ISHM: July 20 – 26


Key Takeaways:

    • Government Officials Meet to Address Protest Demands – As protests across southern Iraq entered their third week, Iraq’s Council of Ministers convened on July 24 to discuss employment and water sector reforms, designed to ameliorate protester grievances regarding insufficient jobs and public services. One day earlier, the Ministry of Electricity petitioned Saudi Arabia and Iran to provide much-needed power to Iraq; Iran refused the request, while Saudi Arabia has not yet provided a decision. Meanwhile, protesters detained over the past two weeks were reportedly released in Dhi Qar, Wasit, Najaf, Muthanna, and Maysan Provinces. Protests, which have remained relatively unorganized and spontaneous, have been ongoing across southern Iraq as thousands of demonstrators demand an end to weak/corrupt governance, additional employment opportunities, and a lack of clean drinking water or adequate electricity during the hot summer months. more…
    • Ballot Recount Process Concludes, Discrepancies Appear – The Judiciary-led Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) committee reported that it had completed manual recounts of ballots in Karbala, Diyala, and Najaf Provinces. IHEC officials have already conducted recounts in the provinces of Kirkuk, Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, Basra, Maysan, Wasit, Dhi Qar, Muthanna, al-Qadisiyyah, Dohuk, Salah al-Din, and Ninewa Provinces. The committee responsible for undertaking the national recount process announced on July 24 that it expects Kirkuk Province to show the greatest discrepancies between original and revised election results. more…
    • Continued Displacement Challenges Iraqi Government, Relief Agencies – Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and water shortage continue to represent a challenge in Iraq, while relief agencies struggle to find sufficient funds. On July 19, the UNOCHA announced that the 2018 Humanitarian Relief Response Plan requires US$ 56 million to continue being effective, as it has only been 54 percent funded thus far. Consequently to the decrease in funding, 22 health service delivery points were closed, and an additional 38 are at risk of closure. On July 22, the Ministry of Migration reported that 5,000 IDPs had returned to the provinces of Ninewa and Salah ad-Din. On July 25, the Water Resources Director of Diyala Province announced removing blockages in the Khalis River to allow greater water flows, after a Diyala Province official revealed on July 23, that 20,000 residents of the province were supplied salty water. more…
    • ISIS Attacks Highlight Ongoing Militant Threat – ISIS-affiliated militants conducted a series of high-profile attacks across northern Iraq last week. On July 19, a series of grenade and vehicle-borne explosive device (VBIED) attacks occurred in Kirkuk. Four days later, three gunmen thought to have been affiliated with ISIS stormed the Erbil provincial building. ISIS has reportedly been carrying out a several months-long assassination campaign against village leaders across rural areas of northern Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar Province announced the start of operations to clear ISIS militants and “splinter groups” from desert areas in the province’s western region and along the Iraq-Syria border. ISIS cells remain active across northern and central Iraq, despite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s declaration of victory over the group in late-2017. more…
    • Deadly Clashes Occur Along Iraq-Iran Border; Turkey Continues Anti-PKK Operations – Turkey continues military operations against PKK elements in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, deadly clashes occurred along the Iraq-Iran border on July 21, after an unidentified Kurdish group killed 10 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. On July 25, Turkey carried out an airstrike on PKK militants attempting to enter the country, a day after PKK militants killed 15 Turkish soldiers north of Erbil. 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.

Government Officials Meet to Address Protest Demands

On July 22, protesters increased their list of their demands directed at the Iraqi government. In addition to the jobs, reliable electricity and water services that protesters demanded during the week of July 13, protesters have also asked for rewriting the Iraqi Constitution to allow for greater autonomy of southern Iraqi regions, as well as for reforms in the broader political process. Iraq enters its third week of protests.

On July 23, the UN Human Rights Commision in Iraq announced casualties from the protests in several Iraqi provinces over government services and unemployment. Fourteen protestors have been killed and another 275 injured, while 470 members of Iraqi security forces have been injured.

On July 23, the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity petitioned both Saudi Arabia and Iran to help provide electricity to Iraq in their time of need. Qasim al-Fahdawi, the Iraqi Minister of Electricity, announced that Iran was unwilling to provide Iraq with needed electricity. Saudi Arabia has yet to agree to giving any assistance to Iraq.

