This week’s headlines:
- The Federal Supreme Court Announces the Ratification of Election Results, Major Parties Announce the Formation of a National Majority Bloc – On August 19, Iyas al-Samouk, spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Court, announced the Supreme Court’s ratification of the outcome of parliamentary elections, which took place on May 12, 2018. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Iraqi President Fuad Masum to appeal to the House of Representatives to convene as soon as possible, and to respect the constitutional deadline to form a new government and elect a Prime Minister. Also on August 19, the Sairoon Alliance, Victory Alliance, Wisdom Movement and the National Coalition announced the formation of a political alliance, highlighting that the coalition is cross-sectarian. more…
- Prior to the Ratification of Election Results, Leaders of the Different Coalitions Are in Talks for Forming Alliance Blocs – As the parties awaited the Federal Supreme Court to ratify the elections results, leaders of the different coalitions reveal talks are ongoing to form larger blocs. On August 17, Iyad Allawi, leader of the National Coalition, held a meeting with other members of the coalition to discuss the latest developments in the political situation and ongoing consultations. On August 19, Mahmoud al-Rubaie, member of the Fatah Alliance, denied rumors concerning the imminent announcement of a national majority bloc, pointing out that it would happen after the Federal Supreme Court announced its ratification of the elections final results. more…
- Iran Pressures Iraq to Pay War Reparations, Iraq Seeks U.S. Exemptions from Iran Sanctions – After Iraq announced that it would respect U.S. sanctions on Iraq to protect its own interests, Iran renewed pressure on the Iraqi government to pay war reparations for damages incurred during the Iran-Iraq war. On August 19, the head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament, Hishmatullah Fahat Bishah, declared that unsettled claims related to the Iran-Iraq war can no longer be ignored, and that Iraq should compensate Iran for damages. On August 21, Reuters reported that the Iraqi government will likely ask the United States for exemptions on some Iran sanctions. Given a lengthy shared border and considerable trade between Iraq and Iran, Iraqi officials are concerned that Iraq’s economy would be greatly harmed, and therefore, just as Jordan had been exempt from UN sanctions on Iraq from 1990 to 2003, Iraq may seek a similar waiver. more…
- Baghdadi Releases New Audio Recording, International Coalition Vows to Remain In Iraq for “As Long As Needed” – After more than a year of silence, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio recording on August 22, calling on its supporters to persevere in the fight. On August 19, U.S. Army Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR) announced that the U.S. force will remain in Iraq “as long as needed”, in order to help regaining stability in the area which were previously controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On August 20, U.S. military officials announced the death of a U.S. Army soldier in Iraq, after a helicopter crashed during a counter-terrorism operation against ISIS elements. 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.
On August 19, Iyas al-Samouk, spokesman for the Iraqi Supreme Court, announced that the Iraqi Supreme Court had ratified the results of the parliamentary elections, which took place on May 12, 2018. Samouk said in a statement that “the Federal Supreme Court issued on the afternoon of August 19, 2018, its decision to ratify the names received.” Following the ratification, the winning parties will have to form a government by the 90-days constitutional deadline. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government welcomed the Supreme Court decision, saying in a statement that “the government welcomes the decision by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court to certify the results of the May 12 parliamentary election. This milestone paves the way for the convening of the first session of the new parliament, and subsequently the formation of the new government.”
On August 19, Mohammed al-Musawi, member of the State of Law Coalition, said in a statement that “the formation of the largest bloc has become around the corner and has become very clear features”, adding that the announcement was supposed to be made in the two day before the Eid al-Adha, or after. Moussawi also added that “the number of deputies of the largest bloc, including the agreement reached 200 deputies”, pointing out that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), together with other minor Kurdish parties, will take part in the coalition.
