly after the appointment of nine judges to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) oversight committee.

On June 21, Speaker for the Iraqi House of Representatives, Salim al-Jubouri announced the parliament’s approval of the Supreme Judicial Council’s decision on the third amendment and that their decision upholds the legitimacy of elections and the parliament’s decisions.


Angelina Jolie Visits Western Mosul, Highlighting Ongoing Reconstruction Challenges

On June 16, UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visited western Mosul, liberated last year after captivity by ISIS for three years, saying “This is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years with the [UN High Commission on Refugees, or UNHCR]….These people have lost everything, and the trauma and the loss that they have suffered is unparalleled.”  In Mosul, “some 40,000 homes are in need of rehabilitation”, according to UNHCR. Human Appeal and UNHCR are assisting returning families by providing cash assistance towards efforts to repair or rebuild their homes, aiming to assist 1,500 families this year. UNHCR notes that returning families risk further displacement “seeking shelter in camps outside the city…[due to] lack of shelter, infrastructure, services and jobs.” Jolie urged the international community “not to forget residents trying to rebuild their city.”

On June 17, UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visited the Domiz camp for the third time in six years to observe the extent of humanitarian need in the area, as well as provide assistance to some; Jolie noted “the vast majority of [the camp’s] inhabitants are Syrian women and children…h[e]ld indefinitely because of the war.” She stressed the impact of a lack of funding, as the Commission’s funding was reduced by 50 percent from last year’s levels. Current funding only covers operations such as assisting children in attending school, helping women and girls protect themselves from sexual abuse, and providing access to medical services. Jolie “stressed that the reality of the situation in the world is much worse than reported in official reports”, additionally “accusing the international community of wasting opportunities to solve the refugee problem [particularly noting] the lack of political solutions [as] leav[ing] an irreplaceable gap in humanitarian assistance.”

On June 19, the Civil Development Organization (CDO), an Iraqi non-profit organization, in collaboration with the association of medicine without borders and an unspecified Dutch organization held a “Mental Shock” conference in Sulaimaniya, to span two days. Chawan Nawzad, the Mental Advisor of CDO said the conference covers “mental shock of the civilians” and immigrants to Kurdistan in particular. A goal of this conference is to help with assimilation into their communities.

On June 20, World Refugee Day, UNHCR Representative in Iraq Bruno Geddo released a statement discussing the need for assistance in “helping refugees rebuild their lives” as Iraq “shelters 300,000 refugees”, the majority of whom are from Syria. Geddo said that “97 percent of the Syrian refugees” are in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and were “generously received and afforded equal access with locals to employment, education and social services.” He recognized peace as “[t]he best solution to forced displacement”, and called upon the international community to support efforts that aid refugees in these regions.

On June 20, the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) issued an information sheet that ranked Iraq fourth within the top ten countries of IDPs, hosting 2,615,988 IDPs as of 2017. The Iraqi government, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has faced heightened levels of displaced families since the advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in summer 2014. Iraqi and Kurdish capacity has been further stressed by inflows of refugees into Iraq and the Kurdistan Region from neighboring Syria since 2011.


Diyala Security Deteriorates; Counter-ISIS Operations Continue

On June 17, two truck drivers were killed and seven civilians were kidnapped by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Khalis District, approximately 15 kilometers north of Baqubah in Diyala Province along the Kirkuk-Baghdad road. One day later, the mayor of Khalis, Adi al-Khaddran, revealed that five of the abductees were members of the same family.

On June 19, in response to a request to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the head of the Iraqi counterterrorism agency was tasked with  investigating the random shooting by an anti-terrorist group in Kirkuk, which occurred on June 14. During the June 14 incident, members of the Special Operations Command in Kirkuk province allegedly fired randomly, killing one civilian and wounding three women.

On June 19, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants kidnapped three Iraqi civilians just west of the Anbar Province. In response, security forces launched a search for the abductees. Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December 2017, ending three years of operations to retake territories occupied by the militants to declare a self-styled “caliphate.” However, ISIS continues to pose an insurgent security threat across Iraq.

On June 19, Baghdad Operations Command foiled an attempt by an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) cell in Baghdad to carry out terrorist operations in the capital, arresting all of the perpetrators within the cell. In a statement received by Al Sumaria, Baghdad Operations Command stated that “after a distinctive intelligence effort, security forces arrested all members of the cell in different areas of the capital Baghdad, and [these] were referred to the competent investigative authorities.”

On June 19, for the third time in two weeks, bodies were found across the Euphrates River from Syria to Iraq, specifically on the Iraqi side in Qaim District, Anbar Province. Members of the police force of Qaim have stated that “the bodies belonged to civilians from the village of Al-Zawia in Albu Kamal,” based on the fact that the village is the closest point on the Iraqi border. The bodies are likely of the people who were previously detained and tortured by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters operating in the area, and the district police chief noted that the bodies appeared malnourished.

On June 19, the security forces from Diyala Operations Command began an inspection of the village of Sheikh Baba, the bridge of Helwan, the village of Al-Ma’dan and the village of al-Islah and Zour. The operations came amid ongoing efforts to enhance security in the province following a series of recent attacks there, according to Head of Diyala Operation Command Yahyah Rasul. He added that “the Salah al-Din Brigades and the associated units through the Salah al-Din police and the popular mobilization factions in the Baiji area, approximately 2010 kilometers north of Baghdad,  also began operations in order to enhance security and stability of the area.”