On July 24, the Council of Ministers convened to discuss the urgent need to provide jobs for the unemployed. The council discussed bolstering all sectors of employment, as well as plan to provide funds for water development in Basra province. The council passed these provisions:

  • The Ministry of Finance will allocate 3 billion dinars from the emergency reserve to Basra/ Basra water development project.
  • The Ministry of Finance will allocate 3 billion dinars from the emergency reserve to the Umm Qasr (an area of Basra) water development project.
  • The Ministry of Finance will allocate 9 billion dinars from the emergency reserve to the Basra Government and Region Development Program

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced his plan to provide emergency funding to Basra last week in the wake of mass protests.

On July 24, Karwan Hashim, the leader of the Movement for Change — a Kurdish political party, indicated that his party will not seek an alliance with the two major Kurdish parties the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) during the formation of the new government. While the PUK and KDP have sought alliances with each other in the new government, several smaller Kurdish parties have been unwilling to join a Kurdish bloc with the two major parties.

On July 24, Russian oil producer Rosneft announced that it will begin operation in Kurdistan by the end of the year. Rosneft, Russia’s largest producer, is following up on agreements made in October 2017. Rosneft will invest $400 million in five sites in the region, and expects to begin production in 2021 at which point the company will take an 80% share of the production.

On July 25, the UNHCR announced the release of detained protestors in multiple provinces. All of the protestors arrested in Dhi Qar and Wasit were released. Protestors had also been released over the week prior in Najaf, Muthanna, and Maysan.

Ballot Recount Process Concludes, Discrepancies Appear

On July 22, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) stalled counting ballots to allow for governmental blocs to reach agreements on the formation of the new government. Sources indicated that IHEC is “procrastinating” due to their ties to political powers who desire more time to gather power before the formation of the government.

On July 22, the process of recounting ballots concluded in the province of Karbala. After finishing the counting in Karbala, the recounting commission will proceed to recount ballots in Najaf.

On July 24, the process of recounting ballots concluded in the province of Diyala.

On July 24, the process of recounting ballots concluded in the province of Najaf.

On July 24, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that they expect Kirkuk will show the greatest discrepancies between the original electronic ballot results and the new recounts.

Continued Displacement Challenges Iraqi Government, Relief Agencies

On July 19, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that $56 million US dollars are “urgently require[d]” under the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan to continue providing “health services in conflict-affected and newly accessible areas.” The plan is only 54 percent funded, however, and affects more than 900,000 people “who need treatment for common and more severe diseases, vaccinations, nutrition screening and gynecological services.” Due to funding shortages, 22 health service delivery points have closed this year and has impeded the “ability to provide care for both displaced persons and returnees.” By the end of July, thirty-eight percent of health facilities are at risk of closure due to funding shortages. On the other hand, the Iraq Humanitarian Fund (IHF) allocated $34 million dollars “to support NGOs, UN agencies and Red Cross/Crescent partners in providing crucial humanitarian assistance in Iraq.”

On July 22, the Ministry of Migration and the Displaced reported nearly five thousand displaced returned back to their areas of origins in the districts and areas of Ninewa Province. The camps in the central and eastern parts of Mosul “have witnessed ‘the return of 4,878 displaced people to their original areas of residence.’” It was reported that “some 1,320 displaced people left the camps in the south of Mosul and returned to their homes, 175 displaced people left the camp and 1,807 displaced people from the camps of Haj Ali and Hammam al-’Alil” and “1,371 displaced people from the camps of Hassan Sham and Khazer, 37 kilometers east of Mosul.” In addition, 205 displaced people returned to their residence in Ninweh from the camp of Akda in Turkey.

On July 22, areas of the Kurdistan region were shaken by an earthquake of a magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale. It occurred in the provinces of Sulaymaniyah, and Halabja, and additionally affected Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, and the borders of Karamian and Khanaqin.

On July 22, Alsumaria reported a humanitarian dilemma for Yazidis, as Yazidi mothers of children born from rape by ISIS members have to decide between giving up their children to Iraqi orphanages and rejoining their communities. An uncle of a 23-year-old woman who had a 1-year old daughter from an ISIS member told her “the girl who was born as a result of rape by [ISIS] would never be accepted into the closed Yazidi community” and made her sign the papers allowing her daughter to be taken to an orphanage. Beginning 2014, more than 6,400 women and children were enslaved by ISIS in northern Iraq and an unknown amount of these children born from ISIS have been taken to orphanages. Non-profit humanitarian organizations warn against the separation of mothers from their children which can cause “long-term trauma that could affect many future generations in Iraq.”

