ISHM: January 4 – January 10, 2019

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Key Takeaways:

  • Iraqi officials meet U.S. and Qatari counterparts; Iraqi delegations to Israel cause uproar – On January 4, the United States (U.S.) Department of State announced that Ambassador James Jeffrey will take over the role of the Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. On January 6, Israeli media reported that three delegations from Iraq secretly visited Israel, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries. On January 7, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a press release that clarified the stance of Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim who had stated that he supports a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. On January 9, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited Iraq to meet with political leaders and American troops to provide reassurance regarding the U.S. commitment to Iraq and warn leaders about Iran’s efforts to undermine Iraq’s national security. The same day, Pompeo visited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and met the region’s leadership. On January 10, Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed al-Hakim, met with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Abdulrahman Al Thani. On January 10, Iraqi President, Barham Salih, met with Qatari Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. more…
  • Government formation still incomplete; Parliament fails to pass budget – On January 8, the Iraqi Parliament failed to vote on the 2019 Federal Budget and delayed the next session of Parliament to Thursday due to lack of quorum. According to Shafaaq News, the Council of Representatives “was scheduled to vote on the financial budget for the current year, but failed to hold the vote due to disagreements regarding the financial allocations for the Kurdistan Region and a number of provinces.” On January 8, Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi resubmitted his list of the final three nominations to head the ministries of the interior, defense, and justice. According to Alsumaria News, PM Mahdi nominated Faleh al-Fayadh for Minister of Interior, Salim Jubouri for Minister of Defense, and Rizgar Mohammed Amin for Minister of Justice. On January 8, the head of the Iraqi National Axis Alliance, Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri, announced the bloc sought to nominate former Minister of the Interior, Qasim al-Araji, as the next Minister of Defense. more…
  • New Human Rights Watch report documents torture of minors in KRG prisons; Unrest in Kirkuk after PUK raises flag of Kurdistan in the disputed city; Government formation in KRG stalls – On January 8, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting the use of torture by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in its handling of children detainees with suspected ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). On January 8, Kirkuk’s acting governor deployed security forces to disperse Kurds celebrating a decision to raise the Kurdistan flag over the buildings of multiple offices belonging to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the contested city. On January 9, Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi urged leaders of the PUK to lower the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk. On January 10, Iraqi PM Adel Abdul Mahdi met with a delegation of members of parliament (MPs) from Kirkuk to discuss the current political situation in the province. On January 9, Rudaw News reported that government formation talks between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the PUK reached a deadlock. more…
  • Iraqi officials praise security cooperate with U.S. and the UK; ISIS attack in Tikrit kills 2; al-Hurra journalist killed – On January 7, National Public Radio (NPR), reported that United States (U.S.) Marine Brigadier General, Austin Renforth, toured the streets of Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Jalil Jabbar al-Rubaie. The development symbolizes major progress as this is the first time “in years” since a U.S. commander has walked the streets of downtown Baghdad. On January 8, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that a suicide car bombing in the city of Tikrit (approximately 175 kilometers north of Baghdad) killed at least two civilians and wounded six others. On January 9, Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi met with British Defense Senior Advisor to the Middle East, John Lorimer. On January 10, Samer Ali Hussein Shakara, an assistant photographer for United States-funded channel Al Hurra, was killed in Baghdad. Al Hurra reported that Shakara’s car and personal belongings were stolen and an active investigation was opened into his killing. more…
  • UK, Spain, U.S. pledge additional support for stabilization and humanitarian aid in Iraq; New report on Syrian refugees in Iraq; Iraqi Army shutters another IDP camp – On January 5, the United Kingdom (UK) announced it would provide an additional EUR $5 million (USD $5.7 million) in funding for the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as the UK continues its support for clearing explosive remnants of war in Iraq. On January 6, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) announced it would provide EUR $400,000 (USD $ 457,720) to improve psychological, mental health, and gender based violence (GBV) service access for women and girls in Iraq. On January 8, the United States (U.S.) Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) announced it will provide an additional $2.5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to help the Syrian refugee population in Iraq. On January 8, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and International Rescue Committee (IRC) published a report documenting the needs and demographic patterns of Syrian refugees residing in Iraq. On January 9, the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations (UN) announced it was launching an initiative to digitize and modernize the Iraqi national public distribution system (PDS) and will assist the Iraqi government in providing improved services to an estimated 1.3 million people in Baghdad and Dohuk. On January 10, the AP reported that the Iraqi army forced 800 families out of the Bzeibiz internally displaced persons (IDP) camp west of Baghdad. 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 officials meet U.S. and Qatari counterparts; Iraqi delegations to Israel cause uproar