On June 20, the President of the Diyala Council Ali al-Daini announced that he planned to form a unified security command to manage the security of the strategic Kirkuk-Baghdad road linking the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to the Iraqi capital, which runs through Diyala Province. The Kirkuk-Baghdad road has experienced a series of security incidents in recent months, the most recent of which was an attack in the area of Anjana, 10 kilometers south of the town of Amerli in Salah al-Din Province, which resulted in the killing of two truck drivers and abduction of seven civilians.

On June 20, Iraq’s Shammar tribe appealed for weapons to defend itself against the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) after several of its members were abducted and killed in Salah al-Din and Anbar Provinces. The Shammar remain a particularly sensitive target for ISIS attacks because they sided with the government in the battle against the jihadists. Over the previous weekend, ISIS fighters launched a series of attacks against Shammar villages across the Jazira desert in Anbar Province, prompting the most recent calls by tribal leaders for increased government protection and armaments. ISIS militants have continued to carry out attacks throughout Iraq’s remote desert areas, despite the government’s declaration of victory against the jihadists in December 2017.


Clashes Erupt Between Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Units in Baghdad

On June 20, a clash between Iraqi police and Hezbollah forces in Baghdad erupted on Palestine Street. The conflict began “after a police patrol tried to stop a civilian car…carrying armed members” according to a security force. Afterwards, “a five-vehicle convoy of Hezbollah arrived and clashed with the police forces before fleeing the scene.” Kata’ib Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, is an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group supported by Iran and fought among the Shiite factions within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) during the war against ISIS. Hezbollah’s Iraq headquarters were sealed off by Iraqi security forces “after five hours of an armed clash with law enforcement.” No “internal or external passage through the headquarters” were permitted until Hezbollah leaders “agreed to hand over the fighters [to Iraqi police] who had fired on the police patrol”. This faceoff led to three people wounded: two policemen and a Hezbollah fighter.

On June 21, pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the shooting on Palestine Street between Iraqi police and Kata’ib Hezbollah forces “killed a policeman and wounded at least two people in central Baghdad.” The Interior Ministry said in a statement that “the shooting started when a police patrol tried to arrest the driver of a stolen car which belonged to the PMU.” The shooter is now detained, awaiting legal action.


Turkish Military Strikes PKK Positions in Northern Iraq

On June 19, the Turkish army killed 10 individuals from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) during a series of airstrikes on PKK positions in the Qandil Mountains in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The PKK has continued to operate from their camps in the Qandil Mountains since early March, prompting frequent airstrikes and other military action by the Turkish government. Both the Turkish and US governments classify the PKK as a terrorist organization.  

On June 20, Turkish artillery shelled PKK-occupied areas of Radust district in the Suran area of Erbil Province. Turkish military forces have been conducting similar strikes against PKK units operating across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for several years, prompting occasional condemnation from Iraqi Kurdish political groups, as well as the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

On June 21, Turkish Prime Minister Ben Ali Yildirim said that Turkey had taken control of 400 square kilometers of northern Iraqi land in its operation against the PKK. Turkey has been attempting to clear PKK units from the Qandil Mountain region. Turkish forces have advanced 40 kilometers into Iraqi borders. On June 5th, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that Baghdad would be willing to coordinate with the Turkish government to prevent cross border attacks; however, this has not halted Turkish movement into Iraqi territory.


Water, Electricity Shortages Prompt Protests

On June 17, due to the ongoing lack of water, eight crops have been banned under the summer agricultural plan. Agriculture Ministry Undersecretary Mahdi Mahdi al-Qaisi said, “The cultivation of rice, maize, sorghum, sesame, cotton, millet (grain used as animal feed), sunflower and cattle has been cancelled from the summer plan.” Iraq relies on water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to support its agricultural output, but for years there has been a “steady decline in water revenues” through these water sources, al-Qaisi explained. For more information on Iraq’s ongoing resource challenges, see our recent two-part investigation of water shortages and its effects on Iraqi agricultural, here and here; see also last week’s reporting in ISHM regarding Turkey’s dam construction activities and its impact on water levels in Iraq.

On June 17, the Ministry of Electricity announced “that an armed group targeted the energy distribution network and one of the feeders to the municipalities” in Baghdad the day before. Iraq has witnessed protests nearly every summer due to electrical shortages. Efforts to restructure the electrical network and distribution systems have thus far failed to significantly improve Iraq’s electrical supply. For more information, see our recent article discussing Iraqi infrastructure.

On June 18, Sources in Iran indicated that three members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), including Iraq, are likely to reject any proposal to increase oil production in the next OPEC summit. Other OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia are in favor of increasing oil production; however, in order to increase production, unanimous agreement is needed between OPEC nations. Without an agreement, increasing production could violate a decades long agreement between major oil producing countries.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
06/16/2018 55km Southwest of Kirkuk, District of Hawjia0Unknown
06/17/2018
North East Diyala, village of Mardan21

 

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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