On August 19, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Iraqi President Fuad Masum to appeal to the House of Representatives to convene as soon as possible, and to respect the constitutional deadline to form the new government and elect the Prime Minister. Abadi added that “I call on the political blocs to accelerate the completion of agreement on the next government program, which must take into account the demands of citizens throughout Iraq to live a safe and dignified life, and provide ways to promote the economic reality of Iraq and the best services to citizens, as well as launching a large-scale investment process to establish services and strategic projects in all sectors of interest to the lives of citizens. ”
On August 19, the Sayrun Alliance, Victory Alliance, Wisdom Movement and the National Coalition announced the formation of a political alliance, highlighting that the coalition is cross-sectarian. The newly formed bloc released a joint statement saying that “by a national Iraqi decision stemming from the interest of our country and in the response to citizens’ demands, we agreed today to form a nucleus for an alliance seeking to form a parliamentary bloc that can form a government.” The statement added that “during the meeting, we decided to open up to other partners for them to contribute in this bloc.” The statement also read that “the coalition is determined to work hard to build a state of citizenship, justice and equality and provide a decent life for all our people.”
On August 20, the Kirkuk Turkmen Front released a statement affirming that it considered the ratification of the election results as an act of “racial discrimination” against the Turkmens. Abbas al-Bayati, a member of the Kirkuk Turkmen Front, said that “Turkmen parties belonging to the list of the Turkmen Front held an emergency meeting at the headquarters of the Turkmen National Movement in the presence of some Turkmen figures and discussed the political situation and decisions issued by the Board of Commissioners concerning the declaration of the results of partial recounting and manual sorting ,and contrary to the reality in which the elections took place.” Bayati encouraged Turkmens in Iraq to reject the results and “take to the streets to organize peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins and civil disobedience to express their rejection of these results.”
On August 20, Iraqi President Fuad Masum stated that he will convene the new parliament by the constitutional deadline. Masum said in a statement that “I salute our people in all its classes and components for the peaceful and civic spirit they have shown during recent demonstrations demanding electricity, water, health, education, solving unemployment problems, lack of services and combating corruption”, adding that “I call upon the next government and the new parliament, which we will convene in its specific constitutional time, to devote all efforts and energies necessary to achieve the actual, comprehensive and sustainable reforms that ensure the decent life of all citizens and adherence to the constitution as a basis for all policies and procedures.”
On August 21, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement that “we are working hard to consolidate our unity which paved the way for victory and reconstruction and to correct the march of our country”, adding that the work will focus on “the development of plans to ensure the start of work to provide a decent living and job opportunities and projects that benefit the Iraqis and benefit their patience well.” Abadi called on election winners to “roll up their sleeves and sharpen the concern for now to stand together with the citizens and complete the fulfillment of their demands.”
On August 22, the leader of the National Wisdom Movement, Ammar al-Hakimi, encouraged the acceleration of the formation of the new government, in accordance with the rules established by the Constitution, and stressed the need to leave “politicization” out of the process. Hakimi emphasize “the need to accelerate the formation of the next government through the invitation of the President of the Republic to hold the first meeting of the House of Representatives and give the opportunity to the largest bloc to form the next government as stipulated by the Constitution”, noting that “delay means further disruption, which is not consistent with the necessities of the stage we are living at today.”
On August 17, Iyad Allawi, leader of the National Coalition, held a meeting with other members of the coalition to discuss the latest developments in the political situation and ongoing consultations. The National coalition released a statement concerning the meeting, saying that “the leaders of the National Coalition held its periodic meeting to discuss the latest developments of the political situation and consultations are underway to form the largest bloc,” adding that “the coalition and refused to engage in any understandings or alliances based on sectarianism or sectarian basis.” According to the statement, the meeting also discussed government reforms and programs, as well as potential names of members eligible for government positions.
On August 18, the Kurdish delegation chosen to negotiate on the formation of the new Iraqi government postponed its official visit to Baghdad. The visit has been rescheduled for after the Eid al-Adha, in order for the delegation to persuade the opposition in participating to the negotiations. An anonymous political source was quoted saying that “the delegation, which is formed from the two main parties in the Kurdistan Democratic Party , and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan decided to postpone his visit to Baghdad, which was scheduled this week, to the post-Eid”, adding that “the entry of Kurdish forces to the negotiations unified will give it a great ability to maneuver in order to obtain the rights of the Kurdish people.”