On January 4, the United States (U.S.) Department of State announced that Ambassador James Jeffrey will take over the role of the Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Jeffrey is also the current Special Representative for Syria Engagement. A press release from the U.S. State Department read: “with this additional responsibility Ambassador Jeffrey will lead and coordinate U.S. Department of State relations with the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and Department efforts to implement President Trump’s announcement of a responsible U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria that is coordinated with our global allies and partners consistent with U.S. goals for Syria and Iraq, including the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

On January 6, Israeli media reported that three delegations from Iraq secretly visited Israel, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries. According to Bloomberg, 15 members of Iraq’s civil society, including Sunni and Shiite religious leaders, were among the members of the delegations. The Iraqi delegations visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and met with several Israeli officials, organizations, and academics. Officially, Iraq does not recognize Israel as a state and declared war on the Jewish state after its founding in 1948.

On January 7, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a press release that clarified the stance of Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim who had stated that he supports a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. The ministry affirmed that Iraq stands by the Palestinian people and will not ignore the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Israeli government. The statement read that “Iraq’s steadfast stance on the Palestinian issue is based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that was reaffirmed at the Arab Summit in Baghdad in 2012, is reflected in the continued support for restoring the occupied Palestinian territories from the Zionist entity, as well as support for the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in international forums in Geneva and New York directly by the Minister when he was a permanent representative of Iraq in both Missions,” and that, “in the UN Security Council, Iraq defended the absolute rights of the Palestinian people.”

On January 9, United States (U.S.) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited Iraq to meet with political leaders and American troops to provide reassurance regarding the U.S. commitment to Iraq and warn leaders about Iran’s efforts to undermine Iraq’s national security. The visit by Pompeo was on the second day of his tour in the Middle East with visits scheduled for Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait. According to Reuters, Pompeo met with Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi, Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi, Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim, and Iraqi President Barham Salih. Salih wrote on Twitter that “wide ranging discussions with Secretary of State @SecPompeo; thanking support of US led coalition in defeating ISIS. Definitive, durable victory requires continued vigilance against extremists, economic regeneration, regional cooperation, & affirming respect for Iraq’s sovereignty.”

On January 9, United States (U.S.) Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) after meeting with Iraqi political leaders in Baghdad. According to Kurdistan24, Pompeo met with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader, Masoud Barzani, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister (PM) Nechirvan Barzani, and Chancellor of the KRG Security Council, Masrour Barzani.

On January 9, the United States (U.S.) Department of State released a press statement detailing the discussions between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iraqi President Barham Salih. According to the release, “the Secretary and President Salih discussed U.S. support in helping to address Iraq’s political, economic, and security challenges and commended President Salih’s recent diplomatic efforts.” During the discussion, Pompeo also stressed the commitment of the U.S. in helping Iraq remain a sovereign and independent state as the U.S. views Iraq as an important partner in the region. The statement also added that “the Secretary highlighted the resumption of oil exports via the Kirkuk oil pipeline and the importance of continued steps towards Iraq’s energy independence. The two leaders also discussed the recent territorial defeat of ISIS and U.S. support for Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS’ lasting defeat.”

On January 10, Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed al-Hakim, met with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Abdulrahman Al Thani. Minister Hakim stressed the importances of developing strong relations between the two nations, especially in terms of trade and investment. Both sides agreed that increased communication would strengthen bilateral relations and develop stronger ties between the two nations.

On January 10, Iraqi President, Barham Salih, met with Qatari Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. According to Alsumaria News, Salih’s office released a statement that read: “the President held extensive and constructive talks with [the Emir of Qatar] and senior officials on bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to promote them and discussed the political situation in the region.” Salih attended the meeting with a high-level government delegation.


Government formation still incomplete; Parliament fails to pass budget

On January 7, Iraqi National Security Adviser, Falih al-Fayadh met with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani. According to Alsumaria News “during the meeting, the two sides discussed… the completion of the formation of the Iraqi government and regional developments and stressed the importance of coordinating positions between Baghdad and Erbil to resolve outstanding issues and work together to defend the interests of Iraq, its security and stability.”  

On January 8, the Iraqi Parliament failed to vote on the 2019 Federal Budget and delayed the next session of Parliament to Thursday due to lack of quorum. According to Shafaaq News, the Council of Representatives “was scheduled to vote on the financial budget for the current year, but failed to hold the vote due to disagreements regarding the financial allocations for the Kurdistan Region and a number of provinces.”  

On January 8, Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi resubmitted his list of the final three nominations to head the ministries of the interior, defense, and justice. According to Alsumaria News, PM Mahdi nominated Faleh al-Fayadh for Minister of Interior, Salim Jubouri for Minister of Defense, and Rizgar Mohammed Amin for Minister of Justice.