On July 23, local Diyala official Mohammed Davan al – Obeidi said that 20,000 people in Diyala are being supplied with salty water. Central water pipes have stopped carrying water from the Tigris. The salty water that has filled the pipes instead is not suitable as a primary source of drinking water.

On July 24, the World Health Organization reported that WHO and the Iraqi Health Ministry will conduct a series of workshops to train frontline health workers. The workshops will focus on improving diagnostic systems, infectious disease management, and communication and information systems for outbreak response.

On July 24, Kuwait provided a large oil tanker with 18,000 tons of fuel to help power the southern states of Iraq. The fuel is a donation by the Emir of Kuwait, and follows a donation of 17 generators the week prior.

On July 25, the Iraqi Ministry of Immigration reported that over 5,000 displaced persons had returned to areas of origin in Nineveh and Salahaddin over the three days prior.

On July 25, the director of water resources in Diyala Muhannad al-Mamouri, announced that 50 blockages along the Khalis River will be removed to allow for greater flows downstream. The increased river flows will provide water to areas containing over 100,000 people affected by ongoing water crisis.

ISIS Attacks Highlight Ongoing Militant Threat

On July 19, several explosions were reported in Kirkuk, including multiple bombs, grenades and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). Several of the explosions occurred along commercial areas on Baghdad road, as well as one nearby a children’s hospital. Reports on the number of casualties related to the attack were conflicting however at least one civilian was killed, and over a dozen injured.

On July 22, the Iraqi Air Force killed 15 ISIS targets in airstrikes conducted in Diyala province.

On july 22, Baghdad Operations Command successfully intervened and prevented four terrorist attacks in the capital. In coordination with the intelligence community, Baghdad police arrested the suspects of the thwarted attacks.

On July 22, the Iraqi Center for Security Information announced that joint forces will begin operations to clear large areas of the western Anbar desert of remaining ISIS militants and splinter groups.

On July 23, Deputy-Governor of Erbil Taher Abdullah, announced that three gunmen had stormed the Erbil provincial building. It was later confirmed that the three militants took hostages on the third floor. An operation was conducted by security forces in which all three of the gunmen were killed. One officer was killed and 2 were wounded over the course of the events. ISIS affiliation is suspected but not confirmed.

On July 24, Reuters released an article on the resurgence of ISIS in Iraq. While the remnants of ISIS are no longer in a position to govern, the terrorist organization has continued to assert it’s presence by using guerilla tactics. ISIS has primarily been active in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin where reports have showed 83 cases of murder and kidnapping last month alone.

On July 25, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy hosted a briefing of recent field work in which Michael Knights discussed the nature of ISIS insurgency in rural areas of Iraq. Knights’ research reveals that village leaders, or Mukhtars, have become targets of ISIS attacks. Knights said:

“There’s two Iraqs: there’s Iraq at night and there’s Iraq during the day. Iraq during the day, ISIS is on its back foot. Iraq at the night, in a rural area, those people don’t feel liberated. In the next 6 months 100 villages will have their Mukhtars assassinated. That’s based on the kind of metrics we’re seeing every week now, 100 villages in northern Iraq will have the most important person in their village killed… that’s how it’s been in the last 3 months, you could say 50 or so have been happening.”

Though not widely covered in mainstream Iraqi media outlets, there have been several reports of such assassination cases: On July 25, the Mukhtar of Zahra village northeast of Baquba was killed in an explosion on his orchard property along with two farmers. The explosion is still being investigated. On July 9, Kurdistan 24 reported the assassination of the village leader of Zirbani, near Kirkuk by ISIS militants. This Chieftain had succeeded his father as village leader after he too was assassinated two months prior.

Deadly Clashes Occur Along Iraq-Iran Border; Turkey Continues Anti-PKK Operations

On July 21, militants of an unconfirmed Iraqi Kurdish group killed 10 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on the Iran-Iraq border. Iranian military have had troubles with PKK-like militant organizations, such as the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Despite cross-border attacks, Iraq and Iran military cooperation is limited.

On July 24, the PKK announced the killing of 15 Turkish soldiers in a ground attack north of Erbil.  

On July 25, Turkish forces conducted a targeted airstrike on four PKK members attempting to enter Turkey through Iraq’s northern border. All four PKK members were killed.

IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

7/20/2018 Rajaiba district in the province of Karbala
7/21/2018 35km Northwest of Kirkuk in the area of Elton Kobri
7/21/2018 Kirkuk in the district of Debs in the area of Sarkan01
7/24/2018 North of Baghdad in near Saba al-Boor02


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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