On August 18, the Turkmen Front expressed its surprise in the fast resolution of the appeals for the elections in Kirkuk Province, and confirmed it will sue all the parties involved in falsifying the elections. Mardin Tahseen, member of the Turkmen Front, said in a statement that “after the fraud proved in the Kirkuk elections and courageous heroic stand for the people of the province in sit-ins lasted 28 days, we were surprised by the response of the appeals from the judiciary and even before the completion of the legal period for consideration of ten days.” In Kirkuk Province, 137 appeals were filed.
On August 18, the leader of the National Wisdom Movement, Ammar al-Hakim, met with the United States (U.S.) Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, in Baghdad. During the meeting, Hakim said that Iraq is in need of a strong government, which would also serve the citizens and meet their demands. Hakim added that the national majority project will be achieved soon, especially with the approach of the election results ratification by the Federal Supreme Court. Hakim also underlined “the need to take into account the special circumstances of Iraq and its relationship with neighboring countries in the region, especially the relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
On August 19, Mahmoud al-Rubaie, member of the Fatah Alliance, denied rumors concerning the imminent announcement of the national majority bloc, pointing out that it would happen after the Federal Supreme Court would announce the ratification of the elections results. Rubaie said in a statement that “dialogues and discussions continue between all political forces in order to form the largest bloc that we aspire to meet the wishes of the citizen and provide services to them in the best form”, adding that dialogues will terminate once the bloc is formed. Rubaie also pointed out that “we have a strong desire and hope for the formation of a government which includes Fatah and the rest of the national forces representing all the components of Iraq, in order to proceed with constructing the country.”
On August 19, the spokesman for the Wisdom Movement, Nufal Abu Raghef, said in a statement that “things are moving in a positive, logical and calm way” in building the coalition with other parties and national forces, also coordinating with the Kurdish parties. Raghef also added that “the doors are open to all, on the base of understanding, openness and national interest.”
On August 19, Hussein al-Adli, spokesman for the Victory Alliance, revealed that talks are still ongoing concerning the formation of a national majority, pointing out that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi still remains the sole candidate to serve as the next Prime Minister. Adli also added that “the Victory Alliance is a national project that aims at reforming and rebuilding the country and its institutions, in a way that it allows the failures and corruption to be overcome.”
On August 19, a member of the National Wisdom negotiating committee, Albudallh al-Zaidi, affirmed that the national majority will not be complete without the inclusion of the Kurdish parties, and said that the five blocks participating in the coalition will meet to outline it. Zaidi added that “these five forces will have a visit to Erbil in order to complete the understandings with the Kurdish forces to launch the largest bloc to complete the coalition of the national majority”, to include all the components of Iraq, pointing out that “we have no intention to exclude anyone.”
On August 19, the head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament, Hishmatullah Fahat Bishah, claimed that the unsettled issue concerning the Iran-Iraq war reparations cannot be ignored, and that Iraq should pay war compensation to Iran. On the contrary, the head of Iraqi Center for Strategic Studies, Basil Hussain, stressed that there is no justification for Iranian demands of war reparations. While Iraqi leadership did not reject the payment of the claimed compensations, Iran’s repeated statements on the matter caused dispute in Iraq as weather the resolution Security Council No. 598 called for compensations or not.
On August 21, Reuters reported that the Iraqi government will likely ask the United States (U.S.) for exemptions on some Iran sanctions. One Iraqi central bank official was quoted saying that “the government plans to ask Washington for a waiver. It’s going to happen soon.” Officials from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office declined to comment on the issue. According to the article, Iraqi officials are asking all the ministries to compile a list of essential goods which is imported from Iran, which will constitute the request for exemptions.
On August 22, the leader of the National Wisdom Movement, Ammar al-Hakimi, released a statement against U.S. sanctions on Iran, saying that “we can’t stand by and watch in the case of economic sanctions being aggravated towards the Iranian people.” Hakimi encourage “the Iraqi policy to work hard and in all available ways to find common ground on which American and Iranian interests will meet together away from the policy of sanctions and threats that will only bring the region more wars and destruction,” adding that “we will not allow the interests of our country to be jeopardized, we say it frankly and without fear of anyone.”