On January 8, the head of the Iraqi National Axis Alliance, Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri, announced the bloc sought to nominate former Minister of the Interior, Qasim al-Araji, as the next Minister of Defense. Jubouri told Alsumaria News that the Sunni bloc viewed that the candidate for the ministry of defense belonged to Sunnis and that Qasim al-Araji would be his party’s candidate to fill the post.


New Human Rights Watch report documents torture of minors in KRG prisons; Unrest in Kirkuk after PUK raises flag of Kurdistan in the disputed city; Government formation in KRG stalls

On January 8, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report documenting the use of torture by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in its handling of children detainees with suspected ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Children told HRW that several members of the KRG’s security forces (Asayish), used beatings, electric shocks, and forced them into stress positions. Jo Becker, children rights advocacy director of the HRW, stated that “nearly two years after the [KRG] promised to investigate the torture of child detainees, it is still occurring with alarming frequency.” 20 boys aged 14 to 17 were interviewed by HRW at the Women and Children’s Reformatory in Erbil during November 2018 and another three who have since been released were also interviewed. One of the boys interviewed told HRW that “first they said I should say I was with ISIS, so I agreed. Then they told me I had to say I worked for ISIS for three months. I told them I was not part of ISIS, but they said, ‘No you have to say it.”

On January 8, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) chair of the Kurdistan Region’s Department for International Advocacy, Dindar Zebari, responded to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which documented the KRG’s use of torture against children detainees accused of belonging to ISIS. Zebari wrote on Twitter: “KRG authorities in Erbil have not received any complaints of ill-treatment and torture from the ISIS child detainees. If there are, they will be duly followed up with.”

On January 8, Kirkuk’s acting governor deployed security forces to disperse Kurds celebrating a decision to raise the Kurdistan flag over the buildings of multiple offices belonging to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the contested city. According to Kurdistan24, both the Baghdad-appointed governor, Rakan al-Jabouri and the Turkmen front condemned the actions of the PUK. Kirkuk is a disputed province between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The current acting governor has enacted policies seen as intended to weaken Kurdish parties in the province. The PUK released a statement that read, “there is no legal barrier prohibiting the raising of the Kurdistan Flag. The flags of Kurdistan and the PUK are present inside every office, hall, meeting, and national event.” The National Turkmen Front stated that “the “illegal” act is an attempt to inflame the situation [of Kirkuk] and create new problems among the different components of the province that are coexisting peacefully.”

On January 9, Rudaw News reported that government formation talks between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) reached a deadlock. It has been more than 100 days since the September 30 elections for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). According to a senior political member of the PUK the government formation talks would not resume until the KDP released five members of the PUK who have been detained by the KRG. A meeting was scheduled to take place on January 8, but these developments cancelled the meeting.

On January 9, Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi urged leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to lower the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk. According to Rudaw News, PM Mahdi called the actions by the PUK “unconstitutional,” and released a statement that read: “Kirkuk is a disputed city and located outside the borders that the constitution has drawn for the Kurdistan Region. The statute of the disputed areas will remain as such and no changes will be made until it is decided on through the constitution.”

On January 10, Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi met with a delegation of members of parliament (MPs) from Kirkuk to discuss the current political situation in the province. PM Mahdi’s office stated that PM Mahdi was keen on stabilizing the current situation in Kirkuk and working to recognize the diversity of the different cultures present in the province. Mahdi added that Iraq was focused on improving “the provision of services and to work in accordance to the Constitution and the law of powers and to cooperate between all relevant parties for achieving the common good.” This meeting came a day after the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) encountered backlash for deciding to hoist the Kurdistan flag in public in the disputed city.


Iraqi officials praise security cooperate with U.S. and the UK; ISIS attack in Tikrit kills 2; al-Hurra journalist killed

On January 7, National Public Radio (NPR), reported that United States (U.S.) Marine Brigadier General, Austin Renforth, toured the streets of Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Jalil Jabbar al-Rubaie. The development symbolizes major progress as this is the first time “in years” since a U.S. commander has walked the streets of downtown Baghdad. Rubaie told NPR that “people think Baghdad is not secure. No – Baghdad is secure and very normal. It is my pleasure for any people to visit Baghdad and walk in the street.” During the tour of Baghdad, both Renforth and Rubaie met with several Iraqi citizens and drank from glasses of tea. Rubaie affirmed the gratitude of the Iraqi military for the assistance from the U.S. military. “Politicians can say what they want. But we in the military deal with reality. To be truthful, we still need American forces in Iraq,” he said.

On January 8, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that a suicide car bombing in the city of Tikrit (approximately 175 kilometers north of Baghdad) killed at least two civilians and wounded six others.