On August 17, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) launched an attack against Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) near the Iraqi – Syrian border. The deputy commander of the PMUs’ western Anbar axis, Saadi Nasser, said in a statement that “a joint force of the [PMUs] and the border police launched precision artillery strikes against [ISIS] locations on the border with Syria.” Nasser pointed out the importance of intelligence information in conducting these type of operations.
On August 18, the newspaper Al-Arabiy Al-Jadyid quoted an Iraqi military source with the Badia and al-Jazeerah Operations Command saying that ISIS militants tried to infiltrate Iraq forty times in July 2018. According to the source, the terrorists traveled in “groups ranging from 3 to 10”, but all those attempts were foiled. The source also added that all these incidents happened in the vicinities of Al-Bukamal, Syria, and that the militants were either trying to perpetrate attacks on security forces, or to find hiding spots.
On August 18, Al Sumaria reported an article of the Wall Street Journal concerning an interview with Ismail El-Eithawi, one of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s confidants. Eithawi, who was arrested following a joint intelligence operation by U.S., Iraqi and Turkish forces, gave a detailed description of a secret meeting of ISIS leadership, which took place in May 2017, outside the Syrian town of Mayadin. Speaking of Baghdadi, Eithawi said that “he was extremely thin and his beard was whiter.” There have been several reports of Baghdadi being dead or extremely sick, with multiple news agency reporting on August 14, 2018, that ISIS had a new leader, Abu Othman al-Tunisi.
On August 18, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior announced that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) had dismantled a terrorist cell in Mosul. The Ministry released a statement saying that elements of the cell were transporting terrorists and material to carry out attacks against civilians in Ninewa Province.
On August 19, United States (U.S.) Army Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR) announced that the U.S. force will remain in Iraq “as long as needed”, in order to help regaining stability in the area which were previously controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Ryan said during a press conference in Abu Dhabi that “we’ll keep troops there as long as we think they’re needed … The main reason, after ISIS (Islamic State) is defeated militarily, is the stabilization efforts and we still need to be there for that, so that’s one of the reasons we’ll maintain a presence.” Ryan pointed out that the number of American troops in Iraq could decrease, depending on when other countries within North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will send their military personnel to help train the Iraqi military.
On August 20, U.S. military officials announced the death of a U.S. Army soldier in Iraq, after a helicopter crashed during a counter-terrorism operation against ISIS elements. The victim was identified as Chief Warrant Officer 3, Taylor Gavin, 34. The victim died in Baghdad as a results of his injuries. The incident remains under investigations, though International coalition officials said that there were “no indications the crash was caused by hostile fire.”
On August 22, ISIS news agency released an audio message from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for the first time in over a year. In the 54-minutes long audio message, Baghdadi calls on ISIS supporters to “persevere and steadfast in fighting”, quoting a number of Koran verses on the matter. Baghdadi also talks about the U.S.-Iran crisis, economic sanctions imposed on Turkey and the issue concerning the American pastor held in Turkey, as a confirmation that the message was recorded recently.
On August 23, the U.S. Central Command commented on the new audio recording released by ISIS, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking to its supporters. The U.S. Central Command spokesman, Captain Williams Urban, said in a statement that “we do not know where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is at this time”, adding that “he continues to be someone we are interested in removing from the battlefield.” Speaking to CNN, Urban said that he did not believe any U.S. source had ever reported that Baghdadi was dead, and replied positively to reporters when asked whether U.S. official believe that Baghdadi is still alive.
IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties
|08/17/2018||Al-Shurtah 4th, 9 kilometers southwest of Baghdad||0||2|
|8/17/2018||Western Karbala Province||0||0|
|8/17/2018||Mahmudiyah, 37 kilometers south of Baghdad||0||1|
|8/19/2018||Ur District, 20 kilometers northeast of Baghdad||0||0|
|8/20/2018||Karkh, 6 kilometers east of Baghdad||0||3|
|8/20/2018||Al Shirqat, 120 kilometers north of Tikrit||6||7|
|8/23/2018||Jalawla, 88 kilometers northeast of Baqubah||0||2|
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.