On January 9, Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Adel Abdul Mahdi met with British Defence Senior Advisor to the Middle East, John Lorimer. Mahdi stated that “Iraq is looking forward to a stage of stability and development that requires strengthening the capabilities of its armed forces and the establishment of the best relations and exchanges of interests with its Arab and regional environment,” and thanked the British government’s support of Iraq. Lorimer expressed the United Kingdom’s support for Iraq and its commitment for the Iraqi armed forces moving forward.

On January 10, Samer Ali Hussein Shakara, an assistant photographer for United States-funded channel Al Hurra, was killed in Baghdad. Al Hurra reported that Shakara’s car and personal belongings were stolen and an active investigation was opened into his killing.


UK, Spain, U.S. pledge additional support for stabilization and humanitarian aid in Iraq; New report on Syrian refugees in Iraq; Iraqi Army shutters another IDP camp

On January 5, the United Kingdom (UK) announced it would provide an additional EUR $5 million (USD $5.7 million) in funding for the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) as the UK continues its support for clearing explosive remnants of war in Iraq. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) released the following statement: “[DFID] has today (Saturday 5 January) announced further support to clear explosives from schools, hospitals and roads in Iraq, eradicating one of the lasting impacts of [ISIS’s] reign of terror across the country.”

On January 6, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) announced it would provide EUR $400,000 (USD $ 457,720) to improve psychological, mental health, and gender based violence (GBV) service access for women and girls in Iraq. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Iraq, Dr. Oluremi Sogunro, stated that “the psychological and emotional wounds of war in Iraq have left thousands of women and girls in need of mental health assistance and psychological support. The Spanish contribution will enable UNFPA to improve the capacity and access to these much-needed services, including legal support and referrals, to more than 1,800 women and girls in the country.”

On January 8, the United States (U.S.) Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) announced it will provide an additional $2.5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to help the Syrian refugee population in Iraq. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) currently hosts approximately 250,000 Syrian refugees in Dohuk, Erbil, and Sulaimania.  Acting WHO Representative in Iraq, Dr. Adham Ismail, stated that “there is an urgent need to support the local health authorities in the KRI to ensure that Syrian refugees here have access to proper health services. Providing comprehensive primary, secondary, referral, and outbreak prevention and response services in the three refugee governorates is a WHO priority for the coming phase; it will indirectly improve the resilience of the refugees and host communities against potential public health emergencies”

On January 8, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and International Rescue Committee (IRC) published a report documenting the needs and demographic patterns of Syrian refugees residing in Iraq. The report focused on the populations currently residing in Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaimania, and Anbar Provinces. The study found that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) made a clear effort to accommodate the influx of Syrian refugees, but there are gaps in basic needs provided to refugee and host populations.  The report warns that community tensions in the KRI could worsen if gaps are not addressed. The study offers several recommendations to help ease tensions and provide adequate resources for both Iraqi citizens and Syrian refugees. More needs to be done to remove legal barriers that threaten the wellbeing of refugees who need to be able to move freely and obtain the civil documentation needed for land and property rights. The report recommends officials extend policies and programmes designed to improve citizens’ lives to the refugee communities.

On January 9, the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations (UN) announced it was launching an initiative to digitize and modernize the Iraqi national public distribution system (PDS) and will assist the Iraqi government in providing improved services to an estimated 1.3 million people in Baghdad and Dohuk. The PDS serves as the largest social safety net for Iraq’s citizens, which provides food rations for nearly the entire Iraqi population. The WFP Country Director and Representative in Iraq, Sally Haydock stated that “the initiative guarantees the most efficient use of government resources and ensures that the intended citizens receive their food entitlement. We’re using digitization to better serve Iraqi citizens through this key social safety net.” The assistance from the WFP will allow the Iraqi federal government to move to a digitized encrypted data system with security utilizing fingerprints or iris scans. The Iraqi government will be able to identify recipients and to delete duplicate records from its new database. The WFP is also assisting by creating a mobile application called myPDS which will allow people to collect their entitlements and to update family information such as births, marriages, and deaths.

On January 10, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the Iraqi army forced 800 families out of the Bzeibiz internally displaced persons (IDP) camp west of Baghdad. The camp was closed at the end of December, and anyone who had nowhere to go were moved to the Amariyat al-Fallujah camp. AP reports that the Iraqi army is starting to shutter multiple IDP camps in western Anbar Province, which may put many vulnerable families in danger. The Commander of the armed forces in Anbar, Major General Khalaf al-Falahi told AP that the military was doing its best to return families to their original communities while consolidating the number of IDP camps to improve security and services. He also stated that “if these camps stay, then we are going to raise another generation of ISIS.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
1/9/2019Daquq, 52 kilometers south of Kirkuk12
1/8/2019Tikrit 26
1/6/2019Dibis, 54 kilometers northwest of Kirkuk18
1/5/2019western Anbar Province02


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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